Ancient Mesopotamian Problems: Modern-Day Solutions

By Christian Paulino, November 8, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Two sixty-minute class periods


In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to find solutions to ancient Mesopotamian problems with modern day technology. This lesson is designed to allow students to appreciate what modern technology has to offer and how it can be fostered to help people solve problems. Students will work in groups of three, each representing a profession responsible for designing and creating the solution to an ancient problem. The professions are an architect, engineer, and a construction manager. Employing these “professions,” students will work together to communicate their ideas and potential solutions to these problems. Eventually, students will come up with solutions and will present them to the teacher, the "Mesopotamian ruler" for approval. With this lesson, students will use their imagination to create solutions to motivate others to use their imaginations as well.

National Standards

Common Core State Standards:

Anchors for Reading

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Knowledge of Language:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will: • summarize how geography affected culture in the Fertile Crescent • describe ways in which technology can help solve geographical issues • explain how geographical issues impacted the Mesopotamians socially and economically • present and explain their hypotheses and solutions to the geographical issues



  • Blank white Xerox paper
  • Plain and colored pencils
  • Markers
  • Rulers
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Chart paper


  • Irrigation system: the artificial application of water to land to assist in the production of crops
  • Natural barrier: an obstruction, occurring in nature, such as a mountain range or a wide river that prevents or hinders movement over it or through it
  • Architect: one who designs and supervises the construction of buildings or other large structures
  • Engineer: to plan, manage, and put through by skillful acts or contrivance; maneuver
  • Construction manager: a construction manager is responsible for providing certain preconstruction expertise including cost estimating, value engineering, and scheduling, and during the construction phase of the project, coordinating all of construction activities


  • Divide the class up in groups of three or four (if groups of four, one of the roles can be doubled, for example two architects, one construction manager, and one engineer, or any other combination of these roles).
  • Instruct each group to assign each student a role: engineer, architect, or construction manager.
Teacher Motivation:
  • This lesson should be taught in conjunction with a lesson on the environmental struggles of Mesopotamia. Once the students have the background knowledge of Mesopotamia, present them with the following scenario:  The Mesopotamian King (the teacher) is looking for a contracting company that can help with environmental issues. Each group will be competing against each other on the premise of originality, enthusiasm, and innovativeness in their plans.
Teacher Presentation:
  • Start the lesson off by asking the class, “How does a natural disaster change the lives of people?” If the students need an example of a natural disaster, prompt them with a question about Hurricane Katrina or another well known disaster.
  • After discussing this question as a class, ask the students, “How do you think the Ancient Mesopotamian’s felt when they were faced with different geographical and environmental issues?” Encourage students to use facts they learned when studying Mesopotamia.
  • To get the students to start talking about their roles, ask the students, “Who is responsible for designing solutions for environmental issues?” Gear the students to start talking about architects and engineers.
  • Once the students start talking about those specific professions, give them the proper definition and responsibility of each role.
  • After the discussion of how the Ancient Mesopotamian’s felt, tell the students that their suggestions will help them with their presentation to the Ancient Mesopotamian King.
Directions for students:
  • Students should discuss among their group which role each feels the most comfortable with (construction manager, architect, or engineer).
  • Once the students have their roles, they should brainstorm to come up with ideas for their beginning design. The purpose of the roles is mainly for presentation purposes—by having roles and a design order, all of the students will have to present at the end of the lesson. Students will present in their group so they can help each other throughout the presentation.
  • Once the students have finished brainstorming, they should begin to sketch some of their preliminary ideas, seeing if they are possible. Throughout the sketching process the students should also figure out what type of material will be used for their environmental solutions.  Allow students to use the Internet to research their ideas and the most suitable materials.
  • As the students are putting their ideas together, walk around the room and assist those who need more instruction. While walking around the classroom, pass out materials for the students to use while creating their designs.
  • When each group has finished their design, they should present them to the class using their roles as indications of what to speak about. Students should tell how this design would have helped those in Ancient Mesopotamia.
Wrap up:
  • After the presentations, the students will have a discussion on what they could have done differently and why the roles of an architect, engineer, and construction manager are so important.


The presentation at the end of the lesson should give the teacher a good understanding of whether the students grasped the information. A presentation rubric can be passed out to the students to guide them in the right direction to receive a good mark. To differentiate the lesson, the teacher could provide the students with a handout with possible suggestions for their presentation and approaches to organizing their ideas before presenting. Along with the handout of the information, the teacher should provide some different graphic organizers for the students.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students can research a natural disaster and the effects it had economically, socially, and politically. Students will then research what architects and engineers have done or are doing to prevent or limit the damage of the natural disaster. Students could also do this same activity using another ancient civilization or time period and applying today’s advanced technology to the solution.

Teacher Reflection

The lesson at first seemed too detailed for the students, however once they understood the roles and the fact that I wanted them to use their imagination to come up with ideas they became a lot more comfortable and the pieces of the presentation started to fall together. The presentation demonstrated the many different learning styles of my students. Students who are usually quiet and more reserved had a difficult time with the assignment, while other students who have a difficultly being motivated enjoyed the activity and did a good job presenting in front of the class. I would want the students to revisit public speaking and presentation. Throughout the school year I will create other situations in which the students will have to practice their presentation skills. Asking the students questions about Hurricane Katrina and allowing them to brainstorm through discussion made the transition very easy into the group activity and presentation. The next time I do this lesson, I will have the students learn the roles before the actual lesson to make the original conversation smoother.

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