Ready to hit the Mediterranean? In this week’s country-based unit study, we’ll explore the ancient and modern civilization of Greece, examine how stories, discoveries, and culture from so long ago still impact our lives today. We’ll also tackle STEM projects, crafts, and gross motor movement activities that will keep your little learner engaged in a fun, play-based way. Ready to learn? Click here to download your weekly tracker!
Note: Occasionally we include project modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the minus (-) symbol.
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
- If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient Greece by Carole P. Roman
- Greek Myths for Young Children by Heather Amery (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
- Archimedes: The Man Who Invented the Death Ray by Shoo Rayner
- This is Greece by Miroslav Sasek
Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):
- paper + access to a printer (don’t have one? we like this model)
- clay tools (or you can use skewers, toothpicks, chopsticks, plastic silverware, or other materials you might already own)
- bamboo skewers
- glue or tape
- cardstock or thin cardboard (like an old cereal box)
- air-dry clay
- yarn (optional)
- paint (optional)
- large ribbon (or something similar)
- large paper grocery bag
- black permanent marker
- a piece of PVC pipe (1.5 inch diameter pipe, about 14 inches long, or you can use an empty chip tube)
- clear plastic tubing (1/4 inch inside diameter)
- clear packing tape
- food coloring
- ingredients for this recipe
- tape measure
- green felt
- thin fabric-wrapped headband
- hot glue gun + glue
- laminator + laminator sheets (optional, but recommended for repeating lessons)
- dry erase markers (if laminating)
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!
New to our phonics guide? Start here. The Phonics Guide this week will highlight the rules around the letter G—perfect for our Greece Unit!
Let’s start our week with an introduction to Greece and its ancient roots. Start by finding Greece on a world map, in an atlas, or on a globe. Use this as a chance to review the continents and help your child figure out which continent Greece is on. Next, read If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient Greece. This book migth be a little long for some children, so read as much asyour child is interested in reading. There are sections of the book (like the part about the Olympics) that you can save for later in the week.
Activity 1: Let’s review some terms from ancient Greece that we’ll discuss in more depth throughout the week. Print two copies of these definition cards and have your child play a game of memory with them. When your child finds a match, read them the information on the card.
Activity 2: The Acropolis is one of the most famous archaeological sites of Greece. Take a virtual tour here. Now, let’s make our own Parthenon with this simple craft. (Want to know the difference between Acropolis and Parthenon? This article will help.)
Activity 3: Do you know why the Parthenon has been able to survive for so long? Part of the reason is because of the columns. Let’s do this STEM project to learn why columns are so strong.
Activity 4: Let’s look a little closer at the Parthenon’s design to set up our next math activity. Look at this photo. Do you see the three decorative embellishments above and between the columns along the top piece of the structure? They look like mini columns. We have highlighted them in this picture. Print it for your child and use the mini columns to practice counting by threes. How many groups of threes can they count? What is the total number of mini columns? Point out how two groups of 3 make 6, three groups of 3 make 9, etc. Learning to count by threes will help to create a foundation your child will use when they start doing more multiplication.
Some of the most famous stories in the world have come from Greek myths. The book Greek Myths for Young Children contains overviews of a variety of these myths. We encourage you to read some of them throughout the week—you might be surprised to see how much of our modern-day terminology and many expressions are rooted in these ancient stories! For our lessons today, let’s focus on pages 88-92 to learn about Odysseus and The Wooden Horse.
Activity 1: Let’s make our own Trojan horse with this tutorial.
Activity 2: This story was written by an author known as Homer. Homer was a famous poet who is credited with writing some of the world’s most famous stories, like The Odyssey and The Iliad. There is actually very little known about the author—some people think Homer may have been a group of people, some think he was actually a woman, some think he may have been a captive, and others think he was blind. (source) This post shows a sculpture of what some people think he may have looked like, but no one really knows. What is known is that this ancient poet wrote some of the world’s most famous stories, including the Trojan War, which is what today’s story is based on.
Let’s pretend to be poets like Homer and write a poem of our own! Homer’s epic poems did not follow a rhyming scheme, but for our purposes, let’s write a rhyming poem. Help your child come up with the first line of their poem and scribe it for them. (It can be about anything—the sillier the better!) Then, brainstorm a list of words that rhyme with the last word of their verse. Use this list to write another line or two. (You’re a poet and you didn’t even know it!) Use the poem as copywork and have your child write as much of it as they want to.
Activity 3: Greek gods and myths also heavily influenced entertainment in ancient Greece, particularly in the invention of theater as we know it today. This article shares more information about Greek theater. You can share the information with your child, or just highlight these main points:
- Theater as we know it originated in Athens, Greece. Attending the theatre was very much a communal and civic event. Audiences were large—up to 15,000 each day—and were made up of important individuals such as the priests of Dionysos and members of the Athenian government (who had front-row seats), ordinary Athenian citizens, resident and other foreigners, perhaps women, and possibly even children and some slaves. You can see pictures of an ancient theater here.
- The actual theatre masks were made from stiffened linen, so they have not survived to our day. What we do have are representations of the masks made from clay.
- The types of masks used helped the audience to know if the play was a comedy (which often had grotesque grins and animated expressions) or a tragedy (which was usually marked by calm serious, or pained expressions).
- The masks made it easier for fewer actors to depict a variety of people (this was especially important because only men could be actors, so with masks they could also play the parts of women), and some experts believe they also amplified the actors’ voices so they could be heard at the back of the open-air theatres.
- In ancient Greece, theatre was also connected to the god Dionysos, who was the god of wine and often depicted with an ever-changing personality. As a result, many plays were performed during the three annual festivals of Dionysos, and many of the masks are also thought to be in homage to him.
You can show your child what a real Greek theatre mask looks like here. Next, let’s make some clay Greek theatre masks of our own using this tutorial.
(+) Put on your own play at home. Read this article for tips.
Activity 4: What did the people wear in ancient Greece? Take a closer look at the himation, which was a garment worn by both men and women. (source) Read a few more details about it here . Now let’s play dress up! Make your own Greek costume with a sheet using this tutorial or this one.
Let’s learn more about Greek culture, including taking a look at the pottery, learning more about a brilliant man who made some amazing discoveries, and trying some cuisine! You may also want to review the pages about diet in the If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient Greece book.
Activity 1: Much of what we know about life in ancient Greece has actually been learned from their pottery. That’s because their pottery was often decorated with depictions of their popular myths and early Mediterranean life. This article shares more about how the pottery was made and decorated, and also has several pictures of Greek pottery you can show your child. Next, encourage your child to tell their own story through art with this paper bag “pottery” craft.
Activity 2: Many incredible STEM discoveries originated in Greece, and a man named Archimedes was responsible for several of them. Let’s read Archimedes: The Man Who Invented the Death Ray to learn about some of his incredible contributions that continue to impact life today. Then, let’s make our own screw pump with this tutorial. (Note: If you don’t have PVC pipe handy, you could also use an empty Pringles can!)
Activity 3: Let’s end today with a Greek treat! The best part of making these simple cookies (called Koulourakia,) is forming the twist, braids, and shapes before you bake. Look at the photo in the post for a variety of ways to twist them, and then let your child put their fine motor skills to work making the shapes they like best.
Let the games begin! Did you know the Olympic games originated in ancient Greece? This article tells us more about the origins of these famous games. Read the paragraphs at the top to your child, and then click on some of the athlete illustrations to learn about a few of the games. You can also review the pages about the Olympics in the If You Were Me book.
Activity 1: The Olympic games were designed to honor Zeus, the king of all the Greek gods. Let’s get a quick primer of the stories behind the gods and goddess of Mount Olympus with this Greek gods bingo game.
(+) If your child is interested in more of the back stories of the Greek gods and goddesses, this page provides more information about them.
Activity 2: Let’s have some games of our own! Here are a few ideas to try—pick the ones your child thinks sound like the most fun, or do them all!
- Discus: The real discus was a stone or metal flat disc that competitors had to throw as far as they could. For our version, use a frisbee and see how far your child can throw it in three tries.
- Running: Running was the first event to be included in the Olympic Games. Athletes ran up and down a 192 meter track in the stadium. The Hoplitodromos was a running event where competitors ran in armor carrying heavy shields. Have your own Hoplitodromos by giving your child a bucket or a backpack filled with toys (or some other heavy object to carry) and having them run a course you lay out.
- Long jump: The ancient long jump was very different from the one we have today. There was no runup and jumpers propelled themselves by swinging weights called halteres in their arms. Create a line on the ground with chalk or masking tape and have your child try to jump as far as they can from that spot. Use a tape measure or a yardstick to measure their jumps!
Activity 3: Declare your child the winner of your at-home Greek Olympics! The winner of an event wasn’t given a gold, silver, or bronze medal like they are in the Olympics today. instead, they received a wreath of leaves. Let’s make our own (and work those fine motor skills!) using this simple tutorial.
While Greece has ancient roots, make sure your child knows it is still a country today! Today, let’s learn a bit about life in modern-day Greece. Start by reading This is Greece. Next, watch this family’s trip to Greece with two young children.
Activity 1: This is what the Greek flag looks like today. Print this coloring sheet and let your child color it in while sharing these details about the meaning of the flag:
- The colors blue and white symbolize dedication to the Greek Orthodox faith, which is a form of Christianity. (Interestingly, the word ‘Orthodox’ takes its meaning from the Greek words orthos (‘right’) and doxa (‘belief’).)
- The flag is actually a combination of two flags: one for land and one for sea.
- On land, the flag was blue with a white cross, symbolizing “the wisdom of God, freedom and country.” At sea, the flag had five blue and four white horizontal stripes, interpreted as referring to the nine syllables in the battle cry of independence, translated as “Freedom or death.”
Activity 2: The primary language spoken in Greece is Greek! Let’s learn how to say a few Greek words in this video.
(+) Greek even has it’s own alphabet! Print this page and laminate if possible. Then, let your child use dry erase markers to practice tracing over the letters. If they really get the hang of it, see if they can write a “secret” message in Greek to you or another family member.
Activity 3: Music and dance are very important in Greek culture—in fact, the word “music” is actually derived from the Greek word mousiké, meaning “art of the Muses.”
In Greek mythology, the nine Muses were the goddesses who inspired literature, science, and the arts and who were the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, song-lyrics, and myths in the Greek culture. The traditional names and specialties of the nine Muses are: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (love poetry, lyric art), Euterpe (music, especially flute), Melpomene (tragedy), Polymnia (hymns), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), Urania (astronomy). (source)
Music and dance are especially important in Greek celebrations, like weddings! Watch this video to learn how to do a traditional Greek wedding dance called the Hasapiko.
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