Social and Cultural Evolution of the People of Eastern Europe
Produced by Janette Lopez, Lawrence Middle School, 1997
Five Day Lesson Plan
To trace the social and cultural evolution of the people of the
Eastern European and Russian geographic area, from ancient paganistic times, to the ethnic
and religious conflicts of the modem era.
* Music from the different regions of the East European and Russian areas can be played
before class and during periods of group work on artistic projects.
- Objective: To explore and analyze the burial customs of the
ancient steppe culture of Siberia; to know the social structure, dress, and religious
practices and apply them by identifying modem derivations in their descendants; to
understand the part they play in the history of this civilization and their similarity
with all civilizations.
- Materials: A video of the "Siberian Ice Princess."
- Vocabulary: Archeological dig, Shaman, Mongols, steppe, clans, Anda,
- Guided Instruction: Show students on the world map where the Siberian
tundra is located and describe the climate conditions of the area. Explain that the film
is about the burial sites there and how the contents have been frozen, perfectly
preserving a woman and all the objects buried with her. This allows us to better
understand how the nomadic herders of the steppe plains lived in prehistoric times. These
are the people written about by Herodotus, the Greek historian. Students should understand
the time frame and religious paganism of these people.
- Guided Group Practice: Groups of four students will draft lists of the
things archeologists learned about the Ice Princess's people. They should place them under
four headings: Dress/Lodging, Social Class, Religion, Work/Living. Each group must report
to the class, one or two items on their list while other groups compare their lists. Lists
are put on the wall for future use.
- Objective: To read and organize information into
retrievable notes; to use understanding of the geography and social structure of the
steppe people as discussed the day before and relate it to the reading material of the
class text; to describe the expansion of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and his
successors; to assess the accomplishments and impact of the Mongols.
- Material: Text, Across the Centuries, p. 162-167.
- Guided Instruction: Mongols are herders; Mongols begin making
conquests; Mongols establish empire; Empire breaks down. Explain that the sections in the
assigned reading correspond with the subjects of the graphic overview. This overview is
put on the board and the students copy it in their notebooks. Groups of four are to read
the assigned pages and take ordered notes on the reading material. Teacher circulates and
keeps groups on task with suggested ways to organize the information. Students then share
their notes while the teacher puts a suggestions on the board.
- Objective: To compare the material that was read in the previous
assignment with the visual images of the video; to construct a list of the notable aspects
of the film and include a picture of the Mongols from their visual understanding of the
culture; to draw a picture that stands out in the students memory about the Mongols.
- Materials: A video, "Mongols: Storm From the East".
- Guided Instruction: This video is ten hours long. Edited segments are
shown to gain an understanding of the Mongol culture. Yurts, horse herding and butchering,
family relationships, fighting skill on horseback, and the geographic setting of the
culture are shown. Students should note the things they learn and compare their notes in
groups. They should draw a picture in their notebooks of the part that stands out in their
- Objective: To examine the video of a Slavic folk tale and construe the
moral message being conveyed; to read and interpret a Siberian folk tale and retell the
tale using stick puppets produced by the student group.
- Materials: Video, "The Frog Princess," a staged play
recreation of a Siberian folk tale by Occidental College. Folk tales from the book, The
Master of the Winds, by Mirra Ginsburg. Paper, scissors, glue, pop-cycle sticks, and
odd materials for the stick puppets.
- Guided instruction: Conduct a brief discussion of how all cultures
express their customs, social class, morals and beliefs in their fables and folk tales.
After viewing selected portions of the play "The Frog Princess", students read
as a group their own short folk tale. Groups will then make stick puppets of the tales
characters and perform their folk tale for the class.
- Objective: To assess the cause and effect relationship between the
history of the Balkan area and the current Bosnian conflict; to empathize with the beliefs
and the hardships caused by conflict that has been passed down for so many centuries; to
deduce the evolutionary nature of the history of culture and the outcome of cultural
- Materials: Video of Frontline's "Bosnia's Romeo and Juliet."
- Guided Instruction: After viewing the video, conduct a discussion and
debate on the conflict in Bosnia and the personal situation of the characters. Be sure to
pose all sides of the issue by playing devil's advocate and point out the historical roots
of the present day conflict. Examples from all the previous lessons should be used to show
that the Bosnians are a product of cultures that migrated, blended by force and by
inter-marriage and were exploited for political and economic power.
- Assessment: Assessment can be daily or at the completion of the unit by
using rubrics that the students fill out as a group, evaluating other groups. The teacher
can use the same rubric and average the responses.
The activities included in this unit may take more time than the traditional fifty
minute class period. I would use this in a collaboration with an English teacher. Math
could be involved by researching the methods used to count and keep records, calculation
of the speed of the Mongol warrior on horseback and the skill it takes to hit their target
at a full gallop. Science can explore the scientific contributions of these cultures over
the ages. Their adaptation of the scientific advances taken from conquests, and the part
the steppe people played in spreading those advances to other geographic locations and
Published: Thursday, April 28, 2005
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