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Lessons from the Past

Create a powerful metaphor that represents significant elements of democracy in the ancient Athens or the Iroquois Confederacy.

Suggested Activities (selected) Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students summarize what they learned about two democracies by creating a powerful metaphor that represents essential elements of the democratic system of ancient Athens or the Iroquois Confederacy. Students also identify the three most important lessons for Canadians on effective democratic systems.

Organize evidence of effective democratic systems
Ask students to create a mind map to organize evidence related to the essential attributes of an effective democratic system. Students will create separate mind maps for ancient Athens and the Iroquois Confederacy. You might also want to have students create a mind map for Canadian democracy to assist them in recognizing which area of contemporary Canada's democratic process could benefit from what has been learned about the Athenian or Iroquois experience.  

Here is a sample mind map:

Sample Mind Map

The students add specific details from the Athenian and Iroquois democratic systems that shows elements were present or absent. Ask students to use one colour (e.g., red) to add evidence that shows the element was present and another colour (e.g., blue) for evidence that shows the element was absent.

Rate the Athenian and Iroquoian democracies
Students provide an assessment of the degree to which the Athenian and Iroquois political systems reflect the element (-2 completely absent, -1 somewhat absent, +1 somewhat evident, +2 completely evident).

Rate the Canadian democracy
Students add their assessment of the degree to which our Canadian democracy reflects the elements (-2 completely absent, -1 somewhat absent, +1 somewhat evident, +2 completely evident).

Introduction to concept: Metaphors
Introduce students to metaphors by comparing the classroom to another structure or object. Begin by brainstorming with students the characteristics of a classroom. You may want to classify their ideas into categories, such as functions, structures, purpose, etc. Ask students to consider how the classroom is like other objects, such as a snowflake, a solar system, a sports team, a table, a mountain, etc. Help students identify similarities between the classroom and each object. 

Choose the object that best represents the characteristics of the classroom and the object that least represents the characteristics of a classroom.

Display a definition of the word metaphor and ask students to explain how the preceding activity fits the definition.

Here are some examples of metaphors:

  • Death is a dry leaf crumbling in your hand.
  • Ignorance is a closed door.
  • Life is a roller coaster.
  • That idea came out of left field.

For more information, see Defining Terms (Support Material).

Identify criteria for powerful metaphors
Provide students with a variety of metaphors and ask them to sort the metaphors from the most effective to the least effective. Ask students to explain their reasoning for the sorting.

As they explain their sorting, identify criteria that could be used to select powerful metaphors. Guide students in reducing the list to only three or four criteria by combining similar criteria. Criteria may include the following:

  • captures the essence of the concept
  • is readily identifiable
  • makes a clear and strong statement.

Design a metaphor
Ask students to create a powerful metaphor for either ancient Athenian democracy or the Iroquois Confederacy. Encourage student to consider the criteria they have identified when creating their metaphors.

Suggest to students that they share their metaphors with a partner to gather feedback about the degree to which they have met the criteria for a powerful metaphor.

Share metaphors
The final product could be presented to the whole class in an oral, written or visual representation.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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