Brazil Unit Study: Week 4

This week, we will learn about the biggest folias (party) of the year in Brazil—Carnival! The sounds and sights of this iconic festival will frame our first day of lessons as we learn about samba and fashion. We will also learn about one of the greatest soccer players and practice our math skills to get a goal just like Pele. This week’s lessons will give students the opportunity to practice writing and art skills, as well as make some delicious cheesy Brazilian bread. Divirta-se! (Have a good time!) Click here to download and print your skills tracker.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):


Optional chapter book:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

Note: We break down our supply list so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.

Brazilian paper doll:

Indoor soccer game:

Soccer angle math:

Combustion chamber model:

Luta de galo game:

Britton art project:

Bird lapbook:

Bird nest craft:

Travel brochure:

Carbon footprint activity:

Pão de queijo recipe:

  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 1 1/3 cup of tapioca flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup mozzarella

Brazilian yuca fries:

  • 500 g of yuca
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • salt
Lesson 1:

Get ready for color, excitement, and music as we explore festivals in Brazil. Introduce the chapter book Recipe for Adventure: Rio de Janeiro! Not only will this book explore Carnival but it will also take readers on a culinary and cultural adventure.

Activity 1: Discover festivals. There are many festivals that take place in Brazil. You can read about the top 5 festivals here. But the biggest by far is Carnival.

Carnival always takes place a week before the Catholic season called Lent, which lasts for 40 days and is a time when Catholics give up things they like. Traditionally, Catholics give up meat during this time, so the word “carnival” comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning “good-bye to meat.”

Lent is a time when everyone has to be “good,” according to the Catholic belief, so Carnival is a time for being “bad,” or embracing the things they are about to give up. The festival started in the 11th century in Venice, Italy. Today, Carnival is celebrated all over the world, but no country has a bigger celebration than Brazil.

Carnival lasts only one week, but Brazilians prepare for it all year long. The entire country shuts down so people can dance during the massive parades and celebrations. Large floats drive down the middle of the streets, followed followed by a huge parade of people in colorful costumes. Men, women, and children dress up in masks, headdresses, and gowns to take part.

Next, watch a few parts of the Brazilian Carnival parade here and here. Finally, create your own Carnival-inspired mask with this craft.

Activity 2: As you saw and heard in the video, samba is the dance and music of Brazil. There are two main types of samba that differ from each other: the modern ballroom samba and the traditional samba of Brazil. Traditional Brazilian samba includes the samba that is danced solo at Carnival. The dance borrows some movements from Afro-Brazilian traditional dances, such those used in candomblé rituals.

Ballroom samba has its origins in Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century. The modern ballroom dance was created in England, mostly with steps adapted from those seen in Brazil. This version is now danced all over the world in international competitive dancing as regulated by the World Dance Council. Ballroom samba, like other ballroom dances, is a form adapted as a partner dance. (source)

Let’s learn the basic samba foot step with this video lesson.

(-) Learning with a younger child today? They may enjoy this samba-inspired coloring page.

Activity 3: The dress and costumes you see at Carnival are representative of Brazil’s vast cultural diversity. Read this article to see and learn more about the clothing of Brazil.

Brazil is a country with an ancient history as well as many modern advancements, which has resulted in many clashes of old and new. Let’s read about one fictionalized example of this based on a real-world issue in the book The Best Tailor in Pinbauê.

As a tailor, Uncle Flores in our book makes a variety of traditional clothing pieces. The most popular traditional pieces of clothes in Brazil are bombachas pants, baiana dress, poncho, Carmen Miranda costume, and cowboy hat.

  • The bombachas are baggy pants often worn by gauchos—South American cowboys. They are comfortable for riding and look charming. Usually, bombachas are made from cotton. These traditionally are men’s trousers, but women can also wear them.
  • The baiana dress is female attire, and a rather opulent and richly decorated one. It consists of a light blouse (often made from or adorned with lace), a long flowing skirt made from light and airy fabric, a long colorful shawl, a turban, and some beaded jewelry. The fabric used to make the baiana dress is embellished with the traditional embroidery called “bordado.” This costume is breathy, light, and, at the same time, modest. Such fabrics, light as lace or actual lace, appeared in Brazil because of the Portuguese influence.
  • Brazilian poncho is called either “poncho” or “pala.” In general, it looks the same as any other South American poncho, only the patterns are different, typical for this particular culture and tradition. Poncho is outerwear, it is a rectangular piece of woven fabric with an opening at the center, used for the head. A traditional poncho doesn’t have sleeves or any openings for the arms. But it is a perfect outer garment for mountainous regions, for riding, and for some other activities.
  • The Carmen Miranda costume is a variation of a baiana dress. It was popularized by the local samba singer and actress Carmen Miranda. This attire is colorful, the skirt has a long slit showing the left leg of a woman, an ornate turban is adorned with feathers, flowers, and other decorations. This folk dress is a rather contemporary outfit—it became popular in the mid-20th century. Still, it is widely used by Brazilian women inside and far outside the country.

Let’s make some paper dolls inspired by traditional Brazilian clothing! Start by printing these doll bodies on white, brown, or otherwise flesh colored cardstock.


Next, use washable markers to color a variety of colors onto white coffee filters or cupcake liners. Spray the liners with a water bottle until the colors start to blend together. Let dry. (You may want to do this part on a cooling rack to help them dry quicker.)

While they are drying, have your child color in the paper doll bodies and glue on yarn for hair (or they can draw the hair). 

Once the skirt material is dry, fold it in half (to create a skirt shape) and then inward on the edges to create a pleat effect. (Alternately, you could cut your filter to create gauchos for a boy doll.) 

Glue the skirt onto the doll, and then cut out tops from felt. You could also create a contrasting sash or hair accessories with leftover felt. Glue these pieces onto your dolls to finish the look. They should look something like this:

If your child enjoys fashion crafts, they could also create jewelry or other accessories with markers, beads, fabric, thread, or paper.

Lesson 2:

Sports are another common type of recreation in Brazil. Let’s learn about that today.

Activity 1: Football (or soccer, as Americans call it) is the most popular sport in Brazil. Let’s start this lesson by reading the life story of one of the world’s most famous players, who happens to be from Brazil. Read one of the suggested books about famous player Edson do Nascimento (called Pelé by his fans), or any book you were able to find at your local library.

The FIFA World Cup is the most watched tournament in football. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) organizes the World Cup every four years. More people watch the World Cup finals than any other sporting event in the world—even more people than the Olympic Games! The most successful team has been Brazil because they have won the competition 5 times. (source)

The goal of football/soccer is to get goals. Would your child like to try playing? If playing on a real field with a net and a ball isn’t possible, set up this indoor football/soccer game. While having fun playing with this game, you probably notice that your effectiveness in getting a goal depends on what angle you shoot from. Watch this video to learn more about kicks and angles.

The figure below shows three different shooting positions and the angles between the goal posts.


In the example on the left, the angle is 55 degrees, giving a very good chance of a goal from here. In the middle and right-hand figures, the angles are both 17 degrees, providing much narrower chances. Discuss where your child thinks it is best to shoot from. What are the pros and cons of each angle?

Activity 2: Let’s take a math detour! Watch this video to learn about types of angles and this video to learn how to measure angles. 

Let’s practice what we’ve learned in the videos with this football/soccer field printable. Laminate or put the printable in a plastic sheet. Students can create angles and measure them from different places on the field using a protractor and a fine-tip dry erase.

To play, plot a point on the field. Draw lines using the flat edge of the protractor from the point (vertex) to the ends of the goal posts. Finally, measure the angle that is created using the protractor. Label each angle and write the measurement. After plotting and measuring several points, find the greatest angle on your field. What point provides the greatest chance on the field of getting a goal?

If desired, wipe your sheet clean and plot more points!

Activity 3: Another famous sport in Brazil is Formula One racing. (+) Let’s learn about the F1 race history in this video. (Watch for as long as your child has an interest.)

One of Brazil’s most famous drivers is Ayrton Senna. Learn a bit more about him here or (-) read the picture book Ayrton Senna. (+) For more, you can watch this video

Let’s work in some science and engineering by learning how an engine works in this video or by reading 8 and 9 in the book Inventing the Automobile. Next, let’s build our own combustion chamber! Use pages 8-10 from this lesson plan created by the Indy Motor Speedway Museum. Use the printable on page 8 to build your own combustion chamber model. Page 9 will help you label your model and page 10 will help review vocabulary and the mechanical process.

Activity 4: Discover Brazil’s recess games. School children in Brazil also love to play games at recess, such as cinco marias (jacks with stones), queimada (dodge ball), barra-bandeira (capture the flag), cabo-de-guerra (tug-of-war), or bola de gude (marbles). Another fun one is luta de galo, which is Portuguese for “fight of the roosters.” Check out these instructions to try it out with your co-op or big family. (source)

Lesson 3:

Activity 1: Discover Romero Britto. Ready to meet another Brazilian artist? Romero Britto is known for being all about neo-pop. Learn more about pop art in this video

Growing up in modest surroundings, Britto is said to be inspired by other path-breaking artists like Picasso and Matisse. The artist has an exuberant personality, and his paintings reflect this. They may appear as a child’s drawing at first glance, but look closer and you can see the rich detail, the many patterns, and different shades of color. It’s not just the tone of the painting—even his subjects can be quite whimsical! Take a look at his Mona Cat painting:


Learn more about the artist in this video. Finally, take an art lesson inspired by Britto here. (We recommend trying idea #1.)

Activity 2: There are hundreds of birds living in Brazil. We learned about the hummingbird in Week 2, but now let’s learn about more feathered friends. Start by looking at this webpage and this one to see some of the famous Brazilian birds.

Let’s do a research project and create a lapbook collecting our pictures and data. Once your child has chosen the bird they would like to learn more about, use the internet and books to learn more about the animal. (This activity might require a library trip, and/or you may have books in your home library or books from Week 2 about the Amazon that could help your research.) Your lapbook can include pictures of the bird and facts about its habitat, diet, and life cycle. 

New to lapbooking? For details on how to make a lapbook, read our blog post about it here.

Activity 3: One of the birds of Brazil is the Guira Cuckoo. It is found in southern Brazil and some of the surrounding countries. Unlike other cuckoo species, the Guira Cuckoo feed their own baby birds instead of depending on other bird species to do the job. Females within the group often share a communal nest where they lay and incubate their eggs, sharing responsibilities. However, this “communal” nature isn’t always positive. When there is competition between the parents, and it isn’t uncommon for a parent to favor their own eggs or chicks by tossing others out of the nest. This means a high mortality rate, with only a quarter surviving to become fledglings. It also makes the communal nest site easy to identify due to the number of broken or abandoned eggs on the ground below it.

The cuckoo’s nest is typically built on a tree fork 2 to 5 meters above the ground, and it may contain around 20 eggs. The eggs are dark green color, but covered with a chalky-white outer layer. Incubation takes 13-15 days, with another 10 days to reach the fledgling stage. The juveniles leave the nest before they can properly fly but will remain close by under the care of their parents for a short while afterwards. (source)

Click this link to see pictures of this cuckoo bird. Then listen to their sounds in this video. Finally, let’s complete our bird fun with this bird nest craft

Lesson 4:

Activity 1: Learning about different countries and the people who live there help us to see all the things we have in common in addition to the things that are different about our cultures and our families. Today, we will read two stories about two different children living in Brazil. They have some things in common, but they also have many differences. 

Begin with the book Cassio’s Day: From Dawn to Dusk (or read it here on OpenLibrary) to learn about a young boy’s country life in the state of Minas Gerais. Next, read the book From My Window (or you can listen to this read aloud) to learn about a different family living in the favelas of Rio de Janiero.

Let’s compare and contrast these two children’s homes and lives. Besides the text, also focus on the illustrations. What do they have in common? What is different? Create a Venn Diagram to list the comparisons.

Activity 2: Visiting Brazil wouldn’t be complete without traveling to one of the many gorgeous beaches. Click here to learn the names and see the shores of some of the most beautiful of Brazil’s beaches. But traveling from place to place isn’t as easy as you might think. Let’s not forget that Brazil is huge! And there’s a big rainforest in most of the middle of the country! Visit this travel guide website to learn the different modes of transportation around the country. 

After a long month of study, your student can probably organize their own custom trip. So, let’s plan it! Choose five different places in Brazil to visit. Find these locations on a map and find transportation to get you from one destination to another. Decide which is the most affordable, safest way to get around. Create a travel brochure highlighting the five destinations as a package tour. Happy travels!

Activity 3: The majority of the 214 million people living in Brazil live along the coast in big cities. The vast rainforest has not been hospitable to human occupation until recently. The Trans-Amazonian Highway was a huge venture that tried to achieve that goal. The highway is a 3,400 mile long highway that bisects the Amazon rainforest, opening up land for trade, cultivation, and homes for people, lessening the city’s crowds. (source

Some people, especially those interested in protecting the environment, believe that the highway was an economic and social failure, creating long-term environmental costs. After the construction of the Trans-Amazonian Highway, Brazilian deforestation accelerated to levels never before seen, and vast swaths of forest were cleared for subsistence farmers and cattle-ranching. (source)

Click this link to see a short video about the highway. Next, watch this news report about the deforestation happening in the Amazon. (Pause the news report to discuss the issues being discussed as needed. Topics like deforestation, economic growth, and preservation are all important issues raised in this report. Critical thinking skills will be sharpened as you discuss the balance between the needs of the people, environmental concerns, and other highly debated issues.) 

But it’s not just grownups protecting the environment—there are also children around the world that have made a big difference. Read the book Old Enough to Save the Planet to learn about them and their efforts. 

We might not be able to go to the Amazon and defend the forest, but we can have an impact on our planet in big and little ways. The effect that we have on the environment and the planet is also called our carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. (source) While we all do things that negatively impact the environment at times, we can also work to balance out these actions with things that positively affect the planet. Let’s identify some of the actions we take that negatively and positively affect our carbon footprint with a carbon footprint poster craft. 

Start with a large piece of cardstock or poster board. Use an inkpad or paint to have your child create a footprint in the middle of the paper. Next, have them write “My Carbon Footprint” across the top. On the left side of the paper, have them write a list of things they do (or your family does) that contribute to the creation of excess greenhouse gases. Some examples might be:

  • Driving a car – burning fuel (gasoline)
  • Flying in a plane – burning fuel (jet fuel)
  • Wasting energy in the house – burning fuel (natural gas/coal/nuclear energy)
  • Buying imported food – food that travels great distances burns fuel (gasoline/jet fuel)
  • Buying non-organic food – pesticide production and transportation burn fuel
  • Using inefficient lights – burning fuel (natural gas/coal/nuclear energy)
  • Wasting water at home – cleaning water uses fuel (natural gas/coal/nuclear energy)

On the right side of the footprint, create a list of the things you do that help offset greenhouse gas emissions. Some examples might be:

  • Carpooling
  • Turning off the lights when you leave a room
  • Not wasting water/using energy efficient appliances
  • Biking or walking when you can
  • Recycling and reusing paper
  • Turning off the computer when it isn’t being used
  • Not wasting food and eating locally and in season
  • Composting 

After creating both sides of your poster, discuss the impact your family is having. Are there ways you could shorten your left side list and lengthen your right side list? You may also wish to create a family goal that you write on the bottom of the poster.

Curious about your family’s actual impact? This calculator can help you learn more.

***For more lessons on this topic or if working with younger children in the family review Level 2+: Recycling + Conservation unit study!

Lesson 5:

For our last day of Brazil, we’ll explore a bit more food history.

Activity 1: In our book Cassio’s Day: From Dawn to Dusk that we read earlier this week, we watched a family prepare cheese bread, or pão de queijo, as they say in Portuguese. 

Made with tapioca (cassava) flour so it is totally gluten-free, these little puffs are crispy on the outside, squidgy on the inside, and filled with cheesy flavor. They can be sold in packets with mini cheese balls inside or as great balls the size of large oranges.

Let’s make this recipe. The instructions and ingredients are listed in the description of the video.

Activity 2: This recipe includes a special ingredient: tapioca flour. But what is tapioca? Tapioca flour is derived from the starchy vegetable called cassava root. The root is finely shredded, washed, and dehydrated. The dried pulp is then ground into a flour. It is a popular ingredient for recipes that do not contain gluten because it helps to improve the structure and texture of baked goods without wheat flour. (source)

Cassava is indigenous to Brazil and is cultivated in most tropical parts of the Americas. After the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese, the crop spread all over the tropical world, especially in Africa, where it is now an important everyday staple, providing up to half of all calories consumed. (source) Cassava is a nutty-flavored, starchy root vegetable or tuber. It’s grown in tropical regions around the world because of its ability to withstand difficult growing conditions. In fact, it’s one of the most drought-tolerant crops. Although both sweet and bitter varieties of cassava are available, sweet cassava is more common in the United States, where it’s often referred to as yuca, manioc, or Brazilian arrowroot. It’s important to note is that you must cook cassava root before eating it, as it can be poisonous if consumed raw.(source)

There is an Amazonian folktale told of a daughter of an indigenous Tupi chief who became pregnant out of wedlock. That night in a dream, a man dressed like a warrior appeared to the enraged chief and told him that his daughter was going to bear a great gift for his people. In time, she gave birth to a baby girl whose hair and skin were as white as the moon. Tribes from far and wide came to visit the unusual, beautiful newborn named Mani. At the end of a year, the child died unexpectedly without showing any signs of illness. She was buried inside her oca (which means “house” in the Tupi-Guarani language), and her mother watered the grave every day, as was the custom of her tribe.

Soon, a strange plant began to grow upon her grave. When the people opened it, they found a white root instead of the child’s body. The root saved them from famine and became a staple food that they named manioca, or “house of Mani.”(source)

Virtually visit a Brazilian market to see it up close.

Activity 3: Prepare Brazilian yuca fries. (Recipe in the description.)

***Post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting our small business!***

Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.