Class Learns Laws, Culture Of Mesopotamia

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Civilization is an advanced culture based on city living, as defined by the fifth- and sixth-graders in veteran teacher Wendy Hatch's class in Young.

They are studying Mesopotamia -- the laws, the land and the written languages.

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The fifth- and sixth-graders of Wendy Hatch's class in Young are studying the history of Mesopotamia. The small class size (only six students) offers a daily opportunity for individualized attention.

"Hammurabi, a king of Babylon recorded one of the earliest codes of law around 1900 B.C. on stone pillars," said sixth-grade pupil Kyle Willis.

"Some of Hammurabi's 1,001 laws are still in use today. For example, if two people get into an argument about a price, it is handled the same way Hammurabi would have handled it," Willis said.

Some of the punishments administered in Hammurabi's day have been softened, such as the fate of the merchant in Code number nine:

"If any one lose an article, and find it in the possession of another, and if the person in whose possession the thing is found say, ‘A merchant sold it to me, I paid for it before witnesses,' and if the owner of the thing say, ‘I will bring witnesses who know my property,' then shall the purchaser bring the merchant who sold it to him, and the witnesses before whom he bought it, and the owner shall bring witnesses who can identify his property. The judge shall examine their testimony -- both of the witnesses before whom the price was paid, and of the witnesses who identify the lost article on oath. The merchant is then proved to be a thief and shall be put to death. The owner of the lost article receives his property, and he who bought it receives the money he paid from the estate of the merchant."

Willis and fifth-grader, Blaine Sanders took turns reading some of Hammurabi's Codes for their report.

In a further exercise, Hatch had her pupils pick several laws and dissect them by who the parties involved were and how the ancient codes related to any known modern laws.

Fifth-grade pupils Anne Sawyer and Madey Lacey reported on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that empty into the Persian Gulf.

"The cities of ancient Mesopotamia were built between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers," Sawyer said. "Two of the early cities were named Ur and Sumer."

"The people lived near the rivers because they had good soil for farming," Lacey said. "Spring floods spread rich soil all over the lands."

"Cuneiforms are different kinds of written symbols," said fifth-grader Jake Zellner who presented his oral report alone because his partner was out sick. "Cuneiforms were created by the ancient Sumerians on stone tablets to record their lives and history."

Zellner and his absent partner created cuneiform pictures to tell a quick story for their report -- one was a scorpion and a stick-figure of a man lying down indicated "poison"; another with an upright man and a basketball meant "I like basketball."

The class split into two teams -- boys against girls -- to play quiz basketball on Mesopotamia.

"Tell me two things about the Kushite civilization," Hatch said.

"They shared the Nile River with the Egyptians, but had different language and writing and women had more power than in other cultures," Lacey said.

What ancient group believed in the concept of monotheism?

"The Hebrews," Willis said.

Pupils were allowed to use their notes, but Hatch cautioned they would not be able to use them at all for next week's test.

The quiz ended in a tie.

Student seemed confident giving their reports and playing the game.

"The small class size offers an incredible opportunity for students to have individualized attention," Hatch said.

Her six students are required to write all their assignments in cursive and she includes writing in every subject, even math.

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