Mayan Pyramid Erosion Project

I have been working with the third-grade teacher on a very exciting project the last couple of weeks. The teacher approached me with the idea, and shared the lesson plan link that she had found with me (Archaeology and Erosion). This is not, in itself, a tech project, which is why I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s not a project where a teacher came to me and said “I need help with tech.” It’s a truly STEAM project, and the teacher just had a feeling that I would be helpful, whether we used technology or not.

The third-graders have been studying the Mayan culture. The third-grade class has studied this topic for years, but this is the first time they have done this particular project. The project involves building a pyramid out of sugar cubes. The kids did this part with their art teacher – there’s A in STEAM for you! You can see pictures of the third graders building their pyramids in art class here and here.

Next, students were split up into four groups: wind, rain, sun, and all of the above. Then came the fun parts. Each group conducted an experiment that modeled erosion on their sugar cube pyramid. Groups used a spray bottle of water (rain), a hairdryer (wind), an overhead projector light (sun), or all three. Again, you can download this lesson from this website.

Throughout the experiment, each group used an iPad to take pictures and videos of their pyramid. We put the pictures into Book Creator, a fantastic kid-friendly app for creating interactive iBooks. After each day of erosion, students put the pictures and videos in to Book Creator, and recorded their own observations in writing. When the experiment was done, we had four Book Creator books, detailing each experiment. The four pyramids each behaved a little differently but, as you might guess, the ones that were “rained” on were the most eroded.

I combined the Book Creator books into one book (with help from these instructions), and exported it in several ways for parents and others to see. Want to take a look? Choose one of these options:

  1. Download as an epub or iBook
  2. View as a movie
  3. View as  PDF (no video or sound)

The third grade students really enjoyed this project. Every time one tiny speck of sugar came off of their pyramid, they were ready to record it in Book Creator and share their thoughts with the group. If we had not been using iPads, I think their excitement level would have still been high, but I believe they may have lost interest after a day or two of doing the same experiments each day. I’m glad I got to help with this project, and I look forward to helping teachers find ways to do more projects like this soon.

Next up: having the third graders re-create the pyramids in Minecraft!