Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Romans: Master Builders

We did not specifically do a single lesson about the Romans as master builders.  Instead, Alice and I took a look at each building feat and then watched related clips from many of the movies linked below (or the movies in their entirety) to show building feats of the Ancient Romans.  In this way, Alice came to be familiar with important structures that still stand today as well as the technology behind their structures.  We mostly did this study chronologically as we came across the emperor behind the building of each structure.  However, many of the resources I used had multiple structures within one movie.  For this reason, we began with an understanding of how concrete and the arch were important in the ability of Rome to build the amazing things still standing for us to walk in, around or on.  For resources regarding other topics of Ancient Rome click here.


The Roman Arch: The resources for this are included in a couple of lessons we did about the arch, "Build a Roman Arch" and "Breaking Bridges".  A clip from Engineering the impossible about arches is included with "Breaking Bridges". 

Roman Concrete: Part of the Romans' success was because of their volcanic ash.  They could make concrete that set quickly AND underwater. Watch concrete be made from its raw ingredients the way the Romans would have.

Hamster Wheel Crane: Is this how the Ancient Romans lifted stone blocks?

Aqueducts: An introduction to what they were, why they were important and revolutionary and various views of aqueduct bridges.  Includes a model of an inverted siphon and an explanation of how it worked.  Kids must know the word "gradient" first.

Aqueducts: How were the ancient Romans precise enough to move water from the mountains into Rome.

The Groma: How the Romans surveyed before beginning a building project (this is specific to setting a tent line), but Groma were used for roads, aqueducts and the building of structures for public buildings, homes and temples as well.

Roman Structures

Roman Roads - BBC's What the Romans Did for Us Episode 4: The Romans make Roads that are perfectly straight and head in exactly the right direction.  Shows how roads were surveyed (includes the use of a Groma).  There are more full episodes of these.  A few of the technology clips above have come from episodes that were broken into clips on Youtube.

Hadrian's Wall - BBC's What the Romans Did for Us Episode 5: Hadrian's Wall.  This episodes "contemplates" life at the edge of the empire.  Instead of being about the building of the wall as one would expect, it is about life in a Roman military community.  It goes over everything from the making of weapons and communicating between forts to things like how the Roman soldiers would have baked their bread.

Coliseum Plumbing - A Short clip about the drainage system underneath the Coliseum.  Another video below has a portion that mentions the origins of the drainage systems from Nero's palace the Domus Aurea.

NatGeo's Birth of Rome - This movie begins with a mention of Romulus and Remus and quickly moves into a sweeping history of the growth of Rome from an early independent city and republic into an Empire and the trappings that came with it.

Roman City - This is a mixture of fictional animation to show daily life in the Rome of Augustus, and film showing David Macaulay walking through ancient ruins and describing the architectural feats of the Romans and their beliefs about the ideal city.

Engineering the Roman Empire - This movie has some fairly graphic scenes (it is about the Ancient Romans after - all and starts of with Julius Caesar's assassination).  It is educational, and not gratuitous.  However, as usual, you will want to preview it to be sure it is right for your objectives, age, and maturity of the kids you will be expecting to view the video.  This movie is a great resource for relating emperors with the most important buildings of ancient Rome as well as forming a sort of timeline for the building of everything from the original forum to Hadrian's Wall and finally the Bath house of Caracalla.

Activities Along the Way:

Of course you can build models of any number of Roman structures not already mentioned. Watch the first nine minutes of  Engineering the Roman Empire (link above).  This portion is about Julius Caesar crossing the Rhine.  Then build a model of the bridge.

Use the book, "Step Into The Roman Empire" along the way for instructions for building models of: a piece of an aqueduct bridge, a traditional Roman Villa (including a separate "Modern" Roman Kitchen), and the Pantheon.  With this book you will also have access to visuals depicting the underlying structures for baths and under-floor heating.  Of course there are also crafts about Roman Dress, games they played, creating your own Mosaic and more.

When completing a study about Trajan and his column, make one of your own.  Get a paper towel roll and use the seam that spirals around the roll as the "ground" in a series of pictures to tell a story much as Trajan's column (link takes you to video featuring sculpture reliefs from the column) tells the story of Trajan's conquests (this link takes you to education documentary clip about the conquest of the Dacians).


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