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9-12 > World History
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: World History Duration: Two class periods
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Discovery: Atlantis

Students will understand the following:
1. Atlantis is the name of a continent that some believe may have once existed and then disappeared from Earth.
2. There is no mainstream scientific evidence that such a continent existed; however, certain unexplained phenomena could be explained by the existence of such a continent.

For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials on Atlantis
Computer with Internet access

1. Ask your students if they have ever heard of the lost continent of Atlantis. Invite students who are familiar with the concept of Atlantis to tell the class what they have heard or read about the lost continent.
2. Share with students the following background information about Atlantis:
  1. There has been speculation that a continent that no longer exists on Earth once supported an advanced civilization.
  2. Further speculation suggests that some catastrophic natural event destroyed Atlantis or caused it to sink into the ocean.
  3. Scientists and historians have speculated that Atlantis was located in North Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Aegean Sea, and other locations, but no compelling scientific evidence for the existence of Atlantis has been found.
  4. Certain phenomena that are unexplainable could be explained by the existence of a lost continent.
3. Tell your students that they are going to do research and engage in debates that will help them decide what they think about the existence of Atlantis. Send them to the print materials you have provided, to the library, and to the Internet (see Links). To guide their research, suggest the following topics, but let students find the information in parentheses about each topic for themselves:
  1. Pangaea (the name for the supercontinent that some believe once existed in the Indian Ocean)
  2. Lemuria, or Mu(names for a supercontinent that some believe once existed between Asia and Africa)
  3. Easter Island statues (huge statues said to be relics of a civilization the islands of Oceania could never have supported)
  4. Colossal stone heads of Olmec society on Tiwanaku (stone heads that resemble people from Africa rather than native Americans, suggesting that the ancient Olmecs had contact with people from distant lands such as Africa, Egypt, or Greece)
  5. Nan Madol (remains of a city in the Solomon Islands that was constructed from huge stones and would have required tens of thousands of workers to build—more people than we know to have ever populated those islands)
  6. Similarities between certain pre-Columbian languages in South America and early languages once spoken on the Indian subcontinent (suggest there was once a landmass between India and South America)
  7. Plato’s dialoguesCritiasandTimaeus(mention Atlantis and describe it as a place where a once-brilliant civilization perished because the people became corrupt and greedy and were punished by the gods by a great explosion that sunk Atlantis into the sea)
4. When students have completed their research, divide the class into groups. Have each group create a two-column chart with arguments for the existence of Atlantis in one column and arguments against in the other. (The arguments against may be refutations of the arguments for rather than separate arguments.)
5. Have the members of each group debate among themselves whether or not Atlantis ever really existed.
6. Hold a whole-class discussion in which groups share the details and conclusions, if any, that resulted from their research and debates.
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Provide students with all the given background information rather than having them start their research from scratch.
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Discussion Questions

1. To what extent is Plato's story of Atlantis fact or opinion? Explain your answer.
2. Some say Atlantis was Plato's idea of a perfect society or utopia. What is your idea of a perfect society? How does it differ from the description of Atlantis? What elements of Atlantis would you keep?
3. Which theory, if any, behind the legendary city of Atlantis do you believe? Explain your answer. Offer another theory not mentioned in the program.
4. To what extent do you think it was possible for Egyptians or Greeks to travel to the Americas prior to Plato's writing? Was it possible for Native Americans to travel to the Mediterranean? Give evidence from the documentary to support your position.
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You can evaluate groups on their charts using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points:charts reflect thorough research and logical thinking

  • Two points:charts reflect some research and some thought

  • One point:charts reflect very little research and lack of serious thought
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining a minimum number of items to appear in each column of the chart.
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Legends of the Lost
Invite students to write their own descriptions of a lost city, civilization, or continent that once existed on Earth but was destroyed by a natural or supernatural disaster.

Remnants of our Culture
Encourage students to look around their community for artifacts such as statues and landmarks. Suggest they collect or take pictures of their findings and share them with the class. Then talk about what students saw and what these things suggest about their community and its culture. Lead a discussion comparing this activity to the way archaeologists speculate about ancient civilizations.

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Suggested Readings

Mark Doty, Harper Perennial, 1995

"Unearthing Atlantis: An Archaeological Odyssey"
Charles Pellegrino, Random House, 1991

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Start here. This very detailed site contains links to the story of Atlantis, to Plato and the Dialogues wherein he describes Atlantis, to Atlantic and Mediterranean maps of possible sites, to theories, to a time line, and to further references.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    Andean
Definition:Relating to the peoples or cultures of the countries abutting the Andes mountain range in South America, extending from the west coast of Panama to Tierra del Fuego at the continent's southern tip.
Context:Tiwanaku...was an immensely powerful empire that dominated the Andean region.

speaker    Bronze Age
Definition:The time period in human cultural development characterized by the use of bronze for most tools and weapons, between 4000 and 5000 B.C., and before the widespread use of iron.
Context:I would love to think of Bronze Age ships sailing up this cutting here, with their sails spread out.

speaker    cataclysm
Definition:A sudden, disastrous event marked by extreme upheaval and destruction.
Context:After the kings of Atlantis had ruled for many generations, the island on which their city lay was suddenly destroyed in a violent cataclysm.

speaker    excavation
Definition:An area that has been exposed by digging to reveal anthropological or archeological remains, such as that of an ancient civilization.
Context:Excavation revealed that the people who lived here had once been part of the great Menoan culture.

speaker    myth
Definition:A traditional story that may have roots in an actual historic event and serves as an explanation of a practice, belief or civilization.
Context:But with the discovery of this Bronze Age site in Turkey, the famous city of Troy was transformed from myth into solid stone.

speaker    Olmec
Definition:A society of Mesoamerican Indian people who established the region's first major native civilization, living in and around the East Mexico highlands.
Context:In the tropical jungle area of Mexico, a people called the Olmec once undertook an immense effort of human endeavor.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:world history
Understands how early agrarian civilizations arose in Mesoamerica.
Understands the major characteristics and contributions of Olmec civilization.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:world history
Understands how Aegean civilization emerged and how interrelations developed among peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia from 600 to 200 BCE.
Understands the role of art and literature in Greek society.

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:world history
Understands how early agrarian civilizations arose in Mesoamerica.
Understands characteristics of Olmec agriculture.

Understands methods used to study Olmec civilization.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:world history
Understands how Aegean civilization emerged and how interrelations developed among peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia from 600 to 200 BCE.
Knows significant Greek writings and literature.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:world history
Understands how early agrarian civilizations arose in Mesoamerica.
Understands the framework of Olmec society and the influence of Olmec civilization on other civilizations.

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