England Unit: Week 4

If there was a way to transport ourselves to England this week, we would! All week, we will be learning about 20th century England, including the architecture, the monarchy and parliament, the natural beauty, and favorite places tourists love to visit! We will take a virtual tour and learn to plan vacations, and we’ll learn more about our favorite English authors and taste some delicious fruit preserves. Click here to download your skills tracker for the week, and then get ready for our “travels!”

Note: Although the majority of our unit will focus on England, we will select a few lessons about other countries within the United Kingdom.

What you need:

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

Pick one of the following books for Week 4, Lesson 4, Activity 2.

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.

Types of government game:

Poke-a-Bag polymer experiment:

Bouncy ball polymer experiment:

Gumdrops polymer experiment:

Timepiece craft:

Travel brochure activity:

Circle measurement activity:

Drawbridge STEM unit:

Landform Go Fish! game:

Jam recipe:

  • 100g raspberries
  • 125g jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)
  • ½-1 teaspoon of lemon juice 

Spicy tomato chutney recipe:

Biscuit recipe:

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

Read the book This is Britain all week long as you tour the country learn about new places in the UK.

Activity 1: The British monarchy today is very different than the kings and the queens of the past. Read about its role today on their official website. As you read on the post, the monarchy doesn’t have political power in many ways but is still the head of state, even if it’s just in a ceremonial way. Does that sound strange that a king or queen would be the head of state but not be involved in ruling that nation?

This is a real debate in the UK and in the commonwealth (the countries that still view the Monarchy as their head of State)! Either read (-) this article or this article or (+) listen to this podcast to learn about the debate between whether there should or should not be a monarchy in the UK. Listen to (or read) the debate and take notes about the two positions, listing the pros and cons of a constitutional monarchy. After hearing both sides of the debate, what do you think? Should there be a constitutional monarchy or a democratic society in the UK and the commonwealth? Write or record a response explaining your decision.

You can watch this news broadcast that was made early in 2022 during the previous sovereign’s (Queen Elizabeth II) Jubilee. (Start the video at 2:04.) Now that Queen Elizabeth II has died, the sovereign today is King Charles III. Read about him here.

If you live in Canada, you are also part of this monarchy. There is also a debate about this issue there. Watch this video to see how the monarchy heads the state in Canada, how it affects the way people are governed, and to listen to someone who supports it and someone who is against it. 

Activity 2: How does the British government work today? Let’s break down the British government. The UK is a parliamentary democracy and is run by the prime minister. Anyone over the age of 18 can vote for elected officials. (source)

The prime minister is the leader of His Majesty’s Government and is ultimately responsible for all policy and decisions. The prime minister also:

  • oversees the operation of the civil service and government agencies
  • appoints members of the government
  • is the principal government figure in the House of Commons

Do a little research and find out who is the PM today.

The Cabinet is made up of the senior members of government. Every week during Parliament, members of the Cabinet (Secretaries of State from all departments and some other ministers) meet to discuss the most important issues for the government.

Watch this video to learn all parts of the British government.

Next, let’s learn the differences between types of modern day governments with this activity.

Activity 3: Discover currency. We all use paper money, but where did the concept of money come from? Let’s do a brief money history lesson by watching this video. Next, watch this video to learn all the coins and banknotes of British currency.

British currency is printed in a very unique way. There are actually several layers to the bills with the main “paper” being made of polymer, a thin flexible plastic instead of paper. (source) Read the article and watch the video in this link to learn about polymer money.

Let’s take a science detour to learn more about polymers! 

Polymers are really big molecules that are made when lots of other molecules stick together in a pattern that repeats. Fun fact: The word polymer is Greek, and it means ‘many parts.’ 

The smaller molecules that join together are called monomers. Imagine a monomer as a paperclip—link a bunch of paper clips together in a chain, and you have a polymer! 

Some polymers are found in nature, like cellulose or starch. Other polymers are made in laboratories, like plastics or polyester fibers used to make clothes!

Let’s start by watching this video or (+) this video. Do this series of experiments to understand how polymers are made and how they work. (The last one is edible!)

Lesson 2:

Clocks have played a considerable role in British history—and even in architecture today! We’ll explore this more in today’s activities.

Activity 1: The history of clocks. When you think about timepieces, do you think about the clock in your home, a watch, a sundial, or a clock tower? Watch this video made by the British Museum all about the history of time pieces starting from the sun dial all the way to the atomic clocks that are used today.

Watches were developed later than clocks. This is because a weight and a crude escapement were suitable in clocks but could not be used in a portable watch. The first portable timekeeper or watch was produced during the Renaissance.

The English physicist Robert Hooke, who introduced the basic pendulum and escapement mechanisms in clocks in the 1660s, applied the same idea to watches. He attached a small balance unit to the mainspring unit. A balance spring, or hairspring, was used to control the oscillations of the balance unit. This design formed the basis for all subsequent mechanical watches. (source) The problem with all of these timekeepers is that they were not very precise. Some of the original watches lost a minute a day. So every day the watch needed to be reset using a sundial. Obviously, something better was needed.

The need for safe nautical travel in the 1700s is what inspired the need for a reliable clock. Ships were trying to travel farther, and they were crashing and sinking. England decided to ask the public for help. They passed the Longitude Act, which said that the government was willing to pay the Longitude Prize (20,000 pounds) to anyone who could make it safer to travel at sea. (source)

That’s where John Harrison comes into the picture. Read this article to learn about John Harrison, a famous English clockmaker who solved the longitude problem. (+) Watch this BBC mini documentary, starting at about 20:10, to see what happened to Harrison and what his invention has to do with GPS and our navigation today.

(+) Take a virtual tour of the British Museum clocks and watches exhibit here.

Watches and clocks have also made their way into art. David Shrigley is a contemporary British artist whose work is humorous and often satirizes everyday life and awkward interactions. Here’s how he describes his work: “It’s not the kind of drawing where you’re trying to get their eyes in the right place, you’re just trying to tell somebody something as directly as possible. It’s somewhere between handwriting and drawing. But then again there are also certain rules to what I do, like I’m not allowed to re-draw or anything and it just is what it is.” 

Born on September 17, 1968 in Macclesfield, United Kingdom, Shrigley went on to study environmental art at the Glasgow School of Art. Today, his works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, among others. He lives and works in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (source)

David Shrigley Untitled (What Time Is It?) (2004). Courtesy of artimage.org.uk

In the above black and white drawing from 2004, Shrigley depicts a hands-free clock face with the text: “Q. What Time Is It? A. I Don’t Know.”

What do you think the artist is trying to say in this piece? What do you think the artist is telling us in this piece? What does it mean?

“People project their own feelings onto the work,” said Shrigley. (source) So, there’s no right answer. You get to decide what it means!

Now let’s create your own art collage inspired by timepieces. Find a time piece in your home or in our lesson today that inspires you. Create a multimedia collage inspired by the clock and also representative of you, something you enjoy, or a message you want to give. Your picture should in some way tell us about time and you the artist—but it doesn’t actually have to look like a clock in the end.

Not sure what we mean? Here are a few examples to inspire you:

Activity 2: There are some famous clocks around London. The oldest known mechanical clock is in Salisbury Cathedral. You can see it here. The video will explain the weights and the gears used to make this clock work. It doesn’t really look like a clock because there is no face to it—it is the mechanism that would ring the church bell.

Next, learn about one of the most famous clocks in the world in this video. Meet Elizabeth Tower, also known as Big Ben.

Let’s use Google Earth to find the following famous timepieces:

  • Salisbury Cathedral
  • Big Ben
  • The Wells Cathedral – One of the highlights of the cathedral is the astronomical Wells Cathedral Clock, which is currently the world’s oldest working clock with a dial. It’s also the second oldest clock in England. (source)
  • Royal Liver Building – Atop each tower stand the mythical Liver Birds, designed by Carl Bernard Bartels. Popular legend has it that while one giant bird looks out over the city to protect its people, the other bird looks out to sea at the new sailors coming into port. Another interesting story is that the Liver Birds face in different directions because one is male, looking inland to see if the pubs are open, whilst the other is female, looking out to sea to see if there are any handsome sailors coming up the river! It is also often said that if one of the birds were to fly away, the city of Liverpool would cease to exist. (source)

Make a tourist brochure that includes details about each of these clocks. Include pictures you have printed and cut out and any interesting facts. 

Activity 3: Reading an analog clock is tricky. Is your child learning to tell time or do they need a little practice? Try this online activity. This link also helps practice the different ways of saying the time, like “half past the hour.”

If you would prefer to work offline or need to practice this skill in real life, use this analog clock activity to practice telling time. Ask your child to create a daily diary of their activities, writing down the time as they track their daily schedule.

Lesson 3:

Let’s explore some major landmarks in London.

Activity 1: Discover the London Eye. There are some awesome places to visit in London, and the London Eye is one of the most visited paid attractions in the city. 

At 443 feet high, the London Eye is currently the fourth-largest Ferris wheel in the world, but it doesn’t even crack the top 20 tallest structures in London itself. (For the record, the tallest building is in the city is the Shard, topping out at 1,004 feet high.) Fun fact: The circumference of the wheel is 1,392 feet, so if it weren’t a wheel, it would actually be taller than the Shard. To learn how long it takes to ride, who designed it, and more interesting facts about it, read this article on Conde Nast

Technically, the London Eye is not a Ferris wheel—it is a cantilevered observation wheel built on an A-frame. It is only supported on one side of the wheel. Ferris wheels are supported on both sides! (source)

Let’s take a math detour! What is circumference, and how do we measure it? What is area, and how do we measure it? First, let’s review how to find the area of a square and a rectangle by watching this video. Next, watch this video to learn about circles and (pi) and finally this video to learn how to find the circumference and area of a circle. (These videos are your math lessons, so please watch all of them before moving on to the activity if you don’t know this information already. Some students may want the below print-out available as they listen to the videos to take notes.)

Next, print out and do this London Eye-inspired circle activity. We will review and label the parts of a circle, measure the area of a square, and find the circumference of a circle. Once you have completed the videos and the practice sheet, try finding the circumference and the area of the London Eye knowing that the diameter of the wheel is 394 feet (120m). 

Activity 2: Discover the trees of the UK.

Over the centuries, much of the forest area, especially on the lowlands, was cleared for cultivation. Today only about 9% of the total surface is wooded. Fairly extensive forests remain in east and north Scotland and in southeast England. Oak, elm, ash, and beech are the most common trees in England. Pine and birch are most common in Scotland. Almost all the lowland outside the industrial centers is farmland, with a varied semi-natural vegetation of grasses and flowering plants.” (source)

Review the information on this website to learn how to identify trees by their leaves, bark, and other characteristics. Next, using the process you have learned in this lesson, go on a nature walk in your local area and attempt to identify the trees in your local community. Collect any leaves you find and bring them home to do additional research to learn the name of each tree. (You can also download the PictureThis app to identify trees and plants you discover.)

Do you have trees in your area that can also be found in the UK? If you keep a nature journal, sketch your leaves, branches, or trees into the book along with any notes.

Activity 3: Next, let’s take a virtual tour of London. It’s about an hour long, but you will see so much of the city. (Just watch as long as your child is interested.)

Planning an international trip takes a lot of time and research. Let’s do some research of our own and start planning how to visit London in real life. Websites like this can help get you started with setting a budget. 

First, we’ll set a trip budget. Print this travel budget planner to help organize your plans. You will need to include the following items in your budget: flights, hotel stays, the cost of food, travel within the city, sightseeing costs, and miscellaneous items. List the items down on the left side of a paper, and have your child first write what they estimate these items to cost.

If you are a UK resident, pretend you are a travel agent planning this trip for a family that lives in Virginia near Washington D.C. (Thanks for planning our trip! We can’t wait to visit you!)

First, begin by researching what time of year it is best to travel to the UK. You can research weather patterns and seasons and pick prospective dates. If you are flexible, you can also choose flexible dates in your searches. Tip: This often gives you better prices.

Next, determine the cost of a flight and the call sign for your local airport. The call sign for Heathrow International Airport in London is LHR. Determine what a round trip flight from your city to London would cost using a travel website like this or this. Depending on where you are coming from, you might need to have a passport or a visa to travel to the UK. Find out what paperwork or vaccinations are necessary to enter the country.

Next, figure out hotel costs. Determine how long you will be in London and use the same travel sites suggested to find a hotel. Make sure that the hotel isn’t too far from the places you want to visit. You might also consider how close it is to public transportation. You will notice that the time of year you travel changes the cost of the same hotel. Add your actual totals to your budget sheet. (How far off were your child’s estimations? Are they surprised at how much travel costs?)

Next, think about what you want to see in London. Research entrance fees to each location. Add the totals to your budget.

Websites like this one help budget food and transportation. Add those totals to your budget. You might also want to research specific restaurants using popular sites like this one.

Once you have completed all your research, come up with totals for your entire trip. Is this budget reasonable? If the trip is too much, look for ways to lower costs. If you have extra room in your budget, look for ways to make upgrades or add extra activities. See you in London, baby! 

Lesson 4:

Activity 1: Tower Bridge in London is a drawbridge. A drawbridge is a type of movable bridge typically associated with the entrance of a castle, but the term is also used to describe modern bascule bridges and lift bridges. The most common type of drawbridge consists of a wooden platform with one fixed side (normally with a hinge), and the other side attached to the wall it is raised against by rope or chains. Pulling on the chain raises the bridge. These chains were usually operated from a floor higher than the drawbridge.

Watch the Tower Bridge in London go up and down in this video
Next, let’s build a drawbridge as your STEM challenge. This blog post will help you get started.

Activity 2: There are many popular books you might enjoy reading whose authors are from the UK. Are you a fan of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Peter Rabbit, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Learn more about the authors of those books by picking one of the following biographies to read. (Parents, after reading, offer your child the opportunity to learn about an author whose works they already love!)

Activity 3: Next, let’s visit one of the most famous natural attractions of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher! Watch this video for a virtual tour of this beautiful place.

Here are some facts about this stunning geological formation (source):

  • The Cliffs of Moher ( Irish: Aillte an Mhothair) are sea cliffs located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They run for about 14 kilometres (9 miles). At their southern end, they rise 120 metres (390 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and, 8 kilometres (5 miles) to the north, they reach their maximum height of 214 metres (702 ft, or about the height of a 7-story building) just north of O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs.
  • The cliffs take their name from an old promontory fort called Mothar or Moher, which once stood on Hag’s Head, the southernmost point of the cliffed coast, now the site of Moher Tower. 
  • The cliffs are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, drawing about one million visitors each year.
  • Today the cliffs are subject to erosion by wave action, which undermines the base of support causing the cliff to collapse under its own weight. This process creates a variety of coastal landforms characteristic of erosional coasts such as sea caves, sea stack, and sea stumps.
  • At peak season, there are an estimated 30,000 pairs of birds living on the cliffs, representing more than 20 species. These include Atlantic puffins, which live in large colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs and on the small Goat Island.
  • A wide range of sea life can also be seen, from grey seals through porpoises, dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks. On land, feral goats, foxes, badgers and the Irish hare are found, along with various breeds of farm cattle.

Cliffs are a type of landform. Landforms are the natural features and shapes existent on the face of the earth. Landforms possess many different physical characteristics and are spread out throughout the planet. Together, landforms constitute a specific terrain and their physical arrangement in the landscape forms what is termed as topography. The physical features of landforms include slope, elevation, rock exposure, stratification and rock type. (source

Let’s review some of the most common types of landforms with this Go Fish! game. (Note: There are dozens of minor landforms that we aren’t covering today. If your child is interested in learning more about this, you can find a more comprehensive list here.) Start by printing 3-4 copies of these cards onto cardstock (you can also laminate for durability). Shuffle the deck and deal each player 4-5 cards. Play Go Fish! until you’ve gone through the deck, review each landform whenever you get a match.

Lesson 5:

For our final day of England, we’ll explore some of the history of jelly, jams, and chutney.

Activity 1: History of jams and jelly. Read the excerpt below for the full story:

Jam has been made and eaten by societies throughout the centuries, from Ancient Greece, to soldiers in the Napoleonic war. The history of this sweet stuff is far more interesting than you might think, so if you want to know more about the history of jam and preserves, read on for our handy guide. 

Jam-making methods are linked to some of the earliest ways of preserving food. Preservation using honey or sugar was one common method and the Ancient Greeks also used to use honey to preserve quince. Syrups made from honey and sugar were also used to preserve food; honey has no moisture so it preserves any food encased within it.

During the Crusades (from 1095 to 1492), soldiers brought back sugar from the Middle East to Western Europe, significantly boosting jam’s popularity. It also made the process of making jam much easier and production began to take off.

The first recorded mention of sugar in England is from 1099 and it was often described as a pleasant ‘new spice’. Records from 1319 list sugar available in London for ‘two shillings per pound’ – that’s roughly £36 per pound in today’s money. Jam grew in popularity across Europe, particularly amongst soldiers and sailors.

The first marmalade is believed to have been invented in 1561 by the physician to Mary, Queen of Scots. He used crushed oranges and sugar as a remedy for her seasickness, although the earlier book by Nostradamus also includes a recipe for candied orange peel.” (source)

The goal of preserving fruit (and sometimes vegetables) has a long history. But what is the science behind it? Let’s first watch this video to get started.

Pectin is a carbohydrate found mostly in the skin and core of raw fruit. In nature, it functions as the structural “cement” that helps hold cell walls together. In solution, pectin has the ability to form a mesh that traps liquid, sets as it cools, and, in the case of jam, cradles suspended pieces of fruit.

As we saw in the video, pectin needs partners, namely acid and sugar, to do the job of gelling properly. Acid helps extract pectin from fruit during gentle simmering and helps the gelling process, which will not take place unless the mixture is fairly acidic. If fruits (such as apricots) aren’t sufficiently tart, a recipe will call for added lemon juice. Sugar enhances the strength of the gel by attracting some of the water away from the pectin. In the absence of sufficient water, pectin molecules are more likely to unite with each other. Sugar also acts as a preservative, firms the structure of the fruit, and helps the jam or jelly hold its color and flavor. (source)

Let’s make our own jam with this recipe!


  • 100g raspberries
  • 125g jam sugar (Its sugar with added pectin)
  • ½-1 teaspoon of lemon juice 


Place the raspberries in a small, deep-sided pan and crush them with a potato masher.

Add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the liquid to the boil over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Then, increase the heat and boil for 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and pass the jam through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Discard the seeds in the sieve.

Leave the jam to cool, then chill it to set.

We will use this jam for our recipe in Activity 3.

Activity 2: But what’s the difference between jams, jellies, marmalades and chutney? The difference between all of them is mostly based on how much of the physical fruit is used in the final product. (source

Jelly: the firmest and smoothest product of the bunch. Jelly is made from fruit juice, which is usually extracted from cooked, crushed fruit. (That extraction process, which involves straining the fruit mixture through a fine mesh fabric, is also what makes jelly clear.) The resulting juice is then heated with sugar, acid, and oftentimes additional powdered pectin to get that firm, gel-like texture. 

Jam: made from chopped or pureed fruit (rather than fruit juice) cooked down with sugar. Its texture is usually looser and more spoonable than jelly, with stuff like seeds or skin sometimes making an appearance (think of strawberry or blueberry jam, for example). 

Chutney: a type of jam made without any additional pectin and flavored with vinegar and various spices, often found in Indian cuisines. But since we know that the British spent a lot of time in India, chutney can also be found in the UK.

Preserves: contains the most physical fruit of the bunch—either chopped into larger pieces or preserved whole, such as with cherry or strawberry preserves. 

Marmalade: the name for preserves made with citrus since it includes the citrus rinds as well as the inner fruit and pulp.

Want to make some savory spicy tomato chutney? Here’s a video of this recipe to either watch or try to make. 

Activity 3: Are you a fan of the show The Great British Baking Show? If you have watched The Great British Baking Show and live in North America, you might notice that foods sometimes have different names. For example, biscuits in the UK are cookies in the U.S. Scones in the UK are biscuits in the US. Jam in the UK is jelly in the U.S. 

This Paul Hollywood Jammy Biscuit recipe will be a challenge for young bakers, but doable if you are a baking family. (The jam you made in activity 1 is for this recipe!) If it looks too difficult, here’s an easier version of this cookie from a home cook.

Let’s do a bake-off of our own! Ask different members of your family to bake with you and others to be judges. Or, if you are in a co-op, bake your biscuits/cookies at home and bring them to co-op for a proper bake-off!

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

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