This lesson plan was written by Cynthia Carbone Ward, teacher at Vista de Las Cruces School in Gaviota (CA), and
former Teachers Network web mentor.
This is an incredibly engaging project to be used as a culmination for a 6th grade unit on Ancient Egypt. The "recipe" was sent to me by another teacher when I first began teaching. Prior to this activity, students should have a foundation of understanding about the civilization and religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. They should know that the mummification process was an attempt to preserve the body so that the ka, or spirit, could live on in the afterlife. I recommend a reading of the book Mummies, Tombs, and Treasure: Secrets of Ancient Egypt by Lila Perl. Clarion Books, 1987.
Now students are going to make their own mummies -- out of chili peppers! The process below closely mirrors the mummification process which the Egyptian priests in their jackal head masks administered in the House of the Dead.
one slender pepper per student (or have them work with Partners); baking soda; allspice; gauze strips; cotton balls; hand lotion; tagboard; dry sand.
Write out and distribute the instructions. Students follow the directions as you walk around and oversee:
- Slit chili pepper and remove the seeds and membrane.
WARNING: keep hands
away from eyes; some varieties of peppers can cause a burning
sensation. Have the students wash their hands thoroughly when
they have finisihed handling the pepper.
- Fill inside of pepper with baking soda.
- Sprinkle with allspice.
- Wrap "body" with gauze strips and sprinkle spices between the
- Use cotton ball to apply lotion to the mummy.
- On tagboard, draw, color, or cut out head of a mummified king
and glue to the head area of your mummy.
- Bury the mummy in dry sand, face up. (You may use a large box
or container of sand).
- Store in a dark and secret place. Just before the end of the
year, dig 'em up. It's fascinating to see how well-preserved they
This activity enhances students' understanding of ancient Egyptian
culture and religious customs; provides practice in reading and
implementing directions for a process; and is often viewed by kids
as a favorite activity for the year.
Other good mummy books:
Tales Mummies Tell by Patricia Lauber (Scholastic, 1992);
Mummy (Eyewitness Books);
Into the Mummy's Tomb by Nicholas Reeves (Scholastic,