Many students are captivated by ancient Egyptian culture and its most recognizable symbol, the pyramid. Some students may also know that Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Aztec and Maya, also built pyramids. Capitalize on your students' fascination with these structures by assigning pyramid projects. These projects span the various academic disciplines, allowing you to create an integrated unit for your sixth-grade students.
Bring history to life by having your students build models of the Egyptian pyramids. Students may use sugar cubes, stacking plastic bricks or other objects to assemble their models. Ideally, each student will situate his model on a poster or foam-core board and then decorate the board to give the appearance of the Egyptian desert. Students may also choose to build Mesoamerican pyramids, which have a somewhat different structure and function than Egyptian pyramids.
A pyramid with a base and three faces of equal size, or tetrahedron, is one of the five Platonic solids seen in geometry. Although your students may not yet be learning about Platonic solids, they nonetheless can learn about pyramids by drawing a net of this object, cutting it out and taping or gluing it together. Challenge your advanced students to create more complicated nets that fold into complex three-dimensional objects.
Although sixth-grade English class usually conjures up visions of awkward oral reports and boring essays, it doesn't have to be this way. Give your students a creative writing project involving your pyramid theme. For example, your students can write a first-person journal from the point of view of an ancient Egyptian or Mesoamerican person. Students can draw roles from a hat to ensure that the many different people involved with building pyramids are represented. Grade your students not just on English mechanics, but on historical accuracy and creativity as well.
Students in science class can use a pyramid-shaped prism to learn about the visible spectrum. In optics, a prism is a solid piece of glass or crystal with a triangular cross-section. Although white light enters the prism, the glass refracts and separates the different wavelengths and colors, and a rainbow of light leaves the prism. Separate your students into groups and provide each group with a prism, a flashlight and a piece of white paper. Darken the room and allow the students to experiment with making rainbows appear by shining the light through the prism onto the paper.
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