I’m about to do something controversial. Are you ready? When teaching ancient history for our history lessons a few years ago, I put the invention of the shaduf with Ancient Mesopotamia rather than Ancient Egypt. But Ticia, isn’t the cradle of civilization in ancient Egypt, not Mesopotamia? See, here’s the thing, it’s an argument. I’ve seen great arguments for both locations, and ancient Egypt gets so many things, and so I decided to put it in the ancient Mesopotamia unit rather than Egypt. So, let’s look at how to make a shaduf.
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What is a shaduf?
Shaduf is some early technology. Now looking at it, we would say shaduf is not technology but mechanical working, or we probably wouldn’t even think about it as something impressive, but thousands of years ago, it was the height of technology.
A shaduf attaches a bucket to a lever that is then strung from a tripod or a Y junction to easily pull water from a river or well.
While doing my research for our ancient history lessons, I found this great video explaining how to make a shaduf and use it for an elementary class (4th grade).
Sources used for the shaduf lesson
Supplies needed to make a shaduf
For mine, I gave the kids a bucket full of recyclables and told them they could do whatever they wanted, and they scrounged around the house to grab a few other items.
How I thought they would make it
This is what I thought made the most sense. You put together a tripod, though admittedly the kid chose 4 dowel rods, and a bucket (why he chose to cut a soda can down I don’t know, I was thinking a dixie cup would work so much better, but that was his choice).
However, the kids went through a whole slew of different ideas. I’ll also add, I gave them a few different projects to work on at the same time. So while one child was designing a shaduf, another was designing an irrigation system, and I think a third was creating another bit of technology.
How my kids designed a shaduf
We started off with a history lesson on what a shaduf was. I’m not really sure why Making the Grade is on the table, but it is. It was a short lesson, but that made for more time to start their plans.
As part of our ancient Mesopotamia unit I put together a simple planning sheet, which I need to get ready to upload sooner rather than later. You can see Batman’s drawing for his plan is not what he actually ended up with. His plan would not actually work for how a shaduf should be designed.
Once they had drawn out their plans, they got to building.
This took lots of fiddling and concentration. You have to adjust the legs of the shaduf just right so it maintains its’ balance.
You also have to create a bucket that will not tip as you fill it. Which is harder than it sounds. Have you ever tried to put holes in a bucket at just the right place to make sure it won’t tip over as you fill it? It’s tricky.
I just spent two minutes being distracted by Lindybeige ranting about assassin figures. This was probably not the right video to have on in the background as I’m writing.
Also completely unrelated to this post, I’m writing this about two years after we finished this activity and it’s amazing how much the kids have grown and changed since these pictures were taken. The boys were actually shorter than me when we did this. That is no longer true. BY A LOT!
The end results of all their work were successfully transferring water from one location to another just like a shaduf should.
More history lessons
- King Tut art history project
- Mother Teresa lesson
- Invisible Ink project (spies and hiding information)
- Battle of Baltimore lesson
- Ancient Babylon unit