KS2 History: Ancient Egypt. The River Nile

The exploration of the River Nile begins with a shaduf - an ancient tool for using the waters of the Nile for irrigation.

The River Nile

This video gives pupils an understanding of the vital role the River Nile played in the success of Ancient Egypt.

It begins by exploring a visual source of a farm scene from Ancient Egypt, highlighting the role of the shaduf - a tool used to move water from one place to another.

The video focuses on the River Nile and how important the river was to daily life - highlighting the various ways the river was used in normal years when the water was plentiful...and the disaster that struck in times of drought.

Moving through the video pupils will see the wildlife and resources that came from the River Nile and how these were used in the advancement of Ancient Egyptian civilisation.

We learn how the reeds were used for making a wide variety of essential items - including papyrus, the first form of paper - and we hear about the Ancient Egyptian god called 'Hapi' who was the god of the River Nile.


The steps for making papyrus from reeds
Diagram of a shaduf
A typical Nile ship

Teacher's Notes

This video gives a snapshot of Ancient Egypt and its greatest resource - the River Nile.

It also helps to explore the value and importance of sources in finding out about the past. It can be used to help pupils understand how we find out about the past as well as the role of ‘place’ in historical civilisations.

If it wasn’t for the River Nile Ancient Egypt certainly wouldn’t have been as successful as it was and potentially may never have existed.

It also provides a platform to explore the STEM subjects in the context of Ancient Egypt, using the shaduf to move water from the River Nile into the irrigation system, for example.

Points for discussion (History Linked)

  • Why was the River Nile so important?
  • What is a shaduf?
  • How were shadufs used?
  • How did the Ancient Egyptians use the River Nile?
  • Why do you think the River Nile was so important to Ancient Egyptian life?
  • Can you find the countries that the River Nile runs through today?
  • Can you think of positive and negative things about living so close to the River Nile?
  • What animals lived in and around the River Nile?
  • Who was the Ancient Egyptian god of the River Nile?

Suggested Activities (Cross Curricular opportunities)

Building a shadufUsing a variety of resources from home or school can the pupils build their own shaduf? More importantly, can they design and create one that works! As they do this, they can explore the challenges of working with materials that are strong, waterproof and also flexible! Which shaduf can move the most water from one point to another, which can last the longest and which can hold the water without any leaking out?

Diary EntryStarting at the source of the River Nile, can the pupils write a diary entry or series of entries showing their journey from source to the mouth of the river. What do they see? Feel? Hear? Taste and smell? Using all of their senses as a source of inspiration.

Map workUsing a base map of the region, pupils can use atlases to find the modern day countries and mark these and their capital cities on the map. Following this, pupils can find and mark on other significant features of the region such as the River Nile. As pupils complete their map work, they can design and use a key to make their map easier to understand.

Sounds of the River NileFollowing from their diary entries, pupils can list what each of their senses would experience on a journey down the River Nile. As they capture this, start to use instruments and voice to create a piece of music to accompany their diary entries.

Biodiversity of the River NileAfter watching the video, pupils can research the plants and animals that lived in and along the River Nile in Ancient Egyptian times. After researching these, they can place them onto a Venn Diagram to compare the past with the present day – finding which are alive and living in the region to this day. After this, pupils can investigate the food chains that exist in the region.

Curriculum Notes

This film is relevant for teaching History at KS2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 2nd Level in Scotland.

More from this series

Society and culture
Gods and goddesses

See also...

KS2 Music: Ancient Egypt
Song: 'Living, living River Nile'