On November 21, Ross School sixth graders brought to life the history of the Semitic civilization and ocean navigation through projects tracking the Phoenician mariners’ journey along an ancient trade route. The students developed their presentations working with Lower School Science Teacher Michele Passarella.
In studying the Phoenicians’ sea routes, culture, and ship-building and navigation skills, the class learned that the seamen excelled at trade because they were experts at establishing a position and course using astronomy, geometry, and specialized instruments. The time period sparked a new trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean Sea and had a profound impact on modern methods of oceanic transportation and communication.
The class divided into three groups, and each created a visual presentation of their studies, specifically, the ancient trade route through the Strait of Gibraltar to West Africa and back to northeastern Italy. Students recreated the seafarers’ journeys with videos and props including handmade, detailed maps and replicas of the Phoenician vessels, as well as navigation tools such as the sounding weight, a bell-shaped stone that helped mariners check the depth of the waters and judge the distance to the shoreline.
As students presented, they narrated the journey. One group acted out their story live in the classroom, while the others produced video documentaries (starring themselves, of course). Spectators, who included parents and friends, were impressed with the professional quality of the students’ work and interested to learn historical facts about the Phoenicians, such as the ways they traded glass, slaves, and copper and used the Sun, Cassiopeia, and Big Dipper to mark their positions and chart their nautical courses. Attendees also learned that the Phoenicians were sometimes referred to as the “purple people” because they were the first to create the color, using murex snails.
“I am so proud of my students. They worked so hard to create these unique presentations, and the incredible scientific and historical detail shows their dedication to their study of this pivotal time in maritime history,” Michele said.