They were preparing for their annual field trip to the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
Debra Hanus, instructor for the students, said that she wanted the students to learn more than just what goes into making a silk cloth. She wanted them to grasp a “global awareness.”
Hanus, referring to a comment made by YoYo Ma, said that the Silk Road was “the Internet of its day.”
“When we share and exchange knowledge amongst other cultures we all grow,” she said.
For the past two years, sixth-grade Horizon students have been the beneficiaries of a grant from the Joe Barnhart Foundation. The grant provides for all Horizon students to go on an overnight trip to Houston in order to visit a special exhibit at the museum.
In March, seven months of study and preparation came to fruition as they toured the Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan Gold. This exhibit visited only four museums in the United States.
For 23 years, the artifacts were “lost” as they had secretly been hidden from invading Russians and later the Taliban. Only recently were they discovered hidden away in locked vaults in the Presidential Palace in Kabul. Still too dangerous to display in Afghanistan, National Geographic helped organize this touring exhibit.
To prepare for the exhibit, students studied the geography of Asia and learned of all the cultures that existed along the Silk Road from 2,000 B.C. They each chose an artifact from an ancient culture and made a painting of it.
Silkworm eggs were ordered and students saw the whole cycle from egg to worm to cocoon to silk moth.
They made puppets of famous people who traveled the Silk Road and wrote and performed plays. Using the CIA World Factbook, they compared and contrasted current data/demographics of Afghanistan with the United States.
During their trip, students feasted on authentic Afghanistan food. Their chef, Mohammed Aref, was born in Kabul, trained as a chef in Germany and graduated from the Culinary Arts Institute in America. Traditional food and dessert was followed by a gift of two kites made by Afghanistan orphans.
Part of the exhibit was the famous “Bactrian Gold.” Six nomads’ graves dating from 2000 B.C. were excavated and all were literally covered in gold.
Upon returning to school, students made their own “Bactrian Gold.” Using clay they made coil pots and added Buddha images on the pots. After firing the clay, they spray painted the pots gold.
The Silk Road is how Buddhism spread from India into China and over to Afghanistan. Sadly, two of the largest and oldest Buddhas ever created were destroyed by the Taliban in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.