NOTE TO TEACHERSTeaching a Unit on
Natural disasters are the Earth’s way of reminding its inhabitants of its awe-inspiring power. While the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried Pompeii is perhaps the most famous natural disaster in history, students who have been following current events over just the last few years have seen natural forces wreak havoc around the globe. Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, tornadoes in the Midwestern United States, and hurricanes off the Central American and North American coastlines have killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed or damaged billions of dollars in property. Learning about natural disasters provides students with an understanding of the workings of weather conditions, gives information on how to stay safe should a natural disaster occur in their part of the world, and helps foster a respect for the Earth’s dynamic forces.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
From Magic Tree House series author Mary Pope Osborne, with stunning frescoes by Bonnie Christensen, Pompeii: Lost & Found
describes the destruction, rediscovery, and archaeological findings of the ancient Roman town of Pompeii, buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
ABOUT THIS AUTHORin their own words . . .
Mary Pope Osborne
Q: When and how did you become interested in learning about Pompeii?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by Pompeii. I first “visited” Pompeii a number of years ago, writing Vacation Under the Volcano
, a Magic Tree House book, and more recently, Ancient Rome and Pompeii
, a Magic Tree House Research Guide co-authored with my sister Natalie Pope Boyce.Q: What was the most interesting fact that you discovered about Pompeii?
I think the most interesting thing about the discovery of Pompeii was that archaeologists were able to “bring back” many of the people who died there. After the volcano erupted, thousands of people were buried under tons of ash. When their bodies decayed, they left empty spaces inside the hardened ash. By pouring plaster into these spaces, archeologists were able to replicate the forms of some of the people and animals of Pompeii.Q: What are the rewards of writing nonfiction?
I love writing nonfiction because I learn so much while doing my research. I also enjoy the process of bringing order to all the information I’ve gathered, so that I can tell a complicated story to kids in a simple and direct way.Bonnie Christensen
Q: When did you first begin drawing?
My father always encouraged me to draw. He began compiling a notebook of my drawings when I was five . . . I still have many [of them]. There is an example of one of those early drawings on my Web site: www.bonniechristensen.com
.Q: When doing the illustrations for Pompeii: Lost & Found, what was the hardest part of the fresco painting process?
The hardest part of painting frescoes is completing the painting before the plaster dries. Once the drawing was transferred to the plaster I had about 24 hours to complete the painting. This usually meant working full-time (no lunch break) on the painting for 12 hours one day then 4—5 hours the next day. I spritzed the painting with water and kept it wrapped in plastic overnight, then would get up very early in the morning to finish it.Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
The world is too big and history of art too long and I’m too indecisive to have a favorite artist. I admire Giovanni Bellini, Jacques-Louis David, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Käthe Kollwitz, and Robert Rauschenberg among others. I admire the way each reflects in his or her art the time in which they lived, and their personal perspective.
TEACHING IDEASpre-reading activity
As part of the ancient Roman Empire, Pompeii was a flourishing town located along the Mediterranean Sea, in what is now south central Italy. Spend time researching this period in history with students by exploring Roman structures of government, social class, art, culture, architecture, and everyday life.
connecting to the curriculum
–Archaeologists who have excavated the Pompeian site have discovered inscriptions on buildings and graffiti on walls written in Latin. Explore how Latin word roots are an instrumental aspect of the English language. Challenge students to make a glossary of common English words and their Latin derivations.
–In ancient Roman life, the forum was an area of a city or town where much activity took place, such as commerce, religious worship, and politics. Along with students, explore the Roman system of government and how it has influenced the American governmental system. How are they alike and how are they different?
–While excavating the site of ancient Pompeii, archaeologists have uncovered thousands of artifacts that inform scientists about daily life in this ancient society. Challenge students to build a time capsule containing objects that describe life in the early 21st century. Each student should write a paragraph about his or her chosen object describing how it reflects contemporary society, then attach a picture of him- or herself and the paragraph to the object. Enclose all student objects in an airtight, waterproof container on which the date the capsule is sealed is written. With permission from the school administrator, choose a time and place to bury the container on school property.
–In Pompeii: Lost & Found
, illustrator Bonnie Christensen describes the ancient art of fresco painting. (p. 36) Have students go online to research images of frescoes found in the Pompeii excavation site. Work with the school art teacher to help students create small-scale fresco paintings of a scene from their everyday life.
–Theater was a popular form of entertainment in ancient Rome. Masks were common props: those with frowns signified sad or tragic characters; those with smiles indicated happy or comic characters. Again working with the school art teacher, have students make masks in the Roman style. Choose an ancient story, such as one of Aesop’s fables, to perform before the class.
–Discuss and research the work of volcanologists. To us, Mount Vesuvius is the volcano that destroyed Pompeii. To the Pompeians, it was a lovely hillside where sheep grazed and farmers grew grapes and olives for wine and oil. Discuss with students the science of volcanoes, including how they are formed and what causes a volcano to erupt.internet resources
BBC: Ancient History
This site, posted by the BBC, is a comprehensive look at the events leading up to, during, and after the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
How Volcanoes Work
This site explains in great detail how volcanoes work and offers excellent imagery of many of the world’s active volcanoes.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
A comprehensive Web page containing information on the 2004 tsunami that destroyed the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, Thailand, and other countries.
2005 Hurricane Katrina
A detailed and regularly updated Web page concerning the hurricane that destroyed New Orleans.
CNN’s coverage of the 2004 tsunami, and its aftereffects in the Indian Ocean.
Ask students to write down unfamiliar words and try to define them by taking clues from the context of the novel. Such words may include: amphitheater
(p. 21), archaeologist
(p. 13), architect
(p. 11), fresco
(p. 13), forum
(p. 29), gladiator
(p. 21), inscription
(p. 11), perished
(p. 35), petrified
(p. 19), ruins
(p. 11), scrolls
(p. 22), villa
BEYOND THE BOOK
More information on Christensen’s fresco work can be found at:
(See below for live link.)
OTHER TITLES OF INTERESTPompeii . . . Buried Alive!
Edith Kunhardt Davis
Nature & the Natural World • Weather
Grades 2—4 / PB: 0-394-88866-9
Random House Children’s BooksTwister on Tuesday
Mary Pope Osborne
Nature & the Natural World • Weather
Grades K—3 / PB: 0-679-89069-6 / GLB: 0-679-99069-0
Random House Children’s Books
ABOUT THIS GUIDEpompeii and other natural disasters: a guide
Pompeii: Lost & Found
Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
Twisters and Other Terrible Storms
Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Sal Murdocca
Prepared by Colleen Carroll, Education Consultant, Curriculum Writer and Children’s Book Author, Sleepy Hollow, NY.
Download a PDF of the Teacher's Guide