Global Studies at TNCS Gets to the Heart of Ancient Civilizations!

For post #333, it’s high time to cover Global Studies in The New Century School elementary and middle school programs. (Immersed has looked at GS in the Montessori classrooms, and, to be sure, those early lessons in this essential discipline pave the way for future analytical thinking about GS topics.) So, buckle up—we’re boarding a time machine back to 2000 BC and forward to visit the three most advanced American civilizations prior to the arrival of the Europeans: the Aztecs, the Maya, and the Inca.

But first, why are Global Studies so important? They are foundational to cultivating global citizens, a tenet of TNCS’s educational approach. According to the National Council for the Social Studies, by studying other cultures, students:

  • [gain] knowledge of world cultures and
  • [understand] the historical, geographic, economic, political, cultural, and environment relationships among world regions and peoples.

As their critical skills develop, older students are asked to:

  • [examine] the nature of cultural differences and national or regional conflicts and problems and
  • [act] to influence public policy and private behavior on behalf of international understanding, tolerance, and empathy.

So, pretty important. Accordingly, in Quarter 1, TNCS 5th- through 8th-graders dug deep into their unit on Ancient World Cultures. Global Studies at TNCS is not studying historical facts and committing them to memory. To ensure that material is truly learned, GS is integrative, incorporating art, writing, and even performance. GS teacher Daphnée Hope explained that, for each of the three civilizations, students created an art project that celebrated one aspect of the given culture. They could build a 3D model of a village, draw maps of the various regions like the Yucatán peninsula where many Mayan structures remain today, or even build pyramids or citadels such as reproductions of Machu Picchu, for example.

The unit culminated with a large project intended to demonstrate that students have absorbed the material and could reproduce it in their own (very) unique way. They were graded in two-part fashion: In one prong, they were assessed on how they presented, in terms of engaging the audience, and, in the other prong, they were assessed on being a good audience and being respectful, attentive, and polite. As you’ll see from their presentations, one theme captivated them all. (If you guessed human sacrifice, you’d be correct!)

 . . . Nothing could beat the way the Aztecs performed their sacrifices. The Aztecs had a very unique way of performing their sacrifices: They would lay people down, stab them with an obsidian blade, and pull out their hearts. Most people would think it is gruesome, but it is a way of signaling their opponents defeat . . .

One thing is for sure—the ancient civilizations unit will really stick with these students! Other interesting tidbits that captured their attention were the Mayan belief that humans were created from maize, that the Mayans understood the concept of zero, and that the Mayan calendar is never wrong . . . except in predicting that the world was to have ended on December 21, 2012. Minor detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q2 will explore World Cultures and Geography, followed by Civics in America in Q3 and American History in Q4. Although these units involve no bloody religious rituals, there will be plenty to keep TNCS students engaged and their perspectives broadened!


“Machu Picchu is still here,
Machu Picchu is still there!
Standin’ up!”

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