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Fictitious pharaohs get royal treatment at Pleasant Hills Middle School

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Pleasant Hills Middle School sixth-graders Alaina Mulvihill (left) and Autumn Eckley color in their fictitious pharaoh.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Pleasant Hills Middle School sixth-graders Alaina Mulvihill (left) and Autumn Eckley color in their fictitious pharaoh.
Students in Monica Ziemski’s sixth-grade class create their own pharaoh as they learn about ancient Egypt.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Students in Monica Ziemski’s sixth-grade class create their own pharaoh as they learn about ancient Egypt.

Orange and blue stripes with a splash of glitter and sketches of swords, pyramids and animals adorned the garb of the fictitious pharaoh.

“It turned out really well,” Pleasant Hills Middle School sixth-grader Shane Stump, 11, said of his classmates' creation, despite his objections to their usage of the shinny materials.

Compromise between classmates was important during the project, in which the school's nearly 235 sixth-graders were divided into groups of five or six and tasked with creating their own paper-made life-size pharaohs to cap off nearly three weeks of studying ancient Egypt in their social-studies classes.

“The project itself isn't even as important as learning to work together,” sixth-grade social studies teacher Debbie Zanetti said. “It's called social studies for a reason. They do need to learn to cooperate, and they do need to work together.”

Culminating projects, completed by the students after finishing nearly every chapter in the course, help exemplify lessons learned in class, Zanetti said.

Students said they enjoy the hands-on projects that bring the lessons they're learning in the classroom to life.

“I think a lot of people pay more attention if you're physically doing something,” said sixth-grader Luke Robson, 12. “It helped me to learn what pharaohs like to do.”

School, too, becomes more enlivened during through these projects.

“It's a lot more fun doing something active than just sitting down reading it in a book,” sixth-grader Erin Mykick, 12, added.

After spending several weeks learning about the history of kings, pharaohs and the mummification process, students were asked to use their creativity to create their own pharaoh who resembled ones from ancient Egypt.

“Some of them are hilarious,” social-studies teacher Monica Ziemski said of the back stories created. “I had one that got eaten by crocodiles.”

Others had deeper stories in which their pharaohs had been killed by family members or outsiders.

The pharaohs — the size of the sixth-grade students — were hung in the hallways at Pleasant Hills Middle School to create a gallery walk for their classmates to critique each design.

Other projects already completed this school year included pulling chocolate chips individually from cookies with a tooth pick and paintbrush to teach students what it's like to be an archeologist, Zanetti said. Students also created their own civilization and traded items needed to make a catapult, all without speaking to one another.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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