Standards Database Logo
Home | Browse | Search | Purpose | History | Process | Acknowledgment| Reference



McREL Standards Activity

Civilization Pie

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will be able to construct their own definition of a "civilization" based on their study of ancient European, Asian, and/or African history.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
World History
 Standard 6.Understands major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE
   Level III [Grade 7-8]
   Benchmark 5. Understands the concept of "civilization" (e.g., the various criteria used to define "civilization;" fundamental differences between civilizations and other forms of social organization, such as hunter-gatherer bands, Neolithic agricultural societies, and pastoral nomadic societies; how Mohenjo-Daro meets criteria for defining civilization)
Student Product:A written recipe for a civilization
Material & Resources:No special resources required for this activity.
Teacher's Note:Prior to this activity, students should have received instruction about a variety of different civilizations and social groups active between 4000-1000 BC.
Explain to students that a "civilization" can be defined as "an advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society" (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition). Ask students to consider some of the early civilizations that they may have studied in class (e.g., Huang He civilization, Tigris-Euphrates civilization, the Indus Valley civilization, Egyptian society, Mycenaean Greek society, Mesopotamian civilization, Mohenjo-Daro civilization). Ask students: What are the "ingredients" or essential elements that distinguish a civilization from other forms of living (e.g., living in nomadic tribes)? Tell students that they will be writing a "recipe" for a civiliation, that is, a list of ingredients that, combined together, will produce an advanced civilization. Begin by listing attributes of different civilizations that have been studied in class on the board. Use one side of the board to write the characteristics of CIVILIZATIONS and the other side for OTHER FORMS OF LIVING. Under civilizations, you might list things such as "uses hieroglyphics to record events" "has a form of currency," "has a democratic form of government," "trades with other cities," whereas on the other side, you might have listed things such as "stories passed down by word of mouth," "trades surplus goods for other goods," "has a tribal leader," "trades with other tribes." Ask students to make connections between the characteristics of the different civilizations they know about to help them discover important ingredients for this recipe (e.g., Egypt --hieroglyphics, Phoenicia --the alphabet: some form of writing seems important). Students should work in small groups of two and three to create a "recipe" for a civilization. Their recipes should consist of a list of civilization "ingredients." To help students get started, you might supply them with a few examples. Some of the ingredients that students might include in their recipes are: trade, cities, a form of writing, a relatively large population, a surplus of food, arts, craftspersons, a form of currency, a system of government, scientific and/or technological advancements, class structure, and labor specialization. When students have finished, a member of each of the small groups should read their recipes aloud. Finish this activity by asking students to think about the what it means to be labeled "civilized" or "uncivilized." For example, when European explorers encountered the inhabitants of the "New World," they thought it uncivilized. Was this judgment appropriate? By all the "ingredients" listed here, they’d be wrong. Why is this the case?