Freshman World History I students discovered the power of culture as key evidence of the process of civilization. For the past few weeks in Mr. Woodward’s World History class, students have been working on developing a theory that cultural history has as significant an impact of the development of civilizations as a concentration on ancient politics and military conquest.
Students were challenged to create a museum of Mayan culture as evidence of the success and influence of that civilization on world history. Individual students were given separate themes to create a display of Mayan culture. Nineteen different themes were explored, as diverse as; mathematics number system and theories, sacrifices, astronomy, diet, textiles, pictographic language, calendar, or modern remnants of Mayan culture today, and many others. The student museum displays had several requirements, images, explanatory text and captions, source citations, and visual impact concepts. The student Mayan Culture Museum was displayed for the school community in the “Starbucks” hallway area for two weeks.
Class members were then challenged to write an essay to explain the power, success, and legacy of Mayan culture using the “museum” display as the sole source of information. A scaled assessment allowed students to use three to five themes to explain their answers and to tailor their own performance based on their own expectations and work effort due to their commitment to the assignment. Well-written essays designed in the possible parameters received the corresponding grade.
Continuing the investigation into the power of cultural themes to illuminate past civilizations students were asked to use modern analysis of primary resources and artifacts. Following the Mayan culture challenge students applied the same theory and techniques during their introduction to Islam unit. Tools, furniture design, textiles, calligraphy decoration, mathematics, and architecture were just some of the cultural investigations students developed to explain the legacy of Islam from the 15th to the 19th centuries.
Utilizing cultural analysis as one of their tools in future classes will allow students to make even deeper and richer connections in their understanding of the global process of civilization.