People and Places


Flood plains and river systems: The case of the Irrawaddy and the Kingdom of Bagan


This lesson examines how rice agriculture becomes central to the development of communities in lowland Southeast Asia. It uses the case of the Kingdom of Bagan, in the dry plains of nowadays Myanmar, as an example The lesson highlights the relationship religion and agriculture.

Subject History / Social Studies
Topic Irrawaddy Flood Plains: The Kingdom of Bagan
Key idea Across time, people respond to the varied natural environment of a region in multiple ways that shape their
worldviews and ways of life.
Key concepts Environment, highlands, lowlands, coastlands
People, worldviews, way of life
Commonalities and diversities
Level Lower secondary
No. of periods / lessons 1 period (1 period is approximately 50 minutes)
Facilities needed Sources and handouts for distribution
Prerequisite Knowledge No prerequisite knowledge required

Learning objectives
By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to:

  1. Define what lowlands are and identify key
    attributes of lowlands.
  2. Explain the rationale for the location of early
    civilization in lowlands near water bodies.
  3. Describe the way location in lowlands
    shaped agricultural activities and
    infrastructure built in these areas.
  1. Analyse photos and maps to draw out
    attributes of a place.
  1. Demonstrate awareness that people respond
    in multiple ways to the environment, which
    can influence their way of life.
  2. Cooperate in groups to complete task


Download the lesson plan for details on the talks and activities suggested below.

1. Introduction to topic

Comparing photographs of various lowland areas in Southeast Asia, students discuss the commonalities and diversities among these communities.

2. Group work: Map analysis

Students compare borders on a map of early Southeast Asia (9th to 14th centuries) and a contemporary map and discuss why early kingdoms developed in lowland near water bodies.

3. Teacher talk about the Kingdom of Bagan

The lecture presents how Bagan emerged as a powerful kingdom thanks to its position near the Irrawaddy rive and its capacity to develop rice farming.

4. Discussion

Students observe pictures of ancient irrigation canals and discuss how water technology allowed farmland to expand.

5. Group work: Source analysis

Students analyze 2 inscriptions and reflect on the ancient rulers’ responsibilities related to agriculture.

6. Reflection

The teacher summarizes the main points of the lesson and students reflect on their learning by filling in a handout.