Ancient Rome Unit Study: Week 3

This week, we’ll dig deeper into some Roman discoveries that are still relevant in the math, science, and art worlds. Get ready to craft, sculpt, and build as we learn even more about this fascinating culture. Download our skills and books tracker for your records.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

Note: We break down our supply list by so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.

Months spinner:

Decorative indoor fountain:

Water pressure STEM project:

  • tall, empty plastic bottle

Convection experiment:

Wax tablets:

  • cardboard
  • glue
  • scissors
  • black and brown paints
  • wax (you could also use bits of leftover candle)
  • saucepan and an old bowl or tin

Paper mosaic craft:

Roman oil lamp:

Roman numeral practice + cards:

Fibonacci lesson:

Fibonacci flower craft:

Roasted lamb recipe:

Fermentation experiment:

Fermentation modification:

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

There are many inventions that were born in Ancient Rome but continue to influence our lives today. Let’s learn about some of them in today’s lesson. Start by reading about famous ancient Roman inventions on pages 32-35 of Honest History magazine.

Activity 1: One of the inventions mentioned is the Julian Calendar. The months of the year as we know them today are largely influenced by ancient Rome. Let’s review the twelve months of the year and why they are named as such.

  • January (named after the Roman god Jansu) and February (meaning purification) were added to the calendar in later years.
  • March (named after the god of war, Mars) was the first month of the year.
  • The origins of April, May, and June are debated. April might be named after Aphrodis or for the Latin word for “open.” May might be named after the goddess Maia (the goddess of growing plants) or the Latin word for “seniors.” June might be named after the god Juno or the latin word for “youth.”
  • July (named after Julis Caesar) was once called Quintilis, meaning “the fifth month” in Latin. (Which made sense since March was originally the first month!)
  • August was named after Augustus, but it was previously known as Sextillia, meaning “sixth.”
  • September comes from the Latin word septimus, meaning “seventh.”
  • October, meaning “eighth” (octavus).
  • November, meaning “ninth” (nonus).
  • Finally, December, meaning “tenth” (decimus). (source)

Having trouble keeping them all straight? Let’s try a hands-on way of organizing this information. Take a paper plate and draw lines to divide it into 12 equal wedges. Write the names of the month on the plate—one on each section along the top ridge. Next, write the origin or meaning of the month along each wedge. Then take a second plate and cut out one wedge shape, but do not detach.

Finally, stack them and attach with a brad, so you turn the top plate to reveal one month at a time. Cut out a small portion of the wedge to be able to see only the name of the month.

Lift the wedge to reveal the origin or meaning of the month as you learn or practice the lesson.

Watch this video for a review of all these details.

Activity 2: The Trevi Fountain is not as old as the other architecture we have learned about so far, but it is one of the world’s most famous fountains. Click this post to visit the historical fountain using Google Earth. Then read about it here. Next, learn more about the science behind a fountain on this website. Now, use this tutorial to make a decorative indoor fountain for your home or this STEM project that will demonstrate water pressure. (Open and close the bottle cap to see the water pressure change.)

Lesson 2:

Roman life was different from our life in many ways. Read Honest History page 18-21 to learn about daily life in Ancient Rome.

Activity 1: Read + Discuss. Look at the picture on UEWH page 188-189 to see what life in a Roman town looked like. Discuss how it is different from or similar to the town where you live.

Activity 2: What about life at home? Read Who Were The Romans? pages 6-8 to see details of the home, including Roman furniture and what their kitchens were like. Did you notice how Roman homes were heated? They used a system called hypocaust. The hypocaust was a system that circulated hot air under the floor and surrounding walls. Read more about hypocausts here and see it illustrated here. Modern day heating elements follow the same scientific principles as did those in ancient Roman heaters. Learn more about the science with this convection STEM activity and by reading this post. (Note: This activity will require preparation the day before. You will need to freeze an ice cube with blue food coloring.)

Activity 3: Roman children learned in schools and at home. Read Who Were The Romans? pages 11 and 12 to learn more. Read a few facts about wax tablets here, then make your own wax tablets with this tutorial

Activity 4: Art and craftsmanship were a major part of Roman life as well. Read this online article about the different kinds of art that the Romans created and appreciated. Next, learn more about Roman mosaics here. Using small pieces of colored paper and glue create your own mosaic. Browse through the images of this website for ideas. 

Activity 5: Finally, let’s look at another Roman art form, pottery. Read about Roman pottery here.  A form of pottery included the oil lamp. (You can see a picture of a Roman oil lamp on page 7 of the book Who Were The Romans?) Let’s end the day by making your own oil lamp. (This lamp will really light!)

Lesson 3:

Activity 1: Have you ever heard of Hadrian’s Wall? Learn about the wall by watching + discussing this video. Read this post for a few more facts you can learn about Hadrian’s Wall. Ask your child to list the pros and cons of the wall, either verbally or by writing it down.

Activity 2: We can also credit our modern day measurement ruler to the Ancient Romans! Read page 17 of Honest History, and then make your own “foot” ruler by measuring your foot on a piece of cardboard. Mark it around your heel to the tip of your big toe. Using your homemade ruler, try measuring items around your home like a rug, a table, your television, or the dimensions of a room. Record your measurements.

Math application: When using a modern day ruler, you will notice there are fractions or decimals on the number line. Watch this Math Antics video to learn about fractions. Need more of a challenge? Learn how to convert fractions with this video.

Lesson 4:

The way the numbers were written in Rome and how they were pronounced in the Latin language are part of ancient history, but they still have a large influence on our society today. Let’s learn more about it today!

Activity 1: Roman Numerals are ancient numbers that are still sometimes seen today. Ask your child these questions: Have you ever seen these numbers? Have you seen a clock with Roman numerals? Do you have one in your home? Have you seen Roman numerals carved onto a building to indicate its age? Introduce this topic with the help of this video. (Feel free to end the video when your child loses interest—it’s about ten minutes long.) 

Next, use this free printable to introduce and practice Roman numerals. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog post for the PDF called Practice Pages. Only print page 1 to learn/review the numbers.) Practice using the numerals with the help of pages 12 and 18. For more challenging activities, print pages 24-28. (The answer key is at the end of the document.)

Activity 2: Let’s try a brainstorm activity! What was the disadvantage of Roman numerals versus the more common Arabic numbering system? Answer: The Arabic system has a place value system, but the Roman system has no place value and no zero figure. The Roman number system has rules for using the symbols in the correct way and in the correct order to represent the number being written. (Here’s a video that explains the rules well.)

Activity 3: Knowing the numbers in the Latin language can come in handy when trying to understand the meaning of some English words (source). Print this attachment and cut out the individual cards. Find the cards with the Latin words for each cardinal number (1-10, 100 and 1000). Learn how to pronounce them here. Do these Latin words make you or your child think of any English words? Use these cards to learn English words that stem from Latin numbers.
(+) The Latin numbers also had distributive versions of the words meaning one each, two each, three each… Here are a few examples: 1 = singuli, 2 = bini, 3 = trini, etc. Do your own research and look for more English words that stem from the distributive and multiplicative Latin numbers. (source) Use this printable to learn all the declensions and list your research.

Activity 4: Let’s end our day by learning about famous mathematician Fibonacci. Read the book Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese (or here on Openlibrary). Watch this video to learn more about Fibonacci.

Next, review this math lesson with more details and an activity you can try at home using graph paper and colored pencils. You might also want to refer to this math activity. It includes attachments that you can print to help explain the math equation and even has graph paper you can print. 

Activity 5: Did you know there can be math in art? Try this Fibonacci flower craft. You will need a good mathematical compass, construction paper, scissors, and glue. 

Lesson 5:

The Romans ate a diverse diet. Today, let’s explore the food and drink of these ancient people.

Activity 1: Food history. The Romans drank wine as a staple part of their diet, preferred over anything else. In fact, the quality of drinking water wasn’t good so wine was a typical drink at any time in the day. However, unlike today, ancient wine was almost always consumed mixed in with large percentages of water. The ancient wines were stronger, both in alcohol content and perhaps in flavor, making the watering down of their drinks necessary. In so doing, not only was the longevity of a serving secured, but the alcoholic effects also slowed. They enjoyed wines of many varieties and flavors, and mixed the original grape product with an exhaustive list of flavor changing properties. (source) Watch this video to learn how wine is made.

Activity 2: Since we can’t make wine a kid-friendly activity, let’s use it as an ingredient in a roasted lamb. Prepare this Roman recipe (listed as number five). It will include 280 ml of red wine. Since this recipe is from the British museum, you may have to convert the measurement into US units of measurements. Do this first as a math extension.

Activity 3: Read this article to learn more about the science of fermentation and wine making. This STEM activity will reinforce how fermentation occurs and what ingratiates will assist or restrict the fermentation process. (Note: There is a second part to the activity that is measuring the CO2 in the balloon after fermentation occurs. This would be a good upgrade, but it’s not necessary for our lesson today.)
(+) Create a data tracker like the one in the post to record your results.
(-) This fermentation activity is a simpler version of the one above.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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