Walk like an Egyptian

16th March 2007 at 00:00
Tutankhamun's visit to London in the autumn will inspire pupils of all ages. Susan Young looks across the Atlantic for ideas on working him into the curriculum

He's about 19, 5ft 7in tall, with almond eyes and olive skin. Currently on a blockbuster tour of the US, he's due to take London by storm in November.

The name of this new teen sensation? Tutankhamun. This minor Egyptian pharaoh might have been dead since 1324BC but that's not going to stop him being the biggest crowd-puller since... well, since the last time he came to town.

In 1972 families queued for hours to see the stunning contents of his tomb at the British Museum, attracting an astonishing 1.6 million visitors. Now King Tutankhamun returns to London.

This week's announcement that the Tutankhamun exhibition is coming to O2, what was the Millennium Dome, in November has left schools considering how to include the visit into the curriculum - even if they don't currently study the Egyptians at key stage 2. Schools in four American cities which hosted the Tut tour during the past couple of years have already grappled with the problem -and come up with some very different solutions.

Teachers at Croissant Park Elementary in Florida had less than four weeks to create some inspiring Egyptian-related work with pupils, after Columba Bush, the state's first lady, requested a visit.

The school, which is for four to 12-year-olds, was chosen because of its proximity to the exhibition. Almost three quarters of the pupils at the school, which is located in a deprived area of Fort Lauderdale, get free breakfast and lunch. Many are recent arrivals, often from Haiti; many don't speak English and have never been to school. Under the No Child Left Behind legislation, Croissant Park must concentrate on basic maths, science and reading - which is why Tutankhamun would normally have passed them by.

"All our arts programmes are integrated with science, maths and reading. We have to justify, for instance, how music is helping a child learn to read,"

says Byron Langenfuss, music teacher.

The prize for entertaining Mrs Bush and officials at short notice was tickets for the whole of the fifth grade (120 10-year-olds) and their teachers to attend the exhibition, something which few of them would otherwise have been able to do. "They were looking for pupils who weren't going to go anyway, not little rich kids," says Claudia Roper, a technology liaison teacher. "It motivated some to go back to the museum. They loved the exhibition after we had done the background information."

The only three teachers in the school who teach every pupil - Claudia, Byron and Alan Pate, an art teacher - were pressed to get something together, fast. Byron scratched his head and remembered Walk Like An Egyptian, the 1980s hit by the Bangles. That unorthodox starting point led to research into traditional instruments from the region, culminating in a musical performance.

Claudia, meanwhile, thought online research would be the best thing to do - but, mindful of the risks of unfettered web surfing, set up a "scavenger hunt" for her pupils.

And Alan got pupils investigating and drawing hieroglyphics. "When Mrs Bush came in, she was lovely. She even got down on her knees with the children,"

he says. "There was a dual tie-in with black history. We've got a number of students who are African American and this was interesting for them," says Byron.

More than 1,000 miles north in Chicago, Blaine Elementary, a 750-pupil performing arts school, used a different approach. There, every class is studying Tutankh-amun all year, culminating in arts week in May, when parents and community will come to see pupils' work and Egyptian dancing.

Blaine is one of 10 city schools that hosted the Tutankhamun exhibition in partnership with Chicago's Field Museum. Eileen Day, who teaches gifted and talented pupils, says the school took Tutankhamun and ancient Egypt as its theme for the year and did a great deal of planning.

"We've been doing this the whole school year and have seen some real benefits. Our students enjoyed the exhibition because of the preparation, and when they got back to the classroom, it wouldn't stop there but go in a different direction." Teachers took professional development courses in Tutankhamun and the school bought and borrowed lots of relevant material.

Eileen's tips for getting the most out of a trip to Tutankhamun? "The most important thing is to prepare them before they go to the exhibition, then it will be more of a learning opportunity. It's exciting if, as they tour the show, they are seeing things they have already learned about."

For more teaching ideas, see the Tutankhamun poster in this week's TES Magazine


Tutankhamun And The Golden Age of The Pharaohs exhibition opens on November 25 in London's O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome). It includes more than 131 artefacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun and his ancestors. To book, visit www.seetickets.com or call 0870 899 3342. One free adult place with every 10 pupils. Schoolsyouth tickets pound;6.75 weekdays, pound;10 weekends.

For information, visit www.kingtut.org


Every class at this performing arts school in Chicago did something different, including:

Constructing a pyramid wall with hieroglyphics showing what Egyptians did in everyday life.

Creating postcards encouraging pupils to go and see King Tut.

Discussing what the Nile meant to the ancient Egyptians.

Sixth-graders (11-year-olds) constructed a pyramid using geometry.

Fifth-graders investigated an obelisk, including what it was, how it was built, and hieroglyphics.

Fourth-graders worked on Egyptian poetry.

Third-graders decided to run the classroom as Egyptian society would be run. Every month they had someone in charge as the Pharaoh, a scribe and merchants.

One class did a lot of research on canopic jars (where mummified organs were stored).


The boy king ruled from 1333BC to 1324BC and died at 19. His tomb was discovered almost intact by Howard Carter, the British archaeologist, in 1922.

Rumours of a curse hit the headlines after Lord Caenarvon, who financed Carter's dig, died shortly after the tomb was opened.

Recent scans of the mummy suggest Tut died of gangrene caused by a broken leg.

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