Urban Prairie Waldorf School
Miss Avellone's Class
Weekly Update - January 10, 2020

Dear Fifth Grade,

We’re back and we hit the ground running! Our block is Ancient Civilizations: Mesopotamia and Egypt. This week’s focus was on Mesopotamia, the fertile lands between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The students started the block by looking at a map of ancient Mesopotamia, unlabeled. I asked them, “Based on what you see about the land, what do you think the ancient people were like?” They started to make guesses.  As the week progressed, they discovered their hypotheses were largely correct!

We can’t cover nearly everything interesting about Mesopotamia. Our focus was on the land provided for by the rivers, the subsequent establishment of large-scale farming, and the creation of the city. Once we had this information we could imagine the myriad of inventions that were born. They again guessed many things that were correct, like accounting, taxes, laws, writing, school, and specialized jobs.  One highlight of the week for me was blowing their minds with the construction of the temple ziggurats, and then again with the priests in those ziggurats who developed mathematics from the stars.  Today we measured the width, length, and height of the ziggurat at Ur in our own playlot and the phrase, “Holy sh*t!” escaped from one mouth when they saw how huge these ancient building were.

They have been very impressed with the ancient Mesopotamians, as evidenced by this conversation:
“They did really a lot of cool stuff for only having mud, and reeds,” said one.
“And fertile soil,” said another.
“And two giant rivers,” chimed in a third.
“Yes, those things too,” responded the first, “but they did, like, EVERYTHING with just those things and were, like, super smart.”
“Yeah, totally,” said the other two.

Under the guidance of Sherry Diaz, the woodwork teacher, the students each made a wooden writing stylus, similar to that which would have been used in ancient Mesopotamia (we used wood instead of reeds). On Friday during our art lesson they fashioned clay tablets from plasticine and used their stylus to write in cuneiform, the written language of Mesopotamia.

It has not escaped me that we are studying Mesopotamia at this time, when the Middle East has been frequently in the news, in our thoughts and hearts as adults. This correlation has come up at school, though details about political situations haven’t really been discussed. However, depending on your family culture, you may consider opening this door a little bit in family discussion. Whether you talk about current affairs or not with your fifth grader, I strongly recommend ancient Mesopotamia dinner table talk. You will enjoy hearing what they know, and you may also fill in gaps I had to leave due to time constraints.

This week in stories they heard the ancient Mesopotamian myth, the Epic of Gilgamesh. I also continue to read The Hobbit during lunch. For those familiar, we recently finished “Riddles in the Dark,” the chapter that introduces the ring and Gollum. It has been great fun.

NEXT TRIP: FIELD MUSEUM – Chaperones Needed

Our next trip will be Friday, January 24 to the Field Museum. Permission slips will be available soon. We need exactly 3 chaperones, no more, no less. Anyone available January 24, 9:00-1:00?
Do not order pizza from the middle school for January 24!


  • IMPORTANT: New class reader – Please procure a copy of “Bayou Magic” by Jewell Parker Rhodes by Fri, Jan 24. Please do NOT let students open it!!
  • Morning Lesson Books – All students should be up to date on their Mesopotamia pages by Monday so they can focus on Egypt.
  • Reading – We are doing in-class articles this block, so there are no outside-of-school reading assignments.
  • Math – Packet of practice problems due Monday.
  • Spelling – There will never (or rarely) be spelling homework over the weekend. However, they have Spellwell homework every day Monday through Thursday almost every week. Please check in daily and make sure this work is complete. Tests are always Friday.


  • Class Evening – Thursday, Jan 30, 7:00pm: This will be an important class evening. Every family should be in attendance. Topics will include info on next year, upcoming major projects, and Pentathlon.
  • Geography Project Presentations – Wednesday, March 11, afternoon: Time TBD, probably 2:00ish. They don’t know anything about this yet!
  • P-T Conferences – Thurs/Fri, March 12 and 13