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06 October 2013 @ 12:28 pm
Talk like an Egyptian  
A few days ago I went over to the elementary school in Escalante to give a presentation about Ancient Egypt.  About a month ago, I was chatting with my supervisor and she mentioned that her daughter's fourth grade class was studying Africa this year.  I mentioned that I worked at an Egyptian museum last year, and I'd be happy to talk to the class if she thought there'd be interest.  She gave me the e-mail address of the teacher, we talked, and the result was an hour and a half to talk about whatever I wanted.

I was a little nervous as I drove to Escalante; my last educational encounter with fourth graders hadn't gone particularly well.  But I have way more confidence in my Egyptian speech because it was better organized than the Anasazi one, and I had structured it with breaks so that the kids could ask questions after each major topic.  I wished that I had some sort of physical object to pass around, but since I had no idea when I came to Utah that I'd be sharing Egypt I didn't have anything.  But no matter.

The talk went really, really well.  The teacher was impressed that I managed to keep the kids interested and engaged for the full time slot - but Egypt is just so fascinating!  Who wouldn't be enthused?  I began the talk by requesting that they have pencil and paper, so that if they had a question they could write it down.  I then asked that they "hold on" to their questions until I reached the topic - for example, I would talk about mummies, pyramids and curses toward the end, so they didn't need to ask about them when we were discussing the Nile. I started broadly, introducing the kids to Egypt and life on the Nile.  Then we moved into the role of the Pharaoh, and his role in Egyptian government and religion.  This segued nicely into the gods and goddesses of Egypt.  The kids had plenty of questions, and thankfully they stayed more or less on topic.

I worried that my history talk would stretch their patience.  I didn't waste times with dates, and when I highlighted each period of time I focused on a particular topic that was relevant to that kingdom.  Thus, the Old Kingdom became the pyramid talk, the Middle Kingdom featured hieroglyphics, and the New Kingdom (the longest section by far) discussed King Tut, Hatsheput, Ramses the Great, and Akhenaten.   The kids loved it!  It was really cute to hear them struggle through some of the names, but the pride on their faces when they got a tough name right was truly adorable.

Of course, the star attraction will always be mummies.  They  were totally concentrating on every word I said - how could they not?  I'm very theatrical when it comes to mummies.  All of the slides in my show were of wrapped mummies, since I wasn't sure how the kids/teachers would react to an actual dead body.  But I let the kids vote and they agreed that they could handle an unwrapped mummy, so I showed them a photo of one of the Egyptian Museum's mummies and told them the story of how he'd been accidentally purchased from a Neiman Marcus catalog.

When I was finished, the kids had tons of questions.  They were so enthusiastic and engaged!  It was fantastic.

The next day, my boss brought in an envelope with thank you notes from the students.  They really made my day!  Each paper had a drawing and a quick message, and they were incredibly entertaining to read.

  • "I never knew King Tut was such a boring pharaoh!" I do not remember ever using the word boring, but variations on this comment showed up in several letters so I must have done so.  What I do remember saying was that King Tut was not an important king, because his reign was so short and he didn't have a chance to build fancy monuments or lead soldiers into battle.  I also said that he is the best-known pharaoh because of his treasure, not his deeds.  Apparently, this = boring.

  • "King Tut is my favorite pharaoh because the king cobra is on his mask, and king cobras are my second favorite animals."  I love that kids will sometimes slip incredibly random information into their notes.  Now I am simply dying to know what this little boy's first animal might be.

  • "The funniest picture was the mummified fish.  Ha!  Ha! Boy that was funny!" This little boy wins for making me laugh, because I imagined this sentence being read by my old supervisor at the Egyptian Museum.

  • "Since you love Egypt, I hope you go there some day after the war ends."  One of the kids asked me if I'd ever been to Egypt, and I explained that I had not, and my plans to do so had been canceled after the revolution a few years ago.  At least half of the kids told me they hoped I could go to Egypt soon, and several of them drew pictures of me in Egypt.  At least, I assume the long-haired figure, sometimes wearing glasses, is meant to be me.

  • "I think you know about how much the Egyptians knew in their day."  I wish!  But that comment was terribly sweet.

  • "Does the snake that gave Cleopatra the bite still live, and if it does where does it live?"  BEST QUESTION EVER.






Me 'n' one of the kids in front of the pyramids
 
 
 
omlyomly on October 15th, 2013 01:05 am (UTC)
That sounds like a fantastic experience!