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Decomposing Culture, cont'd (lesson)

Wild Swan

Wild Swan, 221–206 BCE. China. Bronze. Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Shaanxi.


Students will practice close looking and check their hypothesis by observing the changes in their organic and inorganic items and recording detailed observations.

Approx. 50 minutes
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Common Core Standards:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy. RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic. WHST.6-8.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 

Content Standards (California):
Science:  6b. Students know different natural energy and material resources, including air, soil, rocks, minerals, petroleum, fresh water, wildlife, and forests, and know how to classify them as renewable or nonrenewable. 6c. Students know the natural origin of the materials used to make common objects. 7a. Develop a hypothesis 7b. Select and use appropriate tools and technology to perform tests, collect data, and display data. 7c. Construct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements about the relationships between variables. 7d. Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and oral presentations. 7g. Interpret events by sequence and time from natural phenomena. 7h. Identify changes in natural phenomena over time.

Introduction (15 min.)

  • Present an ordinary object and ask students to write a description.
  • After 2 minutes of writing, ask them to look at their description and introduce a new rule: they are not allowed to use the name of the object. (Example: for a blueberry muffin, they are not allowed to use the words “blueberry” or “muffin”).
  • After 2 more minutes of writing, ask students to trade descriptions with a partner to check that “taboo” words have not been used. Have them work together to improve each other’s writing so that if the object were to disappear, the description is clear enough for the reader to picture the object. Ask students to think about size, texture, color, and comparisons to other objects.
  • Share descriptions.
  • Relate the exercise to the way that scientists need to be very detailed in their descriptions to provide the most accurate information possible.

Vocabulary Extension
Physical change = a change that alters an object’s physical appearance, such as its shape (example: glass breaking)
Chemical change = a change that alters an object’s chemical composition to create a new or different substance (example: rust on a nail)

Class Activity (30 min.)

  • Redistribute Lab Worksheets to students and inform them that it is time to observe what has happened to the items they left a few days ago.
  • Carefully uncover items that were left in the dirt and retrieve objects from outside and display them for students to view.
  • In their lab teams, students record detailed observations and identify the physical and/or chemical changes that occurred to their organic and inorganic items. 
  • Teams present their findings to the class to be recorded in a class data table (such as this one) to indicate the object, where it was stored during the experiment, whether it underwent a physical and/or chemical change, and additional notes.

How might you expect the Terracotta Warriors to have changed?

Individual Activity (10 min.)
K-W-L Chart
Based on the previous days’ activities, have students predict what they may see while touring China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy completing the K and W columns in the K-W-L chart (see Appendix IX).

In the K column, students should write things that they know or remember from the past couple days about archaeology, the First Emperor (Qin Shihuang), and/or the Terracotta Army. In the W column, students should write things that they want to know – questions that they hope will be answered when they visit the exhibit. The L column will be completed in the museum.

This curriculum was designed by World Savvy in partnership with the Asian Art Museum.

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