Sumerian seal and clay roll out from Special Collections
Sumerian seal and clay roll out from Special Collections

APU Workshop Gives History Teachers Access to Ancient Artifacts, Resources

by Claire Holstead ’17

In an era of tablets, smartphones, and laptops in the classroom, local teachers gathered recently in APU’s Darling Library to learn about using a different type of mobile instrument to help reach today’s learners—and these devices are thousands of years old.

At a workshop hosted May 13 by the University Libraries’ Special Collections and Educational Programming divisions, teachers examined artifacts that are housed in the collections, including Sumerian seals from ancient Mesopotamia and a literary cuneiform tablet, dated 1950-1750 B.C., learning how to integrate the history of writing and ancient objects into their lesson plans. Attendees toured the exhibit and collections and studied the antiquities before trying their hand at rolling out seal impressions to take back to their schools. Not only did the educators discover the significance of these items in ancient history, but they also walked away with lesson plans that meet California state history and Common Core standards.

“We had a real hands-on experience with the ancient world,” said Maggie Munsell, a sixth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Sierra Madre Middle School in the Pasadena Unified School District. “Our current social studies textbook is very limited in Sumerian information. What I learned and experienced at APU will help me enrich our study of Sumerian history and the experience of ancient cultures for students in my classroom.”

David Landers, M.Ed., director of educational programs and outreach for Special Collections, said the workshop was designed for educators like Munsell who are seeking ways to incorporate ancient societies, like Sumer, into their classrooms. The clay tablet and seals, which contain ancient writings and hieroglyphics inscribed into stone, glass, or ceramic cylinders, are excellent primary resources for teachers, he said. The seals’ origin can be traced to around 4000-5000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. “Mesopotamia and the Hebrews are integral in history classes, so the seals really open up the door for links between the Hebrews and the Israelites,” said Landers. “A goal for the workshop is to help reveal how educators can thread faith and Biblical history throughout their lessons by using the seals and connecting them to Mesopotamia and the Hebrews.”

The workshop was timely for Shannon King, who teaches sixth grade at Emblem Academy in the Saugus Union School District. “As an educator, I am always trying to find ways for my students to connect more deeply to their learning,” she said. “This summer I will be meeting with other instruction coaches to create lesson plans for each civilization. I can’t wait to share the ideas and resources I learned at this workshop with my fellow teachers.”

Angela Ingalsbe, library coordinator, said the workshop helped the educators make new connections—to the material and to one another. “It is always a positive thing when teachers can get together and exchange ideas, consider different experiences, and encourage each other, all while learning something new,” said Ingalsbe. “Many of them noted that the textbooks they teach from include very little detail on the Sumerians, so they were fascinated and excited about receiving more information and bringing the history to life for their students.”

The Sumerian seals workshop is the latest example of educational programming offered by the Universities Libraries, which also host History Day L.A., Keeping History Alive, and Bringing STEM to Life. Every event is part of an effort to reach out to local communities surrounding the university and provide educators access to the libraries’ exceptional resources that can make an impact on today’s young scholars, said Paul Gray, Ed.D., University Libraries dean.

Munsell said the recent workshop was a day of discovery that brought her excitement for future collaborative learning opportunities. “When looking for valuable information and history about social studies, a lot of local teachers think about the Getty or Huntington Library. APU is now on my radar,” she said. “The materials, lesson plans, and APU’s libraries and Special Collections are invaluable to my work as an educator and for my students.”

Claire Holstead ’17 is an editorial intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a communication studies major and leadership minor.