Third Graders Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art

On January 30 third graders visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and enjoyed guided tours through the Egyptian collection.  The boys are currently learning about ancient Egyptian civilization and were delighted to see concrete examples of many things they have discussed in their classrooms.
One of the stops on the tour was the Temple of Dendur, where the boys examined figures and symbols carved into the exterior and interior surfaces of the temple.  They learned that this temple was built by a pharaoh to honor the goddess Isis.  The boys identified the pharaoh through his clothing, which included a broad collar necklace, a nemes (striped headcloth), and the uraeus (a cobra placed on the forehead).  The pharaoh was also identified with a bull tail and a cartouche.

To identify the gods, the boys looked for figures wearing crowns.  They noticed that some of the gods wore multiple crowns.  Each crown symbolized an attribute of the god that was wearing it.  Egyptian gods often wore tall stacks of crowns.  Another indication that a creature was a god was an animal head on top of a human body.  Many of the gods also held an ankh.  Through careful observation, a story began to unfold.  The pharaoh was offering a gift to one of the gods.  Two of the gods, Isis and Osiris, seemed to be parents, and one god appeared to be their child, Horus.  They learned that Horus became the king of gods and was often depicted with a symbol of wings with the sun. The boys quickly pointed to the Horus symbol engraved over the main entrance to the temple.

As the educational guides and boys made their way through the museum they discussed concepts that were important to ancient Egyptian culture, such as the afterlife and the belief in the cyclical nature of existence.  They talked about what Egyptians believed were the five parts to a soul: name (ren), shadow (sheut), heart (ib), soul (ba), and spirit (ka).  The guides reminded the boys that Egyptians believed that the heart, rather than the brain, was the center of thinking and feeling.

A highlight for many of the boys was seeing the mummy of Kharushere.  After discussing some exciting details about the mummification process, the boys quickly identified the pharaoh Kharushere, who was being led by Thoth, the god of wisdom, to the afterlife.  They noticed Horus appeared in multiple places and understood it to be a symbol of protection.

The boys had a wonderful time pondering Egyptian history, mythology, and culture amid some of the incredible artifacts on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Special thanks to parent Jason H. for arranging a special visit with Isabel Stuenkel, curator of Egyptian Art, and for personally welcoming all of the boys to the museum.  Many thanks to the terrific educational guides and to St. B’s third grade teachers.