The teaching unit's daily activities are listed below. Some of the video material - and even the written material - needs some editing due to content. Both the Black Death and Aztec films show paintings and illustrations with extensive female nudity - not acceptable in middle school - so films have to be edited, and I note the parts that I use. Mentioning Ibn Battuta's countless wives, concubines, and slave girls is also out of bounds, necessitating censorship of some passages that are otherwise excellent and perfectly usable. One would think that such a pious man, who appreciated modesty in women yet showed such disregard for them on a personal basis, would supply fodder for great conversations, but that can't happen in the seventh grade, at least in Connecticut public schools.
When specific passages from sources are used, the sources are listed at the beginning of each day's activities. I also give daily Do Nows, brief exercises which are designed to settle students down and give them useful information (and whet their appetites) for the day's activities.
Pretest, Trip Preparation, and Grading Rubric
(Resource: http://novaonline.nv.cc.va.us/eli/evans/his135/EXAMS/map_printable.html). Do Now Question: Imagine that you are traveling across the desert in 1326. What would you be wearing, and what would you have to protect yourself from the sun? Answer: You would need to be almost completely covered, since sunscreen doesn't exist.
Students will be given a pretest to find out what they know about several terms and geographic locations. Geographic locations they will try to locate on a map (get blanks from novaonline website) will include Mecca, China, London, Damascus, and Mexico City. Terms to define will include caravan, Hajj, Islam, plague, monarchy, bacillus, aqueduct, Buddhism, and other terms. There will also be questions, such as these: what forms of government existed in 1325? How did people travel? What religions existed? They will be given the same brief test at the end of the unit to measure their learning. This will take twenty minutes.
Students will then be given a very brief outline of their journey, and they will be asked to list the items they will put in their backpack, understanding that they will be carrying their backpack around the world and cannot count on assistance in transporting the pack for much of their land travel. They can only take what would be available and suitable at the time. The men would not wear pants, for example, anywhere but in London. No electronics, deodorant, Kleenex, lip balm, sunscreen, or other modern conveniences can go into it. This packing list is used so that students remain acutely aware that during their journey they will lack many of the things that they take for granted. They will complete their list for homework.
Destination One: Mecca, 1326
(Resources: Dunn, Travels, pp. 66-9; Azzam, Valley of Doom, pp. 2-7; Gibb, Travels,Vol. 4, pp. 948-9; http://geography.about.com/library/blank/blxmiddleeast.htm). Do Now question: In 1326, what do you think you might do to save yourself if a poisonous snake in the desert bites you? The question will be answered by the end of the class.
Students will be given yellow paper for their travel journal. There will also be given a cover page, titled Travel Journal, which will be divided into four sections labeled Mecca, China, London, and Tenochtitlan. It will be their responsibility to draw a diagram or picture that represents each of the four cities. The journal sheets will be loose colored paper (most of it lined) that they will collect in a folder and ultimately assemble in a binder. The paper is loose because some of the journal entries will be given as homework; realistically, I know that some students will repeatedly lose or ruin all of their work if allowed to take the journal home. They will have school time to assemble the entries. Students will also be told that, periodically through the trip, they will write about the changes which have taken place between the fourteenth century and now. These pages will not be part of their journals, but will be part of the project grade.
Each student will be given a rubric explaining the scope of their project, with grades for journal entries and journal assembly, modern connections, maps, illustrations, and the project posttest.
They will then be given their travel itinerary for the entire trip. The first destination will be Mecca, departing from Damascus in 1326.
Students will get a brief background of Ibn Battuta and the range of Muslim influence in the early fourteenth century. Ibn Battuta was a Muslim scholar who traveled about 75,000 miles in twenty-six years. His travels included the Arab Mediterranean region, northern Africa, China, and many islands. He made a conscious effort to visit only Muslim countries, since that was where he felt most comfortable and was most likely to get sponsors to pay his way. He would sometimes teach at his various destinations as well.
They will have a map (from the geography website) on which they trace the journey of Ibn Battuta from Damascus to Mecca, and this will be part of their journal. Much of the class period will be spent examining means of transportation in those days, and we will particularly look at caravans to Mecca, including excerpts and quotes from IB's writing, particularly the explanation of a cure for snakebite. In this passage, a merchant named al-Hajj Zaiyan had stuck his hand in a hole and been bitten in the finger by a poisonous snake. Here's part of the passage I would use:,
It was cauterized, but in the evening the pain grew worse. He cut the
throat of a camel and put his hand in its stomach and left it there for
a night. The flesh of his finger dropped off and he cut off his finger at
the base (Gibb Vol. IV 949) .
Be sure to note that Islamic medicine was advanced for its day, and that this passage, though intriguing, does not suggest that the Islamic World was primitive.
In addition, quotes will be used to show the perils of caravan travel in the fourteenth century. Dunn's book, The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pp. 66-69, illustrates the difficulty of traveling long distances in hot weather without modern conveniences. Azzam's book for children, Ibn Battuta in the Valley of Doom, pp. 2-7, shows the fear pilgrims must have felt on the sometimes-fatal trip through the desert. We will discuss the time required for traveling, as well as the dangers and difficulties.
Students will be given the five tenets of Islam:
1 - FAITH - Belief in one God
2 - PRAYER - Five ritual prayers must be performed daily.
3 - ALMS - Care must be given to the poor.
4 - FASTING - Ramadan fasting is required from sunrise to sunset.
5 - PILGRIMAGE - If financially and physically able, each Muslim must take part in a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime.
Start the film,
It's a fifty-two minute film; count on getting through just ten or fifteen minutes of it today. You might want to explain that the requirements for Hajj may seem harsh, but that we would discuss that after the film. The only part of the film which a teacher might consider omitting involves the slaughter of lambs. It occurs about ten minutes from the end of the film. While the viewer doesn't actually see throats being slit, it is fairly graphic.
For homework, students will create their first journal entry; it will describe their experience on a caravan: either the rigors of the trip, a certain event which occurred on the caravan, or their relationships with fellow travelers.
(Resources: Dunn, Travels, pp. 75-9,
Azzam, Valley of Doom, p. VI;
, National Geographic). Skip Do Now today due to the film length. Complete the film, and then ask if there are questions. Students are likely to react to hygiene issues (since pilgrims go so long without bathing) and then discuss the meaning of faith, and how different people express their faith. Ask them why there were no pictures of God in the movie, and then explain about the lack of idols in the religion, and how the God of Islam has no physical being or appearance. Talk about the concept of having no "graven images" and how Christianity interprets this commandment differently. Then discuss the sequence of the Hajj rituals, passing out a diagram of the process (or doing it on the board might be better). Then discuss
, which follows three modern, non-Arab Muslims through their experiences at the Hajj, and talk about the problems they came up against. We will then read brief passages discussing first hand experiences of Ibn Battuta.
For homework, students will write a journal entry about the three most surprising of interesting things they learned about Mecca or Islam, as either a pilgrim or an observer. Why did they find these facts interesting?
(Resources: National Geographic, Dec. 1991, pp. 6-49). Do now question: At Mecca, which of these foods could you not eat, and why? Lamb, pork, olives, tomatoes, corn, and onions. Answer: Muslims do not eat pork. Tomatoes and corn could not be eaten because the world outside of the Americas didn't know about them until after Columbus's voyages began over one hundred fifty years later.
Students can view parts of the film
Islam: Empire of Faith
( PBS) if there is a desire to do so. Continue class discussion on
. Certainly the statements and behavior of the white, blond, fashion-conscious, PhD-holding American pilgrim will produce comments of skepticism, and that should lead to a lively discussion about the nature of faith.
Arts Connection: Use photos from the
Ibn Battuta article to show a great time-lapse photograph of pilgrims circling the Kaaba. Other pictures show how little has changed in some areas over the last seven centuries. Ask students what has changed; discuss the sheer number of pilgrims who attend the Hajj today.
For homework, students will write a second journal entry of an event at the Hajj in 1326. They can write this as either a participant or an observer. Though a person being there as an observer is unlikely, since "infidels" were not allowed in Mecca, I wouldn't (and couldn't) compel a student to see the event from the eyes of a Muslim. They could write about their overall impression or about a certain event; the stoning of the pillars or circling Kaaba seven times would probably be good choices. After seeing the film, I'm sure students will be fascinated by the crowds and by the rituals of the Hajj.
(Resources: Dunn, Travels, pp. 69 and 77; http://milnet.com/mid-east-news/Religious-Differences-Sunnivs-Shiite.html; http://www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish-central-history-mecca-deaths.htm). Do Now question: Shiite and Sunni Muslims have been warring with each other in Iraq long before the United States got involved. What is the difference between the two groups?
Today, we will examine the clashes between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, both then and now, and the roots of their differences. One option: show a brief passage from the film
Islam: Empire of Faith,
in which the philosophical clash is clearly delineated. The main difference is that Sunni Muslims believe that the first four caliphs - successors to Mohammed - properly took his place as leaders of the religion, and their heirs thus became leaders until the end of World War I, when the Ottoman Empire broke up. Shiites, on the other hand, believe that the legitimate leaders of the faith all descend from Ali, the fourth caliph, who descended directly from Mohammed. The clash between apposing camps, each of which thinks it has God on its side, continues today, both against each other and against outsiders, the "infidels." We will also examine how Mecca regulates its pilgrims today and the problems they have with crowd control, using the britishcouncil website especially. The Dunn book, pages 69 and 77, gives great descriptions of pilgrims bussing to the Hajj sites in modern times:
Many walk, but others travel in buses and cars along the multilane highway
which wins out from the city. Saudi government helicopters circle overhead
and crowd control experts monitor the proceedings from closed circuit
television centers (Dunn 77) .
For homework, students will write their third journal entry, in which they leave Mecca and write what they learned about themselves at the Hajj.
Destination Two: China, April, 1346
(Resources: Dunn, Travels, pp. 241-61, including map on 256; http://www.freewebs.com/graham7760/thedarkages.htm; http://z.about.com/d/geography/1/0/Q/K/china.jpg; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sultan/archeology2.html ). Do Now question: What do you think sailing ships looked like in the 1300's? Did they have sails or oars or both? Answer: we know they had sails and oars, but we don't know what all of the boats looked like. We know a lot about the Viking ships. A wreck which was found off the coast of South Korea dates from the Yuan Dynasty and tells us a lot about Chinese ships. We really don't know exactly what many of the vessels looked like before the 1400's.
The class today includes a very brief summary of the twenty years between Ibn Battuta's Mecca pilgrimage and his arrival in China, and it's the one big time gap in our travels. Students will be given blank black and white maps (z.about.com) which they will use to trace his route in China. Some islands will be drawn in as well. The teacher can use the map of page 256 of the Dunn book as the source. This map will become part of their journals. It must be noted that many scholars believe that Ibn Battuta never went to Peking (Beijing), Hang Zhou, and other cities. The class will discuss the factors which make it appear that parts of Ibn Battuta's travels to China were fabricated; they were possibly based on reports from others. This class will, in part, be a discussion of how historical reports may be extremely inaccurate due to intentional misrepresentation, by exaggerating the amount of ground covered, by faulty memory, or by outright plagiarism.
Emphasis will be placed on means of transportation. Students will read passages relating to sea travel, which was perilous even in the Mediterranean due to both unpredictable weather and pirates, and look at trade routes. The class will read information from the freewebs website. We will also read about Ibn Battuta's attack by pirates, on page 246-7 of the Dunn book:
Caught in the corsair's net, twelve ships suddenly converged on the
lonely vessel and attacked at once. Clambering over the gunwales
from all directions, the pirates quickly overpowered the hapless crew,
and stripped the passengers of everything they had (Dunn 247) .
For homework, students will write journal entry four, in which they write about traveling on a ship in 1346. Their entry will reflect their understanding of travel in the fourteenth century.
(Resources: Dunn, pp. 256-261, http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/html/kennewick_man.html; http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/history/yuan/index.htm). Do Now question: What are Buddhism and Confucianism? Answer: Buddhism is a religion that believes that unselfishness and getting rid of earthly desires will bring you to enlightenment. It might be considered a godless religion. Confucianism involves a series of philosophical and ethical teachings; many do not consider it a religion.
Students will examine China at the time, seeing how the Yuan Dynasty saw the Mongols in charge, and foreigners held all positions of power. The chinatravelquide website has most of the information you need for today; you might want to copy and pass out several relevant pages. Muslims had a particularly great opportunity to get lucrative government jobs and had special privileges. Ibn Battuta was, in many ways, treated better than the natives. The Mongol four-class system, not surprisingly, placed the Mongols on top. Western and Central Asians were second, Northern Chinese were third, and last were the people living in South China. Ibn Battuta encountered Confucianism and Buddhism, which he considered heathen religions.
For homework, students will make a log entry as a traveler, indicating their observations about China and what they think it must be like to live in a government where all the rulers are foreigners. (Students must remember they are writing as foreigners and might be treated better than the native Chinese).
(Resources: Dunn, Travels, pp. 270-273; http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/18902.htm. This U.S; http://www.kyrene.org/schools/brisas/sunda/arthistory/china.htm; http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/beijing/azureindex.htm). Do Now: What do you know about the Chinese government today? Answer: Answers will vary, but we will talk about China's population, its one child policy, economy, government, and attitude toward religion. Using information from the listed websites, students will write about aspects of China's present day power and government (start in class, finish as homework).
Art Connection: I will show students pictures from my trip to China, talking about present day government, economy, society, and arts. Good sources for artwork to use are the kyrene and chinaarchitecture websites, though there are countless other websites and books which you might prefer.
Out of China to Syria
Next, the student travelers will move to Damascus with Ibn Battuta, and they will be introduced to the devastation of the plague, and read how he remained healthy in spite of his surroundings. Passages from the Dunn book will be used, and we will again follow Ibn Battuta's travels on a map.
In Damascus, we will say goodbye to Ibn Battuta in good health, and tomorrow, we will hitch a ride with the Black Death bacillus, eventually arriving in England.
For homework, students will finish writing about some aspect of modern China.
Destination Three: London, 1349
Scourge of the Black Death
, The History Channel; http://historymedren.about.com/od/theblackdeath/a/death_defined.htm)
Do Now question: Imagine that you were living in the 1300's without modern medicine. If a disease came along and killed many people quickly, what ideas might you have about how the disease spread? Discuss answers, which may include punishment, the air, the water, etc.
Students will imagine that they are the plague bacillus. The class will trace its travel from Damascus, using the map from the historymedren website to see its spread. Most interesting is the intentional spread of the disease:
The Tartars besieged the city (of Kaffa) in November (of 1347), but their
siege was cut short when the Black Death struck. Before breaking off their
attack, however, they catapulted dead plague victims into the city in the
hopes of infecting the residents (historymedron website 1) .
There is debate over whether this event actually succeeded in spreading the plague, but there is no question that the plague managed to rage through Europe in the next few years, using both land and sea routes.
The class will then view parts of the film Scourge of the Black Death. The film is divided into six sections. I would use "Doomsday Arrives," "Spreading Across Europe," and "Black Rats." Keep in mind that a degree of censorship is necessary for middle school; this film contains many paintings of nude plague victims and mentions how sexual promiscuity was a by-product of the plague. Texts from the internet can easily fill in any remaining holes in the story.
For homework students will respond to the film, answering this question: what were the three most important things you learned about plague from this film?
(Resources: http://www.medieval-life.net/black-death.htm; http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/bdeath). Do Now question: what modern diseases have the potential to create plague-like conditions in the future? Talk about Ebola, AIDS, avian bird flu, etc.
Material from several web sites will be used today, both for historical information and for modern articles on the possibilities of plague in the future. Emphasis will be placed on answering some key questions. How did sanitation of the time contribute to the spread and the virulence of the plague? How did social structures crumble as a result of the plague? How were trade routes a factor? How did doctors at the time explain the disease, and what did they do to try to cure people? The class will also examine how the people, trying to find a cause for the misery, persecuted Jews, and how others became Flagellants. If time is available, we may read articles about the discovery of mass plague graves during the twentieth century.
Art Connection: Show students some paintings, etchings, and architecture from England circa 1350. Include representations of Black Death as a creature, skeleton, etc.
For homework, students will write journal entries, imagining that they are in London at the time of the plague. Though not affected personally, they will write about its affects and their confusion over the deaths around them.
(Resources: http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/html/kennewick_man.html; http://www.humanities-interactive.org/splendors/ex048_08e.html). Do Now: The natives of North and South America have no proven connection to the rest of the world. How would you guess they might have gotten there, and from where? Ask for student responses, and then talk briefly about the possibilities: a land bridge from Asia to Alaska, Polynesian sailors. Mention Kennewick man, found in Washington State, the oldest dated remains on American soil at 8,400 years old.
The class will discuss ways one could possibly travel from England to Mexico. We will examine some of the ships used for transportation at the time.
Our next destination is Tenochtitlan, in present day Mexico City, where the Aztecs are establishing what will become one of the world's largest cities in 1350. There are, of course, no records of anyone from any Eurasian culture traveling to the city, but visiting this city provides us with an opportunity to examine a civilization that developed completely outside the influence of cultures beyond the Americas.
Students will be given a black and white copy of the Cortez map of the city (which is of course much later than our voyage; use humanities-interactive website) and color it for homework. This simple assignment will familiarize them with the layout of the city and prepare them for the next day's film.
Destination Four: Tenochtitlan, in present day Mexico City, 1350
(Resources: The Aztec Empire, The History Channel; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenochtitlan; http://www.common-place.org/vol-03/no-04/mexico city/; http://www.mexicocity.com.mx/history1.html; http://www.differentworld.com/mexico/areas/mexico-city/guide-zocalo.htm; http://www.delange.org/TemMayor/TemMayor.htm; http://www.famsi.org/research/pohl/pohl_aztec6.html. Information from these sites can be used over the next two days of class). Do Now: The Aztecs often performed human sacrifice. Why do you think they might have done this? Don't discuss answers yet; it will be discussed after the film.
Show the first fifteen minutes of the film and possibly other selected parts. Nudity and gore make parts of this film too graphic for middle school children. Besides, much of the film is concerned with the Spanish Conquest, which begins about 180 years after our visit there.
For homework, students will write a journal entry about their impressions of the Aztec society as an outsider. How are the Aztec religious beliefs and society like and unlike anything that they know?
Art of Mesoamerica
, plus the sites used yesterday). Do Now question: Tenochtitlan developed without any contact with European, Asian, and African civilizations. Still, how is it like them? Answer: It developed cities, had distinct groups like artisans and farmers, fought with others, developed religion, etc.
I will discuss with the students their responses to the homework journal entry and then discuss questions and comments about the film. The class will talk about the puzzling absence of the wheel, except on children's toys. We will then discuss how the city eventually absorbed Lake Texcoco, and we will look at this as an example of early habitat destruction (I would talk about previously lush areas of the Middle East which had long since been destroyed; most students don't realize that habitat destruction is not a modern phenomenon).The class will examine the building of Tenochtitlan, see diagrams of the early structures, and imagine life in the city. Agriculture, trade, and other food sources will be discussed. We will look at pictures from the Miller book, the delange website, plus possibly others.
For homework, students will write a journal entry about anything having to do with the Aztec culture. Ideas might include warring, religion, daily life, their attitude toward their kings, etc.
(Resources: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/19/newsid_4252000/4252078.stm): Do Now question: How do you think building a huge city on top of a filled-in river bed might have contributed to the destruction caused by the 1985 earthquake? The question will be answered later in class.
We will examine the remnants of Aztec culture in Mexico City today. We will look at contemporary articles about Mexico City excavations and discuss how much of Tenochtitlan's history is lost forever under a vast, modern city.
Pass out copies of the relevant news.bbc web pages. We will examine the earthquake of 1985, and students will understand how the construction of Tenochtitlan (and ultimately Mexico City) on landfill rather than solid ground contributed to the devastation caused by the earthquake.
For homework, students will write about what they think Mexico should and should not do to preserve Mexico's past. This is not a journal entry.
Writing / Organizational / Assessment Activities
Day Fifteen, sharing day
Students will be paired up with one technically strong student in each pair. They will read each other's work, using the TAG method to respond (Tell what you like about it. Ask a question. Give a suggestion for improvement). They will spend class time (and homework time) rewriting selected journal entries.
Day Sixteen, internet day
Students will use this day in the technology lab to find maps, illustrations, diagrams, and examples of artwork to enhance their journals.
For homework is a final journal entry. Students will select and answer one of these questions. It is dues on day eighteen with the rest of the journal:
1 What did you learn about the way people behave in a crisis?
2 How was life in the fourteenth century harder and/or easier than it is today?
3 How have your feelings about religions changed, and what have you learned about religion? If your feelings haven't changed, or if you feel you did not learn a lot, do not answer this question.
4 You did not get much hard information to answer this question, but write about what you imagine you as a teenager might have done to entertain yourself in each of your four main travel stops. How is this like and unlike your present forms of entertainment?
Day Seventeen, posttest
Students will retake the same test they took during day one of the unit, including indicating city and country locations on maps. In addition, they will answer several open ended questions about their destinations and be able to connect the information to modern times.
Journals and essays are due as a package. Class will fill out a questionnaire describing what they liked best and least, what they'd like to learn more about, etc. I will use this information to add or adjust materials for the next time the unit is taught.