Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Are You a Good Sumerian?

Eric Miles


After students have studied life in Mesopotamia, students construct a Sumerian brick. The brick is supposed to represent material used to build a home in Sumer.


The student understands the early physical and cultural development of humans.

The student understands the rise of early civilizations and the spread of agriculture in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley.


- World History textbook
- Materials found in nature
- Oven
- A large bucket (teacher)
- Two 2x4 pieces of wood (teacher)


1. Prepare overhead or worksheet with rules, expectations, and due date.
2. Gather a bucket and two pieces of 2x4 wood.
3. Secure an area outdoors for experiment.
4. Prepare an area or a box to collect bricks before school.


I. The purpose of this experiment is to build a brick strong enough to stay together in water and to support 100 lbs.

II. Tell students that they are living in the Fertile Crescent in the year 2500 BC. They have decided to move into a trading city of Uruk and build a home. Before they can build their homes, they want to make sure that the materials used will protect them from Mother Nature. Here are some guidelines:

1. Students can only use materials found in nature: clay, sand, bark, grass, sap, etc.
2. Students may not use any store bought or processed materials: glue, concrete, store bought clay, asphalt, etc.
3. Students may use ovens to “bake” or harden their bricks. Make sure that they have permission from parents before using the ovens. Be careful that students don’t “over bake” or use too much grass in the oven.
4. Assign your students a due date. Have students bring their bricks in a plastic bag, with their names on the bag. Instruct students to bring their bricks to your classroom before school to avoid damaging the bricks or causing any foul play.
5. On the assigned due date, take students outside. Fill a large pail or bucket with water and bring two small pieces of 2x4 wood. Students will test their bricks for durability by:
- Holding the brick under water for 15 seconds, simulating rain. (There is no point in building a mud house if it can not survive in the rain)
- Suspending the brick, on the two pieces of wood, and applying 100 lbs. of weight for 15 seconds, simulating wind and the pressure of supporting a roof or another structure.
6. Students will be graded on participation. Any brick found to contain illegal substances will receive a zero.
7. Show students how difficult it was to maintain mud homes compared to homes of today. (Most of the bricks will have trouble with the water test, but you will have bricks that survive both tests.)
8. Have students write a paragraph describing the success of their bricks and their new opinions about how difficult life could have been in Sumer.


1. Give students a participation grade for bringing in the brick before school and for attempting the project. (Watch out for the student who brings in a bag of sand from the beach and says that it fell apart on the way to school!)
2. Paragraphs describing the success of students' bricks and their new opinions about how difficult life could have been in Sumer will be given a homework grade. Paragraphs will be graded on the student's ability to demonstrate an understanding of the early physical and cultural development of humans and the rise of early civilizations.
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