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Teach a truly STEAM experience, as your students engage in engineering and design in the context of a role play experience set in one of eight ancient cultures.

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The Ancient Inventions curriculum explores the creation and spread of eight inventions across eight ancient cultures. Each invention/culture is a module composed of five lessons.

The inventions and corresponding cultures are:

  1. The wheeled vehicle in Ancient Mesopotamia (1700 BCE)
  2. The shaduf in Ancient Egypt (1470 BCE)
  3. The crane in Ancient Greece (465 BCE)
  4. Paper in Ancient China (105 CE)
  5. The arch in Ancient Rome (117 CE)
  6. The game Chaturanga in Ancient India (450 CE)
  7. The windmill in the Early Muslim Civilization (705 CE)
  8. The camera obscura in the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization (1000 CE)

The Ancient Inventions curriculum is designed to be an interdisciplinary STEAM experience. Within one module students are engaging in the disciplines of history, science, engineering, math, and English language arts. Using the Ancient Invention Kit materials, students learn about the ancient world, its key figures and histories, the engineering process, the physics and science behind the invention, math concepts behind the invention, different social roles, geography, and the importance of the invention for that civilization. The backbone of the experience has students engaging in the engineering design process. This is done by presenting students with a problem that a given culture faced. In order to solve that problem, they must build an invention. Students use common materials to fabricate simplified but functional versions of renowned inventions from these historical periods.

In each module, students:

  1. Immerse themselves in the historical culture through role­playing characters of the past
  2. Build a working model of an invention, and test and improve it
  3. Learn the scientific and mathematical principles behind the invention
  4. Exercise their knowledge of both the civilization and the invention through a board game
  5. Learn about the Engineering Method
  6. Apply engineering principles to a new, personal context

Ancient Inventions Overview

KIT BreakDown

Each of the 8 module kits contain full lesson plans, roleplaying materials (Characters Cards, Student Journals, Knowledge Scrolls), fully disassemblable hero kits (polished professional build kits), game materials (game board, game pieces, Challenge Cards, buff cards, game instructions).

1. Lesson Plans: A guide that walks teachers through the learning objectives and day ­to­day activities of each lesson. Each module consists of five lessons which, depending on instruction, can span 5 to 10 hours. It also acts as a guide for what is needed to build the inventions with in ­class materials.

2. Student Journal: A journal that guides students through the engineering process. It also functions as a place for students to record answers to a Challenge Card, reflect on their experiences, and answer application questions related to the science and math concepts of that module.

3. Game Instructions: Instructions for playing the Civilization game. While the games are similar, they vary slightly in each module.

4. Character Cards (36 total): A card for each student with all the information pertaining to their character. For each module, there are 36 characters divided into 6 roles. They are the main medium through which students are exposed to and absorb the cultural content of the module. We also provide a vocabulary list for new words and concepts. Additionally, we have found that giving students identity (both individual and group identity) within a roleplaying context bolsters engagement.

5. Knowledge Scrolls (6 total): a scroll for each group with all the information pertaining to their role (there are 6 roles in each module). The scrolls contain all the information from each character card for that role, as well as additional information about ability perks for their role, which come into play in the Civilization game. On a practical level, the scrolls act as a group’s master document, just in case group members are missing or absent, but they also act as a valuable possession that encourages group cohesiveness.

6. Challenge Cards (42 total): Cards used in the Civilization Game that challenge players to answer questions or perform tasks related to other roles. There are also 42 Answer Cards that contain answers and reward instructions for each challenge. Out of the 42 Challenge cards, 30 are specific to each role (5 per each of the 6 roles). The catch is that groups cannot pick challenges pertaining to their own role. This requires them to elicit help from other groups. Additionally, other groups judge the answers (or performance). Thus, it is a crucial design feature of the curriculum that the knowledge is not limited to a one ­to ­one teacher student interaction but rather involves the entire class absorbing, applying, and grappling with the content in varying contexts (as challengers, helpers, and judges). The remaining 12 challenge cards are divided into ‘Event cards’, entire class activities closely resembling parlor games designed to mix things up, and challenges specific to the science or math related to the invention (e.g., calculating the RPMs of a windmill). Correct answers mean that the challenging group is rewarded on the Game Board (the reward differs depending on the module). Similarly, a group that is deemed to have helped or judge effectively is also rewarded on the Game Board. The specifics of this game experience are outlined in the Game Instructions.

7. Buff Cards: These are cards that give players extra abilities when played during the game. The buff cards have different names depending on the module. These names makes sense within the context of that culture. For example, in the Windmill Module (Early Muslim Civilization) the buff cards are ‘heba’ cards which translates to ‘gift’. Students are ‘gifted’ these cards by the teacher at his or her discretion at any point in the module (for good behavior, cleaning up, participation, etc.). The main function of these cards is to give students agency when playing the game (e.g., doubling a reward, stealing another group’s reward, retrying on a challenge, etc.), but they also act as a class management tool for the teacher through positive incentivization. In our implementation, we found students were eager to acquire these cards and therefore eager to follow instructions and engage in the class.

8. Civilization Game Board: The Game Board is where the game is played and the score is kept for the Civilization Game played in Lesson 4. The specifics of each game can be found within the Game Instructions for each module, but for the most part, students are attempting to answer challenges correctly (or help/judge effectively) in order to be rewarded with moves on the board. For example, in the Windmill Module (Early Muslim Civilization) correct answers give students the ability to place ‘windmills’ (playing pieces) on plots of land around a city state. After every group has had a turn, ‘flour’ is collected from the windmills. Here is the key: the amount of flour each windmill playing piece produces depends on how well that group built their windmill in the previous lessons (whether they passed the Basic and/or Advanced test). Therefore, and this is a feature of every module, the game board and game pieces all work together to contextualize the importance of the invention within the culture (i.e., effective windmills = more flour = increased ability to grow and sustain population).

10. A Hero Kit: This is an exemplary kit, built by GameDesk to act as an inspiration and guide for students. These kits can be assembled and unassembled and are fully functional.

11. Hero Kit Videos and Instructions: We provide teachers with blueprints and instruction on how to create the hero kits. If teachers are unable or unwilling to create the kits as we have outlined, we also provide videos and pictures of our kits. Teachers can use these videos in place of having the kit.

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