Cleopatra Project Ideas

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Cleopatra was a very influential ruler and a fascinating figure. These project ideas can help your students learn more about her life and role in the changing Mediterranean world.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra was the last sovereign of Ptolemaic Egypt prior to the kingdom's conquest by the Romans and incorporation as a Roman province. Famed by ancient writers for her beauty, but perhaps underappreciated for her diplomacy, negotiation, and prowess as a ruler, Cleopatra has fascinated the world for the last 2,000 years. These project ideas are designed to be adaptable to grade levels from upper elementary through middle school and can help your students learn more about the great Egyptian Queen.

Cleopatra Project Ideas

Historical Fiction

Students will begin by conducting in-depth research about the life, goals, accomplishments, and death of Cleopatra. Students will examine ancient accounts of the queen, as well as the works of modern historians. Once they are familiar with this information, each student will write a piece of historical fiction from the perspective of Cleopatra herself. While students should be allowed to take some creative license, this narrative should reflect a sophisticated understanding of the Queen's personality and goals, and the major events of the time. By writing in the first person from her perspective, students will be encouraged to empathize with Cleopatra and explore her inner thoughts and goals in moments of history that historians have tended to explore through the perspective of men like Caesar or Mark Antony.

As a variation to this basic idea, you could turn this into a group project and have students write a short dramatic skit featuring Cleopatra as the main protagonist. In either case, students must rely heavily on their research in order to communicate the events and ideas of the time.

  • Materials: Research and reference supplies

Curate an Exhibit

This project can be completed by students independently or in groups. Students are going to research the life of Cleopatra, as well as the way she was described in ancient sources/by ancient authors. They are then going to curate a museum-style exhibit on Cleopatra. This should account for not just her biography but also as an exploration of her personality and how she was seen by contemporary figures. Students will strive to present a thesis in this exhibit, arguing that she used her public persona to navigate a complex political world, or whatever argument they arrive at through their research.

For the actual exhibit, students will select artifacts, accounts, paintings, and other primary sources of information and couple that with images, models, and scenes of their own. How you do this depends on the time and resources you want to commit to the project. Students can produce a fictional museum guide (either individually or as groups) that walks visitors through the artifacts and displays in the exhibit and provides a description of Cleopatra's life. With more time and resources, students could be asked to print off images of the artifacts they'd use, create informational placards, and write a script to act as a tour guide and explain the exhibit to the class.

  • Materials: Art and craft supplies as desired

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