Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What if Ancient Egyptians Used Google Sketch Up to Build the Pyramids?

The pyramids in Egypt are one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.  It's hard to comprehend how they could have been built without modern construction machinery and technology tools.  Helping students in today's world who haven't been to the pyramids understand just how big they are, the complexity of the  design, how difficult they would have been to build, and why they were built is one of the challenges faced by world history teachers.  

Minnetonka High School World History teacher Grant Hendrickson came up with a creative and meaningful way to help students learn about the Egyptian pyramids and culture.  For his classes of junior students, he decided to integrate Google Sketch Up into his lesson on the ancient pyramids in order to help the students "analyze the form, function and role of the pyramid in Ancient Egypt culture."  Students were tasked to "create a pyramid, to scale, with appropriate internal features using Google Sketch Up" (quoted from his lesson plan).  I was able to see this myself last week when I joined Grant's fourth hour class.  

Grant knows Google Sketchup well, and has taught classes for his colleagues about the program for the past couple of years.  Prior to the day I visited, students had already spent a class period the day before my visit learning about Sketch Up. When I was there, students were researching pyramids on the Internet as well as using some information provided.  They were tasked to sketch out a pyramid as close as possible to the actual measurements they found in their research.  One of the great features of Google Sketch Up is the ability to zoom around the exterior of something being designed as well as go right through walls and surfaces into the interior of a space, so it is a great tool to help in the understanding of the design and layout of a pyramid.  

"Google Sketch Up was the perfect tool to help bring this lesson to life for students."

Emily Rosengren, Minnetonka High School Social Studies teacher and Instructional Coach who observed this lesson last year told me the following: "What made the lesson particularly engaging for students was the chance to apply previously learned content (the students' understanding of the physical structure of the pyramids) AND their understanding of measurement and dimension to construct a virtual pyramid. This experience led students to comment on the enormous size of the Egyptian pyramids and marvel at how such structures could have been constructed without the use of modern machinery. Their observations, especially about the influence of the pharaoh on the lives of ancient Egyptians, demonstrated a more nuanced understanding of the importance of pyramids in Egyptian society. Google Sketch Up was the perfect tool to help bring this lesson to life for students. It gave students access to the true physical scale of the pyramids in a way that a textbook never could."

This lesson is a great example of how teacher can integrate technology to enhance learning.  Further, by knowing the tools and features of a program, the teacher can leverage them to engage the students and make instruction meaningful and memorable.                                                               

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