Farming the Nile

In their consideration of Ancient Civilizations, 6-8 team social studies students are learning about agricultural practices through LEGO™ builds and other hands-on activities.

Egypt is a hot country where it hardly ever rains. And yet the ancient Egyptians built an empire on great agricultural wealth. How is this possible?

Each year the regions at the source of the Nile River experience periods of long heavy rainfall. In ancient times, when the floodwaters receded farmers were left with well watered and fertile soil in which to plant crops. The Egyptians learned to manage the annual Nile flooding by building canals and dams. Further, with a special lifting device called a shaduf, they could carry water to higher fields.

LGS students used soil models to explore the Egyptians’ use of basin irrigation – a crisscross network of earthen walls formed in a field of crops that would be flooded by the Nile. When the floods came, the water would be trapped in the basins formed by the walls. The basins held the water longer than it would have normally stayed, allowing the earth to become fully saturated after planting.

Students also built model shadufs out of LEGO™. A shaduf is a hand-operated device for lifting water. It consists of a long pole mounted like a seesaw. A skin or bucket is hung on a rope from the long end, and a counterweight is hung on the short end. The operator pulls the rope to lower the bucket into the canal, then raises the bucket of water by pulling down on the weight. He then™ swings the pole around and empties the bucket onto the field.


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