Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Learning about Ukraine & World Geography

For the past few years, the girls have been learning about different countries around the world. I wanted to give some order to studying world geography, so I chose to do it alphabetically. 

So far, we have learned about: Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Korea (South and North), Laos, Madagascar, Netherlands, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and now we're on Ukraine.

For each country, I have the girls color the flag and map of the country:

They include some postage stamps from the country they are studying. 

Something that I haven't done before, but thought it would be fun is to make a cookie map of Ukraine.  We rolled out the dough and then placed a paper outline of Ukraine on top of the dough.  Using a knife, Sophia cut out the shape and placed it on a cookie sheet to bake. 

After the cookie cooled, the girls had fun decorating it with frosting and sprinkles.

We read several books (non-fiction and fiction) about the country.  For Ukraine, we read and/or looked at Nations in Transition - Ukraine by Steven Otfinoski.

In Nations in Transition - Ukraine there was section about a couple rather sobering events that took place in Ukraine.  The first was the Chernobyl disaster that occurred on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union).  It was considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. 

We looked at some photographs on the internet of the towns near the power plant (which has since closed) that have now become ghost towns.  I remember this disaster because I was almost 20 years old at the time, so we talked about this for awhile.

The other thing we read about (not in great detail...just so the girls are aware that it happened) is Holodomor - the famine in 1932-33 that claimed the lives of over four million people. Holodomor literally means "killing by hunger;" and only within the past eight years has it been legally acknowledged as genocide against the Ukrainian people.  More can be read about it HERE and HERE.

In addition to the non-fiction books, I read two different versions of The Mitten which is a Ukranian folktale.  The first version, written by Alvin Tresselt, has simple illustrations and is an older book.  The second version is written by Jan Brett and has beautiful illustrations and some different animals than the other book.  The girls enjoyed discovering the differences between the books.

During March, the girls will be doing a paper quilt from the book Easy Literature-Based Quilts Around the Year by Mariann Cigrand and Phyllis Howard.  The design and activity ties in The Mitten by Jan Brett. 

An important part of each unit study is trying new recipes from the country.  One of the recipes we made that the girls liked a lot was Chicken Kiev.  We made Chicken Kiev when we were studying about Russia as well, but the filling is a bit different in this version. 

Sophia dipping the chicken in flour before
putting it in eggs and covering it with breadcrumbs.
Finished Chicken Kiev.

The girls eating Chicken Kiev with vegetables and a salad.

We also made Kovbasa and Kapusta (Ukrainian Sausage and Sauerkraut). Olivia made the toasted rye bread and Sophia made the sauerkraut and sausages.  The recipes said to cut up the sausage and put them in the sauerkraut.  Since I figured the girls wouldn't care for the sauerkraut, I didn't have them do this step.  Instead, they ate the sausage and sauerkraut separately.

I remember growing up and having sauerkraut at dinners at my Grandma's home. It wasn't my favorite dish that my Grandma made (and she was an amazing cook/baker).  This sauerkraut recipe had more flavor with caraway seeds and onions.

Kovbasa and Kapusta (Ukrainian Sausage and Sauerkraut)

We're looking forward to making Holubtsi (Stuffed Cabbage) as well as several types of breads.
Pysanky design that Olivia colored.
We'll be making decorating real eggs
with dye and the wax-resist method soon.

Studying about Ukraine at this time of the year is wonderful because many of the activities that we will be doing tie into Easter: making Babka and Pashka (two types of breads); and pysanky (eggs which have been decorated with a wax-resist method).

Ukrainian Easter Basket

What the girls found interesting is that Ukrainians bring Easter baskets to church where they are blessed.  Each basket is packed with symbolic foods, candles, and pysanky; and covered with a white linen cloth that signifies Christ's shroud.

After church, people carry their baskets home and feast on the contents for breakfast. A typical Ukrainian Easter basket contains an array of symbolic foods, including paska (a large, round bread symbolizing the joy of new life); boiled eggs (which symbolize rebirth); and kielbasa (a spicy garlic sausage which represents generosity).

In another picture of a typical Ukrainian Easter basket, bacon and ham are included.  I recently found a recipe for home-cured bacon.  The girls thought it would be interesting to learn how to make their own bacon.  So, that will be one of the activities that is part of this unit study.

Sophia and Olivia also learned about Ukrainian textiles, and the importance of embroidered decorative towels.  The towels mark special events and times in a person's life.  More can be read about how towels are used HERE.  We also looked at some of the designs in the book Ukrainian Embroidery by Ann Kmit.

And...because the girls are at an age where they're interested in hair...they learned about Prime Minister Tymoshenko and how she used to braid her hair in a traditional Ukrainian style (her hair was braided and then wrapped in a circle around the back of her head - almost like a crown).  

We were curious to see if Sophia's hair is long enough to do a similar style. Here's the result:

The Ukrainian Gift Shop is located at 2782 Fairview Avenue North in Roseville.  It's near Rosedale Mall.  The phone number is 651-638-9700.  They have a wide variety of supplies to make pysanky eggs as well as other items from Ukraine.  They also have an online shop.  We received a copy of their catalog today, and both the girls want to visit the shop to see the pysanky eggs and the holders. 

We'll be continuing to study Ukraine until March 1st when we learn about Wales.  (We're skipping ahead since March 1st marks St. David's Day in Wales and makes a logical introduction to that country.)  After that, we go back to Vietnam, and then move forward with Mexico (since no country begins with an X), Yemen, and Zambia. 

By the end of the 2010-2011 school year, the girls will have learned about 26 different countries.  At that point, we'll shift to learning about each of the different states in the United States. 


Jane's In The Jungle said...

Her hair looks great!
jane Brett is my favorite children's author. Great ideas for a geography study.

Hug a tree with me said...

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Kelly L said...

What a great way to teach. A very good friend of mine was a missionary in the Ukraine with her husband and very young son. She has many interesting stories...

Love to you - I'm your latest stalker from Friday Blog Hop
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Heavenly Savings said...

Cute Blog! I’m a new follower Happy Friday!! I would love for you to stop and take a look at my blog as well! Thanks!

Roksana said...

Thank you for learning my native country!
You did a great job! Almost all thing are colourable :))
I'm not strong in English, so i say shortly - that's exciting!! You learn things about my country! About Ukrainian cuisine! About Julia Timoshenko! (new hairstyle fits to Sophia!))
ok, give me to know if I can help you to learn more ;))

CherylinMA said...

Wonderful full post. I love all of your projects and reading. We've done the cookie map while studying Africa. I've gotta say the kids loved "destroying" it more than making it. Ha ha!

Ms. Tatiana said...

Are you kidding me?!!!!!! That is so awesome! I lived in Ukraine as a missionary for over a year and I am floored with how well you've covered Ukrainian culture! What an inspiration! Thanks for sharing all your ideas!