Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kon Tiki unit study

First let's get a little business out of the way.  The winner of the giveaway is Amber.  Amber, I've sent you an email... if you send me your address, I'll send out your prize.  Congratulations!

Now, on to the topic of the day.  As, J. keeps telling me, what is obvious to one person is not necessarily obvious to another.  Sometimes I don't write about things because it seems a bit silly to write about something everyone knows, but I have to remember that not everyone has access to the inside of my head (thank goodness!).  With this in mind, it occurs to me that some of you might have been intrigued about the study we did related to the book, Kon-Tiki, and might want to do something similar, but don't know where to begin and perhaps a list of activities would be useful.

It is a rough list, in no particular order, and we didn't even do everything on the list.  (If we did everything I thought up for every unit study we did, we would never be able to move on to another topic.)  Pick and choose based on your interests, abilities and ages of your children, and other constraints.

  • The first is a bit obvious, but read the book, Kon Tiki.  If you have younger children and the adult book seems as though it would be too much, there is also a children's book, Kon Tiki and I, written by Erik Hesselberg.  It is a sketch book and contains wonderful line drawings from the trip as well as shorter descriptions of what happened. (Literature, science, geography)
  • Map work.  You can either draw your own or label blank maps with Peru, South America, Pacific Ocean, the larger Polynesian Islands, various currents, and the path the Kon-Tiki took.  You could also label Norway and Sweden, the homes of the crew.  (Geography)
  • Make a 3-D map of Peru showing the different types of altitude and landscape.  (Geography, science)
  • Look at pictures of the stone statues on Easter Island.  You could have your children draw pictures of them or carve them out of soap.  (History, art)
  • Study how a sextant works and is used.  As a related topic, you could do a brief study of the eye to discover why so many sailors went blind from using a sextant.  (Science)
  • Learn about nautical miles verses miles we use on land.  (Geography, math)
  • Make a model of the Kon-Tiki raft using balsa wood.  (Art, reinforcing literature)
  • Study the different species of sea animals encountered by the crew.  The ones we did were:
    • Dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi)
    • Pilot fish
    • Pelagic crab
    • Petrels
    • Octopus
    • Sea Turtle
    • Flying fish
    • Frigate birds
    • Porpoises and dolphins
    • Jelly fish
    • Gempylus
    • Shark
    • Remora
    • Whale shark
    • Plankton (Science)
  • Learn about atolls and the life cycle of a volcano.  You could also add some volcano activities here.  We didn't since we had done that recently, but some things we did were:  watch videos of erupting volcanoes; labelled a map with active volcanoes and the 'Ring of Fire'; made taffy because the consistency was similar to lava's; make a model of a volcano. (Science, geography)
  • If you're in Chicago, the Field Museum has a wonderful permanent exhibit on the Pacific Islands. (Science, geography)
  • Make a life-size raft in the back yard and let the children re-enact scenes from the book.  You could use chalk to outline the size and then scrounge large cardboard boxes to construct the hut and masts. (Reinforcing literature)
  • Learn how a short-wave radio works and if there is interest, see about building one of your own. (Science)
  • Study waves and how they move.  (Science)
  • Learn about coral reefs.  This would be a fun thing to make a diorama of. (Science, art)
  • Listen to Polynesian music and watch traditional hula dances (Art, geography)
  • Learn about the history of the Polynesian Islands (History)
  • Watch the documentary about the Kon-Tiki voyage which was filmed by Thor Heyerdahl on the trip. (History, science)
  • Watch documentaries on the open ocean, coral reefs, and sea mammals (science)
  • Prepare and eat fish and coconuts (Reinforcing literature, science)
  • Grow a sweet potato plant from a sweet potato (Science)
  • If you have access to a pond, it would be fun to construct your own raft.  (Science)
  • Make a model of how the centerboards help with steering... this is explained in the book.  (Science)
  • Try sprouting coconuts (science)
  • Have each student keep a sketchbook and journal of their own activities for a month.  (Literature, art)  [And as I'm thinking about this, it would also make sense to move from here into a study of the Louis and Clark Expedition, with the connector being explorers/scientists who kept journals and sketchbooks of their journey.  You could even read excerpts from the journals.  But, I'm getting off topic... we're heading further across the Pacific to Australia.]
There, that should keep you busy.  Don't feel you would need to do the entire list, nor feel constrained by the list if you come up with other ideas.  I always try to have a way for my children to keep a record of what they've learned.  To keep it interesting, I vary the method from study to study.  Sometimes we do lap books or I use hard-back blank books which we fill-up.  You could do a large poster or as we did for Kon-Tiki make mini-books.

Have fun!


MRK said...

Simply: WOW
Love this. Can see how much two of my kids would get out of it but how I feel the need to wait until the other two can at least allow us to do these things rather than running interference.

thecurryseven said...

Doing anything with young children is a challenge, but can be done. Some of my strategies include:
-Finding a way that the small child can participate... I always copy a map for the littles to "fill-out"/color... they had sticks to play with when we made rafts... and so on.
-Do particular messy/intensive projects during nap time. (Not my favorite option, but sometimes the only choice.)

-Get out something I know they love to play with but they only get rarely: clay, sink filled with water, special toy, etc.

-In desparate situations, I'll even put on a movie. I don't like to do this and my youngest don't watch enough for one to hold their interest. I use this mainly for the younger middles if there is something I need to work on with the olders. I do try to make it educational if I resort to this.

Hope this helps. It (training littles to be cooperative during project/school time) takes practice. The first few times you try could very well be a bust. But, don't give up! The more you practice (and are consistent) the more they will learn how to cooperate.


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