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Classroom Resources: Mysteries of the Nile
How Would You Do It?

To practice selecting, designing, performing, and evaluating scientific tests.


  1. Have students review the summary for Obelisk.

  2. You may want to have students view the Obelisk video to further acquaint them with the challenges of raising a multi-ton obelisk. (The video can be purchased as part of the Secrets of Lost Empires set or individually. Allow a week for shipping.)

  3. Depending on how much your students know about levers and center of gravity, you may want them to do the lesson How Did They Do It? to help better prepare them for setting up their own experiment.

  4. Now have students review Obelisk List of Questions. This material was gathered during an online chat following the broadcast of Secrets of Lost Empires: Obelisk, in May 1998, in which people e-mailed questions that were answered by an expert. Have students choose a technical question that interests them or come up with a question of their own to investigate. There are two main types of questions students may want to explore. The examples below are from the Obelisk List of Questions asked during the 1994 attempt to raise the obelisk.

    1. Scientific questions
      • Why not use a pulley on level ground to gain a mechanical advantage for the pullers?
      • Why not anchor the base in the groove stone with a team pulling in the opposite direction to the lift?
      • Do you think having more people pulling to try to erect the obelisk would have made a difference?

    2. Cultural questions
      • Is there any symbolism involved with the shape of the obelisk?
      • Why were there no women involved?
      • Weren't slaves used in Egyptian times to move the obelisks?
      • What was the significance of the writing on the sides of the obelisk?

  5. Now have students print out and use Guiding Steps and Questions to design their experiments. Depending on the question students choose to investigate, you may want them to create only an experimental design and hypothesize results (Steps #1-3) or actually carry out their experiment (Steps #1-6).

  6. As students go through the experimental process, have them e-mail any questions they have to Mysteries of the Nile team members currently trying to raise an obelisk. (Questions will be responded to beginning March 4; selected questions will be answered.)

Standards Connections
National Science Education Standards
Grades 5-8
Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry

Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions.
  • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.

Grades 9-12
Standard A: Science as Inquiry

Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations.
  • Design and conduct scientific investigations.
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models.
  • Communicate and defend a scientific argument.

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