We spent some time learning about some of the Native American Culture Regions throughout the United States. We talked about the Plains region and learned that the natives there typically lived in tipis. Because they followed bison herds, this group of Native Americans had to be able to move their homes. Bison was a source of food, shelter, clothing, tools, etc. There was no waste. They used every part of the animal.
We talked about the Southwest Culture Regions and learned that they did not move around like the Plains Native Americans. They often lived in adobe or pueblo homes – dwellings made from mud and straw bricks. Many in the Southwest region were farmers and also had goats and sheep. The Navajo wove beautiful rugs and blankets out of the sheep’s wool. The kindergartners wove bookmarks. It was a little slow-going at first, but they got the hang of it.
We learned about the Southeast Culture Region and “reenacted” a festival that they have – Green Corn Festival. It is a time of cleaning out and starting fresh. Home fires are put out and then restarted from the hot coals of the community fire that the tribe elders start. We used grapes as the stones around our “fire,” pretzels as the wood, and red, yellow and orange m&ms as the fire.
The final culture region we discussed was the Eastern Woodlands. This region includes the Wampanoags, who helped the pilgrims. Part of the year they lived in homes called wetus. Wetus were domed shaped homes covered in birchbark sheets. The kindergartners made wetus by glueing torn pieces of construction paper on a domed frame.
Learning about the Wampanoag people was a natural lead-in to learning about the Pilgrims. We learned about their perilous journey over on the Mayflower, their first difficult winter, and what life was like for them. We gathered information about the Mayflower journey from books and videos and talked about some of the interesting things we learned. Then the kindergartners made a Mayflower shaped book that included three facts about the journey from England to Plymouth.
To help the kindergartners understand that the Pilgrims had to make nearly everything they had, we made homemade bread and churned some butter and talked about some of the chores that the children had to do.
Spirit Week is always a little crazy, so we spent the week doing some fun things with pumpkins.
We started the week with a field trip to Fisher’s Orchard. We saw some rabbits and fed some goats. We took a wagon ride through the orchard, went through a maze, picked out some apples and small pumpkins, and learned a little bit about plants.
In class, we learned about the life cycle of a pumpkin and did an activity in class.
We also completed some pumpkin observation activities with small, medium, and large pumpkins. The kindergartens measured the diameter, measured the height in linking cubes, counted ribs, made guesses about the number of seeds inside and whether or not the pumpkins would float or sink.
After observing the outside of the pumpkins, the kindergartners got to observe the insides of a pumpkin. It was a messy job to remove all the seeds and pulp, but the kids got the job done. I rinsed the seeds and the kids counted them. The medium-sized pumpkin had the least and the largest pumpkin had the most.
I took the empty pumpkins home and cooked the flesh. The next day we made pumpkin pie in class. Yum!
Our last stop around the world ended in North America. We learned about bison – the largest mammal in North America. Bulls can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds and be six feet tall at the shoulder. These herbivores live in mixed-grass prairies.
We learned about the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. This spectacular display of lights happens when energy particles from the sun collide with Earth’s magnetic field. The kindergartners watched a video of the lights and used chalk pastels to recreate the beauty.
We talked about one of Canada’s most popular artists – Ted Harrison. He has a distinctive style of painting that is colorful. The kindergartners made a version of his art work and added an Inukshuk to the picture. Inukshuk is a figure made of piled stones. Traditionally, Inuksuit (plural) were constructed by the Inuit people and placed throughout the landscape to be used as hunting and navigational aids.
We learned about a famous landmark in the United States – the Statue of Liberty. The figure stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor and is 151 feet and one inch tall. She has stood as a beacon for freedom and welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States.
We had such a great time learn about our world and working on a lot of fun projects in class. The kindergartners also completed an at-home project and decorated an international paper doll to reflect different countries – Cuba, France, Australia, Japan, Nigeria, and (South America).
Our next stop around the world was South America. We spent some time learning about the world’s largest tropical rainforest – the Amazon. The students learned about its layers and some of the animals found there.
We watched a Magic School Bus video about a cocoa tree in the rainforest. The kindergartners got a chance to taste cocoa powder. The excitement ended very quickly as soon as the powder touched their tongues. To make the experience better, the next day we used the cocoa powder to make brownies in class. Its amazing how much better cocoa tastes when you add a little sweetness.
We also talked about an ancient Incan city in Peru. Machu Picchu was discovered high in the Andes Mountains in 1911. It has become a famous South American landmark and many tourists visit it each year. The kindergartners painted a paint by number picture of the ruins.
We continued our trip around the world with visits to Australia and Antarctica. In Australia, we learned about one of the oldest wind instruments known – the didgeridoo. We read a funny story about it, watched a video of an Australian making a didgeridoo, and listened to one being played. The instruments are typically made from small trees that have been hollowed out by termites. In kindergarten, we made ours out of pvc pipe.
We also learned about the Great Barrier Reef which is found off Australia’s East coast. The famous reef is home to many beautiful fish and other living things. The kindergartners used strips of tissue paper to make some colorful fish.
Australia’s Sydney Harbor is home to a very famous structure – the Sydney Opera House. After taking sixteen years to build, it opened in 1973. We talked about opera music and listened to some of the Barber of Seville opera.
The continent of Antarctica does not belong to one nation, but is shared by many countries. Scientists from a number of countries visit this cold desert and do research.
We discussed how blubber keeps some of the animals warm in Antarctica’s frigid temperatures. The kindergartners conducted a “blubber” experiment to see how warm their hands would be when put in ice. The hand that was surrounded by blubber (Crisco) stayed much warmer than the hand without.
We also talked about some of the penguins that live on Antarctica. The kindergartners made toilet paper roll models of the Adélie, Chinstrap, Emperor, Macaroni and Gentoo penguins.
Our next stop around the world took us to Africa. We learned about the pyramids in Egypt. We discussed why they were built and that the face of a pyramid makes a triangle. The kindergartners colored a background and used cereal to make their own triangular shape.
We read several African folktales, including one about a spider named Anansi. The Anansi folk stories originated in Ghana with the Ashanti people. We read a book that told how Anansi’s six sons saved his life with their special strengths. The kindergartners used egg cartons and chenille sticks to make spiders then wrote two sentences about their favorite son and how he helped save his father. We also read a West African tale, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears and completed a sequencing activity about the book.
We played the African board game Mancala. This game requires counting and strategy skills, which are both good things for kindergartners to practice.
We read books about some of the animals found in Africa. The kindergartners made an African sunset scene that included some of the animals found on the Savanna.
The next stop on our trip around the world was a visit to Asia. Asia is the largest continent and also lays claim to the highest point in the world – Mt. Everest.
The Taj Mahal is India’s most famous building. The Indian ruler Shah Jahan had it built after the death of his wife. This symbol of love serves as her tomb and a monument to her. The kindergartners used water colors to paint the building’s reflecting pool. It made a very nice picture.
In China, we talked about tangrams when we read the book, Grandfather Tang’s Story. In the book, Grandfather uses these Chinese puzzles to tell a story about two fox fairies. The fox fairies are part of Chinese folklore. The kindergartners tried their hand at turning tangrams into animals from the story.
We also learned about the Great Wall of China and panda bears. The kindergartners cut out words and made a sentence about the famous wall. They also made panda bear masks to remember these unique bears that are found in China.
In Japan, Children’s Day is celebrated on May 5th. It is a day set aside to celebrate the healthy growth and happiness of children. Families hang colorful carp kites, called Koinobori, outside their houses. In Japanese culture, the carp (or koi) represent courage and perseverance. The kindergartners stenciled a couple of koi in a pond.