G6-7 History Walk

Published July 20, 2016 | Updated July 31, 2017
Subject: History, Social Studies
Place of Learning: Garden
Resource Type: Lessons
Grade Level: Grade 6
Uploaded by:
Kyle Cornforth
Program Affiliations:

In this sixth-grade humanities lesson, students learn about ancient technologies from around the world by rotating through three stations in the garden: Grain Grinding; Roller Sledge; and Irrigation.


After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Relate the ancient technologies in this lesson to modern technologies.


During this lesson, students will:

  • Give an example of a modern day technology that originated from one of the ancient technologies

For the Roller Sledge Station

For the Grain Grinding Station

  • Grain Cards
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Wheat stalks
  • Bags for threshing
  • Raw wheat berries
  • Cooked wheat berries for tasting and serving spoon
  • Grain grinding bicycle (optional)

For the Irrigation Station

  • Trowels
  • Elevated sand box at a slight slant
  • Hose and elbow irrigation fitting
  • Globe
  • Wooden blocks
  • Spade hoe and rake (For resetting the table.)
  • Large bucket (For capturing released water.)
Before You Begin

Create the Roller Sledge Station

  • Prepare the Roller Sledge Cards
  • Collect all the materials and place them at the station
  • Tie the rope to the palette securely at two corners so that there is a loop about 4-6 feet long for students to pull the sledge

Create the Grain Grinding Station

  • Prepare the Grain Cards
  • Cook wheat berries for tasting
  • Collect all the materials and arrange them on a table

Create the Irrigation Station

  • Collect all the materials and place them at the station
  • Make an elevated sand box at a slight slant
  • Connect the hose to the sand box 

Timeline Overview

At the Opening Circle
(Use the word "comparable" in a sentence. “What ancient technologies are comparable to modern day technologies?”)

  • Welcome students and introduce the ancient technologies walk. Tell students that they will rotate through three stations to learn about different types of ancient technologies from all over the world.

  • Invite students to share the ancient civilizations they have already learned about in their classroom.

  • Introduce the three stations and describe briefly what will happen in each one.

    • Roller Sledge Station: students will demonstrate using an ancient tool that makes work more efficient.

    • Grain Grinding Station: students will thresh, winnow, and grind wheat or barley.

    • Irrigation Station: Students will explore the technologies of dams, levees, canals and reservoirs using an elevated sand trey with a river running through it.

  • Ask students to think about modern day technologies that may have derived from the ancient technologies they will learn about in the walk.

  • Divide students into three groups and rotate the groups through each station.

At the Roller Sledge Station

  • Ask students when the Egyptians built the pyramids and prompt them to think about how we know information about civilizations that lived 4 to 5 thousand years ago.

  • Show students the cards of workers building the pyramids using the roller sledge technique and invite them to share their observations.

  • Share the facts aloud that are on the back of the visual aid card:

    • The Great Pyramid is outside of Cairo

    • It was built with 2.3 million stones

    • The average stone weighed 2.5 tons or the equivalent of an SUV

    • Some stones weighed as much as 16 tons or the equivalent of two full grown elephants

    • The great pyramid is 1 ½ football fields tall and 2 ½ football fields wide

    • It took 10-20 years to build under the Khufu faro

  • Explain that today’s challenge is to move very heavy “rocks” from one location to another as a team using the roller sledge.

  • Assign students roles: pullers, wooden pole movers, and rocks (a non-speaking part).

  • Demonstrate how to safely hold the poles and emphasize safety:

    • Rocks should always be in a sitting position with hands and feet away from the edge

    • Polers should always wait until the pole is completely released before reaching for it.

  • Ask the students to put on gloves and set up the roller sledge by placing half the poles parallel on the ground, roughly 2 feet apart, and placing the pallet on top.

  • Ask the rocks to get on board and tell the pullers to pull slow and steady, making sure to give the pole movers enough time to move each pole from the back to the front as the pallet moves forward. Pole movers will have the remaining poles in hand at the ready.

  • Once they have completed a successful test run, ask students if they’re up for the challenge of putting more weight on the pallet and going up hill. When they accept the challenge, take all supplies to the bottom of the hill and begin the process again. Give students the option of switching roles at this time. Remind students that they are moving hundreds of pounds of weight up hill without motors or wheels!

  • Increase the challenge if time permits (up a steeper hill, a longer distance, more weight, fewer pullers).

  • When it is time to rotate, send students to the Compass Scavenger Hunt Station.

At the Irrigation Station

  • Using a globe, ask students to find modern day Mesopotamia and to describe the climate and landscape of the region.

  • Prompt students to think about the challenges of living where there are periods of drought and periods of flooding.

  • Define reservoir, levee, dam and canal.

  • Compare the landscape in the elevated sand box to Mesopotamia.

  • Give each student a plot to irrigate in the sandbox. Explain that each student is responsible for creating a system of irrigation that will move water from the main river to their plot using reservoirs, canals, dams and levees.

  • Tell students they need to allow water to flow to communities downstream.

  • Give each student one trowel and one wooden block.

  • Ask them to imagine that they are ancient Sumerians. Recreate a flood scenario with story-telling and water flowing through the hose into the sandbox.

  • Give the students an opportunity to assess their irrigation system, make improvements and try again. Then ask students to discuss the improvements they made.


At the Grain Grinding Station

  • Ask students what a staple crop is, and ask them to give examples from around the world.

  • Explain that wheat was one of the staple crops in Ancient Egypt.

  • Show students the card with an image of a harvester, and ask them to describe what they see. Recall the Harvest, Thresh, and Winnow lesson from the Fall and explain that in the image the person is harvesting and threshing grain.

  • Hold up an example of a wheat stalk and ask if students know how wheat turns in to bread.

  • Tell students that in this station they will process grains in 3 different ways.

  • Show students the card with an image of someone using the mortar and pestle, and ask them to describe what they see. Explain that the person in the image is grinding grain.

  • Explain that today students will be using the mortar and pestle to grind wheat berries into flour.  

  • Invite students to taste the cooked wheat berries.

  • Briefly demonstrate using the mortar and pestle , reminding them to be gentle.

  • Briefly demonstrate using the bag method to thresh, and how to use your breath to winnow.

  • Explain that you will be pulling students two at a time to ride the grain-grinding bicycle.

  • Divide students in to three groups and have them rotate through all three substations of the Grain Grinding Station.

  • When it is time to rotate, send students to the Roller Sledge Station.

At the Closing Circle


  • Lead students in a reflection of the technologies from the history walk by asking a student to read out loud the closing circle question. “How do these technologies show up in our modern day world?”

  • Invite students to participate in a Think-Pair-Share and turn to a neighbor to discuss and imagine how what they’ve just experienced shows up in our modern world.

  • Invite students to share out what they said or what their partner said.

Connections to Academic Standards

History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, Grade 6

  • 6.2 Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Kush.
    • 6.2.1 Locate and describe the major river systems and discuss the physical settings that supported permanent settlement and early civilization
    • 6.2.2 Trace the development of agricultural techniques that permitted the production of economic surplus and the emergence of cities as centers of culture and power.
    • 6.2.5 Discuss the main features of Egyptian art and architecture.

All lessons at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley are developed in collaboration with the teachers and staff of the Edible Schoolyard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School.

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