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The Underwater Museum

  Grade Level:3-5 (with suggestions to adapt for older students)

Subject Area:world history

Curriculum Focus:archaeology, art, history, research, writing and presentation skills

Duration:two weeks (older students may require less time)

In light of the ongoing discoveries made at Alexandria by underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio, Egypt?s Supreme Council of Antiquities is proposing the construction of an underwater museum at the exploration site to showcase what remains of the sunken city without digging it up. Governmental approval will be needed before the plan can be given serious consideration. In this activity, students will:

  • Read about the proposal.
  • Create a presentation for the Egyptian government that explains the rationale for the museum.
  • Create a well-researched, annotated visual display of what the museum might look like.
Materials:Artifact Chamber Planner; access to online and print resources (seeLinks); computer(s) with an online connection; shoe boxes; cardboard and/or tagboard; modeling clay (store-bought or made with recipe below); paint; scissors; glue; markers; crayons; creativity or CAD software (for older students).

Read about the proposalfor an underwater museum at Alexandria after an initial discussion about the underwater expeditions.

Divide your class into several cooperative teams. Their task is to create a multimedia presentation to the Egyptian government that explains the thinking behind such an undertaking. Each group should:

  • Discuss the pros and cons of an underwater museum at this site and be able to give a persuasive oral presentation that shows how the plan could be workable.
  • Sketch some ideas showing what the museum might look like, and come to consensus on one final design for their group.
  • Work together to build a visual representation that shows the details of the museum?s main features (see suggestions below for younger and older students).
  • Zero in on several "chambers" which will contain artifacts already found by Franck Goddio?s crew. Use the Artifact Chamber Planner as a guide to research and write a summary of the history of each artifact and what it represents.
Adaptations for elementary students:
Students in elementary grades can prepare an oral presentation for the Egyptian government, accompanied by a diorama and short written reports about one or two artifacts. If desired, provide students with homemade baking soda clay (made in advance by the teacher) to create models of their artifacts:

2 cups baking soda
1 cup corn starch
1¼ cups cold water (add food coloring to color clay, if desired)

Stir together baking soda and cornstarch in saucepan. Add water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches consistency of moist mashed potatoes (approximately 10-15 minutes). If clay is cooked too long, finished crafts may crack.

Remove mixture to plate and cover with a damp cloth. When clay is cool enough to handle, pat until smooth.

Air-dry finished modeled objects overnight. Paint with water color or tempera paints. Add glitter if desired. You may protect items with a coat of clear nail polish.

Adaptations for older students:
With middle and high school students, you may wish to extend the project by having them use software such as HyperStudio or PowerPoint to create a professional-looking presentation that includes text, graphics, video, animations, and other special effects. If you have access to computer-assisted design software such as AutoCAD, MiniCAD, or one of the popular "do-it-yourself architecture" software packages, a detailed technical drawing or blueprint could replace the diorama. Students at this level can also extend their planning and research to include three to five artifact chambers.

Closure:Invite another class to role-play the government representatives receiving the proposal and presentations. Encourage their comments and suggestions.

Extensions:Since some people might hesitate to visit a museum on the ocean floor, encourage students to consider alternative museum designs that would similarly satisfy the public?s desire to see the priceless underwater treasures without harming them in bringing them to the surface.

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