Head-Royce News

The Power of Why


Why? It’s a familiar question for Lower School parents. But why? Well, children are curious by nature. So what? In the 2nd grade, teachers Zach Bernard and Chris Dunlap harness that curiosity, weaving questioning into the curriculum. 

“Why is the throughline connecting the whole social studies unit,” says Zach Bernard. “We focus on the reasons why we study history, such as:

  1. History can help us learn about and make decisions for the present and future. 

  2. History can inspire us to do better.

  3. History is fun because it’s full of great stories.” 

“After we study and discuss these reasons,” says Zach, “we further understand them, using the lens of Ancient Egypt.”   

The six-week Egyptian unit covered four topics: The Nile River, Mummification, Hieroglyphics, and Goddesses and Gods. Straight away, 2nd graders began to think like historians, comparing their ancient lessons to the present moment. “They learned about the Nile River watershed, which was key to the success of Ancient Egypt, and tied it right to our local watershed, Sausal Creek.” 

Thanks to science class, the students also knew that, like Ancient Egyptians, “the early people who lived in our area, both indigenous and Spanish settlers, built with adobe bricks,” says Zach. In a hands-on activity, the 2nd graders made their own adobe bricks, and “after winter break, we’ll use those bricks to make miniature adobe houses,” says Chris Dunlap.  

The students even noticed echoes of Ancient Egypt in the School garden. “When we talked about how Ancient Egyptians used the inundation, the yearly flood, they already understood the importance of fertile soil from their time with our garden teacher, Christy Betts.” 

Chris Dunlap further connected the history lesson to their science lab, where the students experimented with their own inundation: “The 2nd graders discovered what silt is and how these small rock particles exist in all rivers and creeks.” 

As for the compelling stories found throughout history, Zach says, “There are always a few students who gravitate toward goddesses but what’s most exciting for them is mummification.”

To fully understand how Ancient Egyptians prepared and cared for their dead, 2nd graders enacted the mummification ritual on a favorite stuffed animal from home––wrapping the animal and tucking jewels inside its bandages. “They each built a paper-mâché sarcophagus and decorated it,” says Zach. “It was so fun and theatrical.”

The Ancient Egyptian lesson culminated in an all-day field trip to the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose. Both classes enjoyed docent-led tours of the museum and looked at the museum’s collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts, such as a Cleopatra statue and a replica Rosetta stone including “a number of mummies and a replica tomb,” says Zach. 

“What really shone through is how much they remembered,” says Zach. “The docents said our students knew more specific facts than any other 2nd graders they’d worked with!” 

Why? “When they’re answering the docent’s questions, the students are cementing what they’ve already learned,” Zach explains. “The tour reinforced their knowledge because it gave them the chance to answer questions, in a conversational way.”

Check out some of the unveiled mummies, below: 




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