Bring Ancient History to Life with Hands-on Projects for Tweens

a tween is dressed as Cleopatra
"History is boring!" has been the cry of kids for generations. Actually, the subject of history is far from boring. Instead, it’s the way history is taught that makes it seem boring.

Too often, history lessons are textbook based where the best parts of history — the interpersonal relationships, the quirky facts, and the complex causes — are simplified into bland summaries of key facts. Students who find history dull and lifeless usually don’t have living books or hands-on activities as a part of their history lessons.

BookShark’s history curriculum is unique because instead of relying solely on textbooks, it includes a large number of living books, such as historical fiction and biographies, that include all the juicy details which make history so engaging.

Interesting stories still may not be enough to get your children excited about history. If they aren’t captivated by the time period you’re studying, make it interactive by adding in some creative projects and fun activities. They might just enjoy the lessons more and retain the material better.

Hands-on Activities for History

There are countless ways to make history experiential.

  • Make a diorama.

  • Play a game that was popular with children of the time.

  • Memorize and recite famous speeches.

  • Sew a period costume.

  • Complete an art project in the style of the era.

  • Cook a meal that’s historically accurate.

  • Act out a particular moment in history.

  • Make a salt dough map.

Project Ideas for Ancient History

Ancient history is full of pyramids, inventions, mythology, gladiators, and pharaohs, making it an easy subject for fun activities. Here are hands-on activities for tweens that fit perfectly with some of the stories they’ll be reading in BookShark’s Level G world history program for ages 11-13.

If your children are in a different grade level, for example using Level B or Level BC Condensed world history, you can take the ideas and easily adapt them to fit your needs.

Make Jewlery from Ancient Egypt

Gold was prized by the Ancient Egyptians, especially by the pharaohs and queens. They were frequently adorned with unique pieces, created for them by goldsmiths who were considered impressive artisans.

In the story, The Golden Goblet, Ranofer, hopes to be trained by Zau, the greatest goldsmith in Egypt, so that he may one day become a skilled craftsman as well.

Bring Ancient History to Life with Hands-on Projects for TweensTo see just how talented the these men were, have your tweens design a piece of jewelry. First, have them sketch out and color their detailed model on paper. Then, using white air dry clay, let them turn their image into a 3D version. Once it has dried, they should use metallic paints to complete their piece.

Revise the Story of Ancient Greece

While reading The Trojan War, students will learn just how creative the Greeks were in their attempt to conquer the Trojans. They’ll discover that the Greeks entered the city of Troy by hiding in a huge horse that the Trojans believed was a trophy given to them by the Greeks.

Have your kids come up with a plot twist for this famous story. Instead of having Odysseus use a Trojan Horse to sneak inside the walls of Troy, have them use their creativity to imagine a new ending. They should decide whether the Greeks enter the city, how they do it, and even whether Greece still wins the war. Once they’ve created their own version of the story’s end, encourage them to type it up and either act it out or read it aloud.

A 3D Map of Ancient Rome

Throughout the story, The Mystery of the Roman Ransom, your tweens will read about the large number of buildings, landmarks, and monuments the Romans built.

Since this book highlights many Ancient Roman structures, the perfect activity to do while reading it is to create a 3D map. Mapping out the story will help your middle schoolers visualize how the city of Rome was laid out and how its history all fits together.

Have your children start with a piece of poster board. First, they should lightly sketch in some roads, as well as any of the locations and buildings they want to include. Then encourage them to use paint, crayons, or markers to add some color to the diagram. It’s then time to build models of the famous landmarks and structures, using materials like LEGOs, sugar cubes, air dry clay, etc. Place each of the buildings on the map where they were located.

When you make the effort to make history  interactive, you’ll also make it more interesting.

Hands-on History Projects for Elementary Students

Enjoy nine unique projects that tie to your World Cultures studies. Although designed to supplement BookShark Level A, this kit can also be used as a standalone product or used with any other homeschool curriculum. Click the image to learn more.

See all hands-on products by BookShark.

About the Author

Megan Zechman

Megan Zechman is a veteran homeschool mom of two girls. Over at Education Possible, she shares creative, hands-on learning activities for middle school.