Elementary school teachers typically include lessons on Italy as part of their social studies or language arts curriculum, and parents often teach their children about Italy before taking a trip there. Discussions should cover Italy's history, especially as it relates to the capital city of Rome, climate, major industries, geography and culture. Focus on examples that make Italy stand out from other countries, such as its land forms and architecture as well as its former reputation as a world empire. Keep the facts simple and concise so that children get a well-rounded overview of Italy's past and present.
Geography and Climate
Teach children about Italy's geography and climate. It's a peninsula, shaped like a woman's high-heeled boot, and sits on the Mediterranean Sea. France, Switzerland and Austria border Italy to the north. Show students a map of Europe so that they can see where Italy is located. Italy is slightly larger than Arizona and has a population of over 61 million people, according to "Time for Kids." Northern areas have a cool climate, but southern Italy is hot and dry. The country has two major mountain ranges -- the Alps and the Apennines -- and several major rivers including the Po, Adige, Arno and Tiber.
Give children a broad overview of Italy's history, including the Roman Empire. Explain that the first civilizations in Italy existed nearly 3,000 years ago, and the capital is Rome. Due to its location on the Mediterranean Sea, ancient civilizations viewed it as an important place for trade. Around 500 B.C., Roman rulers in the south overthrew the northern rulers of Italy -- the Etruscans -- and built a strong empire that extended across Europe and northern portions of Africa. Augustus Caesar became the first sole emperor of Rome in 27 B.C. Tell students that the Roman Empire remained strong for 400 years but eventually splintered into smaller city states. Italy was one of the United States' allies in World War I, but Benito Mussolini -- a powerful dictator in Italy -- sided with Germany and Japan during World War II.
Religion and Architecture
Discuss past and present religion and architecture in Italy. During the Roman Empire, many Italians believed in mythology and worshipped a variety of Roman gods, such as Jupiter, Venus and Apollo. They built beautiful pieces of architecture, such as temples, amphitheaters and aqueducts, out of stone, concrete and brick and were the first to incorporate arches into their structures. Show children pictures of the Maison Caree, Pont du Gard, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pantheon and Colosseum. Nearly 90 percent of present-day Italians are Catholic, according to "Time for Kids," and the pope resides in Vatican City -- an independent city state near Rome. Modern architecture in Italy has sleek, contemporary design elements, much different from the massive structures of the past.
Culture and Industry
Talk to students about Italy's culture, past and present, including major exports and industries. Italy is home to two renowned Italian painters, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, whose artwork from the 1400s is still valued and admired around the world. Show children pictures of the Mona Lisa and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Italy's major exports include clothing, shoes, grapes, olives, sugar beets and dairy products. Tourism, iron and steel production, food processing, machinery and automobile factories keep Italian industry strong. Italy is known for its fine cuisine including pastas and wine. Explain that family is important to Italians, and children often live with their parents into their 30s, while parents live with their kids after retirement, according to "National Geographic Kids."
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