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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Traveling the Silk Road in the Year One: The Han Empire and the Early Roman Empire

Welcome to “Traveling the Silk Road in the Year One,” a tour for children in Grades 3 to 5.  This is a tour about travel and trade along Silk Road routes from China to Rome.  We begin in China, where we engage with the Han Empire, whose people produced the precious silk that wealthy Romans craved.  In early imperial Rome, we look at many artifacts, including the translucent glass that the Chinese -- who had not yet mastered glass technology -- valued as highly as gems. I highlight animals and legends to make the 1st century CE cultures of ancient China and ancient Rome come alive in the minds of elementary school children.

When I have given this tour, I have discovered that it works well to visit China in the late morning, have lunch to prepare for the journey across Central Asia to Rome, and then spend about 40 to 45 minutes in Rome.  Alternatively, you could use this tour to study only China or Rome, but then you would forego the excitement of traveling the Silk Road.

I have written this tour in a conversational style, imagining that I was speaking with children. I suggest in italics some of the questions I have found helpful in encouraging children to look and think carefully.  I also highlight in bold potentially unfamiliar terms that the students should understand by the end of the tour.  Examples of these words are empire, caravan, allies, nomads, immortality, oasis, emperor, sarcophagus.

I recommend making three laminated maps to show and/or pass around during the tour: 1) a map of the Silk Road; 2) a map of the Han Empire; 3) a map of the Roman Empire.

Students need to have an understanding of the terms BCE (“Before the Common Era”) and CE (“Common Era”).  The Year One, the time in which this tour is set, falls between these two major divisions of time.

This tour is a work in progress. In the future, I expect to add more information, including more links to videos, images, and other websites.

Thank you,


Louisa Kania

Teaching Assistant

Birches School, Lincoln

Created By

Louisa Kania


History/Social Studies, The Arts

Grade Level

3-5, 6-8