During the Middle Ages, most people in Europe spent their entire lives in the village where they were born. But in the 13th century, a young Italian named Marco Polo traveled all the way to China! In this lesson, students will learn about the remarkable travels of Marco Polo.
Many English speakers are familiar with the Sanskrit word karma, which made its way into the language during the first half of the nineteenth century. It is often used in English to encapsulate the idea that “what goes around comes around.” This lesson plan is designed to bring the meaning of karma and the related concept of samsara to life through the reading of the Jataka Tales.
Beginning in the 9th century the Khmer empire, which was based in what is today northwestern Cambodia, began to gather power and territory in mainland Southeast Asia. It would grow to be one of the largest empires in Southeast Asian history. In this lesson, students will learn about Angkor Wat and its place in Cambodian, and Southeast Asian, history. Students will attempt to “read” the temple, in a way which resembles the reading of a primary document, to gain insight into this history.
Modern American society is known for its ethnic diversity, and this, of course, is reflected in a wide variety of surnames. In this activity, students will learn about the origins and meanings of surnames commonly used in the United States that derive from non-British cultures.
After a long trek across the Gobi Desert, Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle finally arrived at the Shangdu, the summer palace of Kublai Khan. At this time, most of Asia was under control of the Mongols, a nomadic people whose homeland was in the Gobi.
Marco Polo was on the last leg of his journey home from China to Venice. After visiting several seaports in India, he and his party sailed across the Arabian Sea and to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, landing at the port city of Hormuz, where they decided to travel eastward across Asia following a land route.
Faced with crippling economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the Japanese government decided in September 1941 to prepare for war to seize the raw materials that they were now unable to obtain from America. Students in this lesson will put themselves in the shoes of U.S. and Japanese diplomats in the final months of 1941.
The Edo Period (1603-1868) in Japan was a time of great change. The merchant class was growing in size, wealth, and power, and artists and craftsmen mobilized to answer the demands and desires of this growing segment of society. Perhaps the most well known art form that gained popularity during this period was the woodblock print, which is often referred to as ukiyo-e prints. In this lesson students will learn about life in Japan during the Edo period through an investigation of ukiyo-e prints.
In 1950, North Korean forces, armed mainly with Soviet weapons, invaded South Korea in an effort to reunite the peninsula under communist rule. This lesson will introduce students to the conflict by having them read the most important administration documents related to it.
In the 13th century, a young Venetian named Marco Polo set out with his father and uncle on a great adventure. Following a series of trade routes, they traveled across the vast continent of Asia and became the first Europeans to visit the Chinese capital (modern Beijing). Marco so impressed the reigning emperor of China, Kublai Khan, that he was appointed to the imperial court. For the next 17 years, Marco was sent on missions to many parts of Kublai's sprawling empire. The Polos finally returned to Venice via the sea route. Marco later wrote a book about his experiences, which inspired new generations of explorers to travel to the exotic lands of the East.
In this curriculum unit, students will become Marco Polo adventurers, following his route to and from China in order to learn about the geography, local products, culture, and fascinating sites of those regions. Students will record their "journey" by creating journal entries, postcards, posters, and maps related to the sites they explore. The EDSITEment Marco Polo Journey Map, with its guiding questions, may be used either as a culminating exercise or a method of reviewing previous lessons and introducing new ones.
Read through the entire lesson plan and become familiar with the content and resources. Bookmark relevant websites for later reference. Download and duplicate the map of China available through EDSITEment-reviewed resource Xpeditions for Activity 5 and the Map of the Indian Ocean Area available through EDSITEment-reviewed resource SARAI for Activity 6. It would be very helpful to have a large map of the world in your classroom as well as a set of atlases.
As you progress through the lessons, you may want to speak to your students about the changing status of maps, and the various ways maps can be used to represent a geographic and political area. Since students may find themselves confused by the large number and types of maps in these lessons, you may want to pick one or two to serve as reference points against which other maps are compared (your classroom atlas or a large map of the world might be a good choice). A good online map to use as an overall guide is the Map of Marco Polo's Route available through EDSITEment reviewed resource Asia Source.
Review the EDSITEment Marco Polo Interactive Map. You may use the map either as a culminating exercise or as a way of reviewing material from the previous day's lesson before introducing new material.
Additional background materials can be viewed at the following websites: