Apache Junction students learning about Silk Road, ancient weapons

Mini catapults had cotton as cannon balls


Sixth-grade students at Four Peaks Elementary School, 1785 N. Idaho Road in Apache Junction, combined science, history and social studies when they learned about trade routes of the Silk Road and created mini catapults.

The students studied the travels of Marco Polo for a day, which included the importance of The Silk Road and its impact on trade and travel.

The next stage of learning became more hands-on when students were put in teams and experienced a Silk Road simulation to discover and identify items that were traded at the time.

“In ancient history, as today, trade opened up the sharing of ideas, inventions, language, and influenced culture,” said Kerri Mortenson, a sixth-grade teacher at FPES. “The trade along The Silk Road was important as it generated a robust economy for the kingdoms and empires of the time. Studying the trade routes teaches the students how interconnected the ancient cultures really became by the trading along The Silk Road. This lesson also applies to modern-day history as the trade routes have expanded since that time.”

During the third day of instruction students were again put into teams and tasked with designing and assembling a catapult. However, there was a catch. Each team was missing an item (cotton balls which were used as cannon balls) so in order to complete their mission they had to travel the simulated Silk Road to negotiate the needed “trade."

The students enjoyed building catapults and launching their cotton ammunition; however the exercise provided a higher purpose. The curriculum-based lesson also involved using critical thinking skills and incorporated a Science Technology Engineering Mathematics component. The finale was when the teams competed to see which catapult launched the farthest.

Editor's note: Sally Marks is Apache Junction Unified School District's public information officer.