Lego history city of Pompeii

Hands on Pompeii Lesson

There are sometimes your history lessons go fabulously, and this was one of those times, which was nice to have happened in a rather busy month.

Pompeii activity

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“Boring” part of the Pompeii lesson (translation, not messy)

Our Pompeii lesson started when I saw the independent reading on Illuminations was “Pompeii…Buried Alive!”.  I generally speaking really enjoy the later Step Into Reading Books and this was no different.  It has a great overview of what happened and had all of my kids enthralled.  So much so I think they finished it more or less two days of reading lessons (approximately 30 minutes of reading out loud, minus some other activities).

After all that time reading about Pompeii, I decided to skip reading the actual text from MOH2 for now and come back to that later if need be.

Instead, I told them to build some Legos.  I gave them a small Lego plate and sent them to build their idea of a Roman town.  And they happily did so.

Then I set them to cleaning the massive mess they’d made (which still isn’t cleaned up almost 2 weeks later, due to other circumstances), while I prepped the next part of the activity.

 The Hands on Part of the Pompeii lesson

preparing the Pompeii dig site

I went outside and started burying their city.  I threw a few rocks in there, large amounts of dirt, some ash from our fire pit, but generally was not too careful.  My goal was to knock a few things about in the burying, just as the settling of the ash and the occasional large debris that came about caused damage to the actual city.

Then I called the kids outs to see their buried town, which led to cries of dismay as they realized their gorgeous cities were buried and I’d covered their treasured Legos in dirt.  There might have been real tears.

Digging up Pompeii

Slowly they dug up the city of Pompeii.  I emphasized not disturbing the layers and working to ensure they preserved how it was found.  They did some drawings, but they were much too engrossed in digging up their archeological dig to really care about perfect preservation skills.

As a side note, this is the fourth time we’ve done an activity like this, previously we’ve had an archeological dig, a dinosaur dig, and a marine recovery.  I think this was our most successful dig.  The Lego city made it much more interesting to dig for, and easier for them to visualize what it’s like to dig up a site.

Pompeii lesson for kids

After all of that, and the kids happily dug through for over an hour.  Seriously, eventually, I just left them to it as I went inside to watch a Bright Ideas Press’ last G+ hangout. (I put this picture up on my Facebook page).

Pompeii notebooking pages

The next day we finally listened to our MOH2 lesson on the topic as they filled out their notebook pages (get the super supplemental, it is worth it, this product is discontinued).  We finished it up by watching a Pompeii movie on Netflix.  I opted not to show them the romantic soap opera masquerading as a historical movie called “Pompeii” (the reviews I read said, “IF you want to watch Titanic with a volcano and random explosions, watch this,” No thank you).

What we learned from our Pompeii lessons

I almost forgot to include this, but there were so many great things to come out of this lesson:

  1. Archaeology can be very hard at times.  You don’t know exactly where things are, or what you’re looking for.  It’s easy to break items as you unbury them.
  2. It is disappointing when your hard work is buried/destroyed.  They felt sad and hurt I’d buried and messed up their Lego creations, they got a small taste of how the people who survived Pompeii felt.
  3. There are multiple ways to learn.  We tried most of the major modalities.  We got in visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and all of them helped my kids to absorb this lesson.  Not all lessons is it possible to do this on, but when it is, it’s a great way to learn more.
Unbury the city of Pompeii history lesson


14 responses to “Hands on Pompeii Lesson”

  1. I love this. You are the queen of hands on learners and my guys (had I thought to do that which I didn’t) would have loved it and I’m sure, like yours, would have spend a long time digging it all up!

    1. Because you are a total slacker in this area. I’m sorry, I couldn’t keep a straight face as I typed that.

  2. This is a very cool activity! Maybe the tears helped them understand a small piece of the devastation that was the real Pompeii?

    1. That’s what I’m hoping. It certainly has made an impact on them so far.

  3. What a fantastic idea! I love it.

    1. Thanks! It was so much fun!

  4. Fun activity! If I had come over with my model volcano, we could have burst it over your Pompeii while scattering your ashes and making exploding sounds.

    1. That would have been awesome!

  5. I watched that Pompeii movie – and the reviews were right…bleck! I’m glad I’m not the only one who faces a tear or two at the use of Lego men for educational and potentially dirt covered purposes 🙂

    1. So many tears, it was insane!

      Reading the reviews on Amazon are good for a laugh though.

  6. Really cool! Lars and I watched The Last Day of Pompeii on History Channel, but it would be way too intense to show to our little one. Love the dig idea!

    1. I was talking with a friend who’s daughter is learning the same time period in history as us, and her question was “Is there any history that isn’t horrible death and more death?” I feel for the girl.

  7. i cant wait to try this with my class ! This was one part they really struggle to understand, just how much destruction the volcano caused!

    1. It’s a lot of fun, and really does a good job of displaying the destruction.

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