Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Exploring Ancient Greece

Rachel Farris


Students use play dough to create a relief map of Greece and through personal investigation and class discussion, draw conclusions about the impact of the geography of Greece on daily life and culture in Ancient Greece.


The student understands ways geographical factors have influenced selected groups (for example, the development of the Tibetan civilization in the Himalayan Mountains).

The student uses various map forms to process and report geographic information (for example, patterns of land use, connections between places, patterns and processes of migration and diffusion).

The student understands the various geographic factors that may divide or unite a country (for example, mountains, rivers, valleys).


-Play dough (blue, green, brown, tan or yellow) or create your own
-Wax paper
-Large map of North America
-Geographical and topographical map of Greece
-Reference books on Ancient Greece for student use
-Geographical Feature Impact Chart (see associated file)
-Life in Ancient Greece (see associated file)
-Play Dough Recipe (see associated file)


1. Locate a large map of North America.
2. Locate one large or several small topographical maps of Greece.
3. Make or purchase play dough (blue, green, brown, yellow or tan). A recipe is included in the associated file.
4. Make copies of handouts (Geographical Feature Impact Chart and Life in Ancient Greece).
5. Gather reference books for students on Ancient Greece.
6. Obtain wax paper for each group or individual.
7. Become familiar with background information on geography and topography of Greece; the impact of those features, and the Ancient Greek lifestyle.


1. Show a map of North America to students. Point to Northern Canada and the Southern United States. Ask students how life differs in the two regions. Lead them to discover that people in Northern Canada wear different clothing, have differernt hobbies, and eat different foods, etc., than people in the southern United States. Discuss the relationship between geography and lifestyle.

2. Show students a topographical map of Greece. Lead them to discover the major geographical features that influence life in Greece. Discuss the relationship of Greece to water, the mountain chains that cover most of the peninsula, and the cluster of islands surrounding the peninsula, among other features.

3. Inform students that they are to construct a relief map of Greece with play dough. Color code the geographical features they are to include (blue=water, green=grass, brown=mountains, tan or yellow=soil). If students want to include other geographical features, they may mix different colors of play dough to form new colors.

4. Continue leading students in a discussion of the influence of the geographical features on the Ancient Greek lifestyle as they work on the map. Some points to include are the influence of the sea on diet; trade and transportation; impact of the mountainous land on farming; effect of the lack of deep rivers on settlements and farming; and the climatic impact on the region.

5. Direct students to finish thier maps and set them aside to dry. As they do so, they may begin composing a list of the topographical features of Greece for the following class activity.

6. Give each student a Geographical Features Impact Chart to complete as a class.

7. Complete the chart by referring to some of the main points in the discussion in procedure number four.

8. Inform students that they are going to participate in a writing activity using the information they have learned. Pass out the Life in Ancient Greece questionaire. Allow students to answer in groups or individually.


1. Do a formative assessment of the relief map. Observe students as they work on the maps and give suggestions for corrections as needed. Make sure students include land forms that influence groups, provide patterns for development, and impact economy.
2. Complete a formative assessment of Geographical Feature Impact Chart found in the associated file. Listen and observe students' responses in discussion. The students should be able to fill in the chart with 100% accuracy since this is a whole class activity. Check for accuracy and provide feedback when necessary.
3. Formatively or summatively assess the Life in Ancient Greece handout. This is a teacher choice. Students should be able to answer the questions on the handout by referencing information on the chart. All answers should include at least one impact listed on the chart.


1. Prior information: Students need to understand the terms geography, topography and relief map.
2. Extensions: Students can write a -Day in the Life- story of a fictional character in Ancient Greece.
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