In my year teaching ancient history, the BBC has been a veritable lifeline, along with National Geographic, Discovery Channel and PBS. BBC’s History site is particularly instructive, in that it includes games, projects, lessons and dense (REALLY dense) readings on many important aspects of history–mostly from a British perspective, obviously, but it works.
“A Day in the Life…” is a series of short videos about a kid’s point of view through British history. Since Ancient Rome is on the menu to end the year, I’ve included the life of Roman kid in Roman Britain. It isn’t entirely accurate, but it is fun, and cool to share with kids for a laugh.
Yet this is no ordinary history documentary. Ancients was produced in conjunction with the Open University, the largest British university by student enrollment and a pioneer in distance learning. As such, it not only provides information on the civilization (names, dates, and whatnot) but also practical demonstrations of the kind of technology used at that time period–often with amazing results.
I’ve attached the episode on the Ancient Greeks, as this is the next unit we will be studying in my class. I’ve already previewed the film to a few students of mine, and they all saw the experiments (from Archimedes’ screw to Hero’s steam Jet engine) as great ideas for science fair projects. One even wanted to try out Archimedes’ famed “Death Ray” – the mirrored weapon used to angle the sun’s thermal energy towards wooden galleys with devastating results.
I’m not sure that will fly with the principal (nor the fire chief) but the series is a great connection between science and history.