Renaissance Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

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

These ideas can help your middle-school students learn more about the Renaissance through engaging and unique activities that will get their minds working in different ways.

Renaissance Activities for Middle School

The Renaissance can be an engaging period to study. It's full of art, culture, politics, and drama. The following activities can help your middle-school students take an active approach to learning about the Renaissance. These activities are designed to be adaptable to most classrooms, and can fit into existing curricula.

Renaissance Activities for Middle School

Renaissance Architecture

Start by discussing with students the importance of architecture in the Renaissance, and show them some examples of famous structures. Then, explain the importance of geometry to these architects, and demonstrate how several major structures were based around simple geometric shapes like squares, rectangles, and circles. This was especially true with the façades of many buildings. Have students help to identify these shapes in the images you present on the screen. Talk about the principles of symmetry and harmony.

Next, provide students with a large piece of paper and cutouts of several basic geometric shapes to trace. Students will use these shapes to design a façade for a Renaissance cathedral. Give students a chance to create their architectural plans, and then present them to the class.

  • Materials: Images of Renaissance structures, large paper, cutouts of simple geometric shapes, pencils, rulers/straight edges, erasers, other art and craft supplies as desired

Invent a City-State

In the Renaissance, political life was defined by the city-state, and cities such as Pisa, Florence, and Siena competed for resources and for prestige. Discuss the Italian city-states with the class, and then divide the class into small groups. Each group will be responsible for creating a new city-state. Students will decide on the name and location of their city, the sort of government that runs it, and its main source of income (agriculture, ceramics, trade/banking, etc.). They will also create a city banner or flag. They will then decide how to best compete with the other city-states. Who should they try and make an ally? Should they consider a military invasion? Should they become trade partners with anyone? How will they attract artists and architects to their city? Which artists are their top picks, and what can they offer to draw them away from the other cities?

  • Materials: Writing, art, and craft supplies as desired

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