Age 2 to Grade 8
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Lower and Upper Elementary Classes Renaissance Studies

September 8 through November 5, 1999

Introduction to the Renaissance

We review the Timeline of Human History to put the Renaissance in its place. Returning students have already studied the civilizations of Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages. This year we concentrate on the last millennium (or a bit less!) just in time for a new millennium.

The Invention of the Printing Press

We will learn about Gutenberg and how his movable wooden type changed the world. We will make prints ourselves, using styrofoam plates and rubber brayers.

Warring Cities

In the Renaissance, there were not yet any nation-states - no France, Germany, or Italy. Why did town-dwellers build tall square towers on their houses? What weapons and technological developments changed the age of knights and armor forever? Our oldest students will read and listen to parts of Machiavelli's The Prince, detailing the arts of diplomacy and trickery.

Artist studies

Comparison of Medieval and Renaissance art: The children discuss many reproductions of art works, looking at the subject of the pictures and their style. Lower El students will learn about the lives and works of:

Upper Elementary students will work on reports on even more Renaissance artists.


The Renaissance artists invented techniques for portraying depth. We will experiment with some of these in our own art. Placing objects higher up on the page, and making them smaller, both make them seem farther away. Distant objects tend to be blue or purple. A horizon line is placed three-quarters of the way up the page. Lines converge towards a vanishing point on the horizon. We will experiment with drawing objects such as railroad tracks and cubes in perspective.

Basic Needs of Humans

How did Renaissance people satisfy their basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, defense, and education? We will look through our excellent library of books showing Renaissance houses, styles, feasts, wars, churches, and apprenticeships. Children of all ages will take notes, and work with sorting pictures and paragraphs on our Basic Needs Board.


We will read about the life of Shakespeare and about the Globe Theater, and learn the stories of several plays. Upper Elementary students will produce a scene from Macbeth, and everyone will be invited. (We're aiming for early November.)


Modern science began in the Renaissance with Galileo's insight that simple, everyday events could be measured. We'll learn how Galileo, bored in church, noticed the oil lamps swinging back and forth and decided to time their swings with his pulse. We'll discover his laws of pendulums for ourselves by changing some variables: the weight on the rope, the distance it is pulled back, and the length of the string. We'll learn to observe, to record data, and to draw conclusions.

We'll also learn about parabolas, and how Galileo studied them with water clocks, and we'll see how square numbers are involved in the orbits of the planets.

We'll play with concave and convex lenses the way Galileo did when he improved the telescope, and we'll find out what he saw out there.

Galileo's observations of the moons of Jupiter led him to re-think the Ptolemaic wisdom which held that the Sun and planets revolve around the Earth. He thought he could prove that Copernicus was right, and that the Earth revolves around the Sun. But his books got him into trouble with religious authorities, and he became a brave victim of the Inquisition, a hero who, in peril of his life, stood by his convictions.

From our classroom libraries

Among the children's books we are using are these: