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Virtual International Classroom

Learn more about world cultures, both past and present, directly from international educators and Museum-affiliated archaeologists and anthropologists, all without leaving your home or classroom. Virtual International Classroom (IC) workshops provide students and learners of all ages with opportunities for global learning and interactive conversations. Choose from the programs listed below.

Archaeology & Anthropology

Grid at an archaeological dig

Helping the Past Speak to Us

by Nick Eiteljorg, Ph.D.
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Adults
Archaeologists find artifacts in groups, not one at a time, using the whole of what is found to learn about the past. This workshop guides participants through a discussion of archaeological method, using three excavations as examples: one, the body of the speaker following his fictitious murder and the 300-years-after-the-fact recovery; two, the excavation of a cemetery in the Etruscan town that is now Orvieto, Italy; and three, the speaker’s excavation of the older, less monumental entrance to the Athenian Acropolis predating the grand Propylaea, which is still standing. Participants learn that the important information is the sum of what the artifacts can say when applied to the questions at hand. This talk includes a discussion of single artifacts found out of context and what is lost along with that context.

An entrance to a building at Petra, Jordan

Is Archaeology Really Like Indiana Jones?

by Stephen Phillips, Ph.D.
Grades: 5-8, 9-12, Adults
Petra, “The Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time,” is nestled in a mountainous basin in a remote, rugged corner of Jordan. As one of the “New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” Petra is famous for its more than 800 rock-cut tombs and monuments, including a Roman theater capable of seating as many as 8,500 people. Archaeological investigations at Petra continue to the present day — this presentation gives students exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Dr. Phillips’ own work on an actual dig at the site, the Temple of the Winged Lions. Learn on-site excavation techniques, experience life on a dig in a distant land, and discover whether archaeology is really like it is in the movies.

The Great Pyramids at Giza

CSI: Ancient Egypt

Introduction to Forensic Anthropology

by Stephen Phillips, Ph.D.
Grades: 6-8, 9-12, Adults
To learn more about the physical aspects of humankind, both past and present, anthropologists developed methods and techniques to evaluate human skeletal remains—techniques that apply in modern forensic (criminal) investigations as well as in archaeological contexts. Using human remains from Dr. Phillips’ own excavation work in Egypt, this lecture introduces the audience to those scientific methods and techniques by analyzing images of actual ancient Egyptians, some as old as the pyramids themselves. Students will learn, in non-technical terms, the basic steps in determining a female from a male, younger from older, and other information that the bones can tell us about the person. A highlight of the lecture is a re-examination of a possible 3,300-year-old royal murder case—using modern forensics!

Close up of the shroud of Lady Dai

Mummies

Through Time, Across Continents

by Stephen Phillips, Ph.D.
Grades: 6-8, 9-12, Adults
When we think of mummies, ancient Egypt is often the first thing that comes to mind; we envision reanimated monsters coming back to life to walk the earth once again. This lecture explores the worldwide phenomenon of preserved human remains in a 5,000-year journey. There exists an amazing array of preserved human remains, some created deliberately, some naturally. We explore the presence of human mummies chronologically, as found on virtually all continents, spanning virtually all time periods. Enhanced by haunting images of preserved human remains, this presentation takes students on a journey of discovery that reveals just how widespread the existence of mummies actually is throughout a diverse collection of cultures around the world, all the way up to modern times.

A decorated Egyptian sarcophagus

I Want My Mummy!

by Stephen Phillips, Ph.D.
Grades: 6-8, 9-12, Adults
When we think of ancient Egypt’s mummies, we commonly associate them with books and movies that portray them as reanimated, vengeful monsters returning from death to wreak havoc upon the living. Where did such notions come from, and why? This workshop addresses that question by engaging students in a close examination into the at least 500-year history that led to why ancient Egypt’s mummies hold such a special fascination in our own culture. Unpublished images of actual ancient Egyptian mummies, including royal mummies such as Ramses II as well as human remains recovered as part of Dr. Phillips’ own excavations in Egypt, are used to illustrate how and why the Egyptians mummified their dead (including their pets!). This presentation is one of the Penn Museum’s most highly requested programs for middle schools and above.

Several sail boats sailing up the Nile

500 Miles Up the Nile

A Journey to Modern Ancient

by Stephen Phillips, Ph.D.
Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Adults
This photographic essay takes students along with Dr. Phillips and a tour group of intrepid friends on their extraordinary 14-day journey up the timeless Nile River. In post-revolution Egypt, they journey from Old Cairo and the Great Pyramids to Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, and onward to the mighty Temples of Philae and Abu Simbel. This presentation takes students on a virtual tour not only to experience first-hand the rich diversity of modern ancient Egypt, but also to reveal that not everything we read in newspapers, or see on TV, reflects the reality of life in a distant land.


Ancient Mediterranean (Greece and Rome)

Ceramic offering depicting a platter of food and a pitcher

Gifts for the Greek Gods

by Janelle Sadarananda
Grades: 6-8, 9-12
Religion dominated many aspects of life in ancient Greece. The ancient texts and sacred rituals related to ancient Greek religion were often kept secret, so we rely on the objects that remain from these gifts and sacrifices to tell the story. The number and range of ritual artifacts found through excavations of sanctuaries reveals that people of all ages, genders, classes, and geographical locations gave gifts to the gods. These included the bones from thousands of sacrificed animals and votive dedications, ranging from small and inexpensive ceramic objects to elaborate ivory sculptures covered in gold. Why did the ancient Greeks spend so much time, money, and resources on these gifts, and what was the meaning behind such sacrifice? After exploring how, why, and what gifts were given to the gods, students create their own votive dedications that express their personal identity, individual style, and desired outcome.

Close up of a decoration of a greek vase showing a woman holding a vessel

Greek Vases and Mythology

by Janelle Sadarananda
Grades: 6-8, 9-12
Vases are some of the most famous artifacts from ancient Greece. They were used in numerous areas of ancient Greek life, and archaeologists find them across the Greek world. In this program students take on the role of archaeologists, learning how and why we study Greek vases. They will explore how people used vases, how they made them, and what the decorations on the vases show. Using visual analysis, students will learn how to interpret the scenes on Greek vases. These scenes take a dynamic story, often mythological, and capture it in a single scene or static narrative.

Soapstone cameo gem showing Poseidon

Exploring the Greek and Roman World Through Artifacts

by Janelle Sadarananda
Grades: 6-8, 9-12
How do we know what we know about the ancient Greek and Roman worlds? What types of evidence do we have to answer our many questions about these civilizations, which are often considered the foundations of Western culture? Archaeology and the study of objects allow us to move beyond the reading of history as a body of facts to actively inquiring about the past. Using examples from two current excavations in Greece, groups will explore some of the exciting methods of archaeological and historical analysis, ranging from the examination of ancient texts to ultra-scientific studies of objects and even soils. You will then have an opportunity to interact with objects and formulate their own questions about objects and the ancient world.


Africa

Aerial shot of a convent in Nairobi

A Day in the Life of a Nairobi School Girl

by Grace Ndicu
Grades: Pre-K–2, 3–5, 6–8
Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city in the heart of East Africa. Hear about it from someone who grew up there! Let Grace Ndicu be your guide as you see the sights (the daily commute to school, time on the playground, extracurricular activities), and meet people ranging from city dwellers to suburbanites. Discover how much meaning can be found in the simplest activities of your daily life.


Asia

A view of Singapore's skyline

Stories from the Tamil Diaspora

by Praveen Vijayakumar
Grades: 5-8, 9-12, Adults
What does it look like when worlds collide and create new communities? “Stories from the Tamil Diaspora” traces a Singaporean Tamil family’s history back to Tamil Nadu, India, in the early 20th century. The presenter shares experiences of British colonialism, Tamil performing arts practices, and Singapore’s transition from colony to an independent, multicultural, and global nation. Students will gain intimate insight into Singaporean culture, much of which is reflected in its cuisines. Through storytelling, participants are invited to personally engage with global cultures, reimagine past histories, and discuss positive futures.

A woman performing a dance

Sattriya

A Classical Dance Tradition

by Madhusmita Bora
Grades: 6–8, 9–12, Adults
In this workshop, a performer of the Sattriya Dance Company takes you on a journey through a 600-year-old dance tradition. Until recently, this dance was only preserved, nourished, and practiced by monks on a little island in northeast India. Students are exposed to stories from Hindu mythology through the dance and also learn about the monks and their lives. Along the way, students are led in movement exercises and learn some vocabulary of this ancient Indian tradition.

A view of the Great Wall of China with trees changing to fall colors surrounding

A Trip to China and Beyond

by Yifan Gao, Yaxuan Zhu, and/or Haibin Wechsler
Grades: 3–5, 6–8
What are the routines and traditions of an elementary student in China? Would you win a trivia game about China? How much do you know? Educators share childhood memories of their hometown in China and introduce the elementary school experience in the country. Come play an interactive game which addresses stereotypes and misconceptions about China and Chinese culture. Through this journey, learners will understand basic Mandarin greetings and observe the similarities and differences in their own school experiences. Learners will also learn facts about China as a country and appreciate examples of its diverse cultures and languages.

A monumental statue of the Buddha in the background of a Buddhist temple

Buddhism and China

Appreciation, Appropriation, and Cultural Change

By Haibin Wechsler, Yifan Gao, and/or Yaxuan Zhu
Grades: 8-12
How did Buddhism, a religion imported from India, become one of the major belief systems of China? This workshop will examine how Buddhism’s adaptation of ideas and practices of native Chinese belief systems helped its integration into the Chinese cultural landscape. As participants consider Buddhism’s profound influences on Chinese cultural customs and traditions, we will analyze the dynamic interactions between Buddhism and other Chinese belief systems. The concepts of cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation will be examined throughout the workshop, and participants will review current issues/events using a similar lens.

An old world map and a compass

When East Meets West

By Haibin Weschsler, Yifan Gao, and/or Yaxuan Zhu
Grades: 8-12
When we think of globalization, we often think it is a modern phenomenon. But what about globalization in ancient times? Beginning with a peek into the lives of present-day high school students in China, participants will explore how western culture exists alongside Chinese norms. The second part of this workshop takes an historical journey to the Silk Road. Participants will examine the various exchanges that took place thousands of years ago—and the impact of these exchanges on societies and cultures throughout Asia and the world.


Mexico & Central America

Skulls used in Day of the Dead celebrations

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

A Complex and Colorful Celebration of Life

by Carlos José Pérez Sámano
Grades: 5-8, 9-10
Imagine a community that vibrantly celebrates loved ones who have passed on so that they are never forgotten. You will find this tradition in Mexico, a multicultural country whose modern traditions honor both ancestral customs and contemporary values. In this workshop, you will be guided through one of Mexico’s best-known traditions: “The Day of the Dead.” See how the riches of the country’s geography connect to the deep meaning of this holiday’s traditional altars, and discover the symbolism of each element. Explore the making of the famous candy skulls, and how they gained such importance for this season. This workshop concludes with a craft activity and a reading of poetry in Nahuatl, the language of the powerful Aztecs.
Lesson Materials: Colored tissue/craft paper, scissors


Middle East

Global Guide Yaroub Al-Obaidi giving a tour

Rebuilding New Life

Photo Memories from Iraq

by Yaroub Al-Obaidi
Grades: 6-8, 9-12
If you had to choose only 10 items you can fit in your backpack to leave home for a new country, what would you bring? What do you choose to leave? Will you make a choice based on your personal values or based on necessity for survival? In this session, Yaroub Al-Obaidi, a designer, shares his long journey traveling from Iraq, through Syria, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and finally to Philadelphia. He “visits” each point of his journey with a set of items that he packed for his departure to a new land. Describing the memories, challenges, and hopes he had at each transition, Yaroub explains the contexts of global conflicts and refugee issues, and highlights what life is like for refugees in different parts of the world. Dialogues prompted by Yaroub’s vivid photographs encourage students to think about the complex issues of international affairs in a very personal way.
Recommended Materials: Blank Paper, pen/pencil/colored writing utensils


Virtual Workshops

Grades: pre K-2, 3-5, 6-8
Museum educators provide a live museum-themed lesson in real time, covering topics such as mummification and daily life in ancient Rome. Our virtual workshops are designed to involve students through inquiry, object analysis, hands-on activities, and demonstrations. For more information about these sessions, visit our Interactive Virtual Learning page.

Technology Requirements

Not to worry, we can connect with most classrooms without the need for special equipment! The Penn Museum continues to use the BlueJeans Network as our dedicated bridge, which allows us to connect with most internet-supported hardware, such as video conferencing systems (H.323), laptop and desktop computers, and mobile devices.

We make it easy to reach your classroom and can connect without special equipment through a cloud-based bridge that supports most internet-supported hardware such as video conferencing systems (H.323), laptops, desktops and mobile devices. For the second consecutive year, BlueJeans Network received a top rating as one of the most secure and dependable video conferencing software by TrustRadius.

Plan Your Virtual International Classroom Program

Please use our Virtual Programs form to begin scheduling your Virtual International Classroom Program with the Penn Museum. You will be contacted by our Outreach Programs Manager directly after your virtual request is submitted to discuss program details and to schedule a Test Call. Each 15-minute Test Call is scheduled one week prior to the program and is conducted to determine the integrity of the connection between the Penn Museum and participating school.

Cost: (30 students per workshop)

Based on Class Size:


Contact

215.898.8729