Ancient Greece Unit Study: Week 1

There is so much to examine in Greek history—get ready for an exciting month with your child! This month’s writing projects will be focused on journaling. Lessons this week will include learning about ancient maps, Greek myths and historical timelines. Ancient history will come alive with art projects, fashion shows and an exciting STEM project. Download our skills and books tracker for your records and let’s begin!

What you need:

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

Optional additional reading:

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

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

Spartan scytale cipher:

  • 1 long cardboard cylinder, like the inside of aluminum foil roll or paper towel roll
  • strip of paper

Greek figure notebook project:

Trojan horse model:

You can purchase this kit or build your own with these materials:

Labyrinth craft:

Greek himation costume:

Greek toy costume:

Optional coloring book activity:

Mosaic coasters:

Archimedes’ water screw:

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:

Welcome to Greece! This beautiful country boasts delicious food, gorgeous countryside, pristine beaches, famous mountain tops, and a long history. Let’s start by finding modern-day Greece on a map. Using an atlas, a globe or Google Earth, find Greece on the European continent.

Now let’s do some geography review while we have the map open. Review the seven continents, the hemispheres, latitude and longitude, as well as other geographic labels.  If needed, watch this video for a quick geography lesson. While we are discussing geography, let’s talk about landforms. Greece is part of mainland Europe, but it also has many islands—6,000 to be exact! (But only 170 of them are inhabited.) The largest of those islands is Crete. Click here for a slideshow of Greece today.

Activity 1: Read + Discover. Let’s dive into early Greek history! Read pages 154-155 of Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. Ancient Greece was a collection of several city-states. Click here for a brief video overview and a map. (Watch the second video called Greek City-State.) As you watch the video, take note of the differences and similarities of the city-states. For example, they had religion and language in common, but each had their own form of government. Also take note of the different names of the city-states.

There grew to be over 1,000 city-states in ancient Greece, but the main poleis (or city-states) were Athína (Athens), Spárti (Sparta), Kórinthos (Corinth), Thíva (Thebes), Siracusa (Syracuse), Égina (Aegina), Ródos (Rhodes), Árgos, Erétria, and Elis. Each city-state ruled itself. (source)

Activity 2: Watch this TED Talk for a video introduction to the warriors of Sparta. Next, read Ancient Greece for Kids: Leonidas to learn about the famous battle of the 300. Finally, create a Spartan scytale cipher with this tutorial.

Activity 3: Writing. Since we will be learning a lot about real people in this unit, let’s write a journal entry about each of them. (If your child doesn’t like this idea, give them the second choice.) 

  • We will be learning about several famous Greek people this month. Start a writing journal where you will write a little about each of them. Begin by finding a photo of the person online or photocopying the picture from the book Ancient Greece for Kids. Attach the picture to a notebook or lined paper. Directions for your child: Write the name of the individual you are writing about. (For our first entry, write about Leonidas.) Include details you found interesting or important about him. What was his impact on Greek history? Ask your family if they had ever heard of him or the 300? Do people seem to still know who he is today? If you had the ability to meet him in person, what would you want to know about him or ask him?
  • Looking for a different writing topic? After watching the video in Activity 2 about the way Spartan children were raised, you probably had a lot to say! Write a paragraph detailing your opinion. What do you think it would be like to be a Spartan child? Write your opinion about being separated from your parents at seven years old, learning to fight, and being encouraged to be a bully. Do you think this was a good way to raise a whole society of children?

Activity 4: Timeline project. Fill out this this timeline printable all month long as you learn about new people and events.

Bonus activity: Explore the British museum’s interactive website to learn more about ancient Greece. (You can even schedule virtual tours!)

Lesson 2:

Get ready to discover the fables and myths of early Greek history! Some of the best known stories come from these early times, so don’t be surprised if many of them sound familiar. Let’s learn about two of the most famous ones.

Activity 1: Read + Discuss Ancient Greece for Kids: Homer. Homer was a famous poet, and his works are known around the globe. We’ll talk about his stories in the upcoming activity. But first, let’s take a detour and look at the beautiful art on the pages in the book. These pictures are all created by different artists, but what do you notice they have in common? What can you learn about the Greek people by looking at this art?

Activity 2: One of the stories Homer is most famous for is a story of the Trojan horse. Read about this story in the book Mythology. (The book does not have numbered pages, but look for the story on the page with the heading “The War Against Troy.”) Alternatively, you can read a version of the story here, or you can watch a video version of it here.

Next, let’s build the Trojan horse with this craft. Print this horse craft template on stiff brown cardstock. Use a toilet paper roll to build the structure as the instructions detail. We wrapped our roll with brown construction paper. Once your horse is complete, cut a door in the bottom to create a secret compartment in the horse. Hot glue crafting sticks on the door and on the legs to make it sturdier and more like a real wooden horse. Here’s an example for inspiration:

Alternatively, you can buy this kit from Rainbow Resource. If you want more of a building project and less arts and crafts, this kit might work best for your child.

Activity 3: Writing. Add Homer to your writing journal. Begin by finding a photo of Homer online or photocopying the picture from the book Ancient Greece for Kids. Attach the picture to the top of a notebook or lined paper. Create a page for Homer similar to the one we did for Leonidas. Have your child include details they found important or interesting. What did you think of his stories? What was his impact on history? Ask your family if they had ever heard of him or his stories and legends? Do people seem to still know who he is today? If you had the ability to meet him in person, what would you want to know about him or ask him?

If your child is doing alternate writing prompts, have them write a creative piece about what it would be like to be a soldier hidden in the Trojan horse. Encourage them to describe the sights, smells, and sounds from within the hidden compartment. How is their character feeling about the attack? They can also write their piece as if it were the soldier’s journal entry.

Activity 4: Read the story “The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur” in Mythology. Alternatively, you can listen to the story here. Next, make this Labyrinth craft

Lesson 3:

Today, we’ll learn more about the Classical Period of Greece.

Activity 1: Read + Discuss. What do you know about life in ancient Greece? Read pages 156-157 of Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and take note of the types of homes they built and the clothes they wore.

Activity 2: 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. If you are planning a museum trip this month, pay attention to the clothes you see on the statues and depicted on the urns and vases. 

Now let’s play dress up! Make your own Greek costume with a bedsheet. Try this version or this version. 

Activity 3: Let’s dress up some toys. Make clothes for a Ken doll or an action figure, or print these paper doll cutouts on cardstock to play with.

Does your child love to color while they listen to you read? Then this coloring book might be perfect for you. They can learn about Greek fashions while listening to a read aloud.

Activity 4: In early Greek history, floors in homes were made of clay and were pounded smooth with bits of broken pottery pushed into them. This not only made the surface flat to walk on but also beautiful. They also did this on the walls. These tiles were called tesserae, and they made mosaic designs. Let’s use this as inspiration to make our own mosaic craft.

Lesson 4:

Have you heard the expression, “Eureka! I found it!” Let’s meet the man who made those words famous. Archimedes was a Greek mathematician, inventor, engineer, and astronomer who lived from 287-212 B.C.  Read about him in the book, Ancient Greece for Kids.

Activity 1: Read Archimedes: the Man Who Invented the Death Ray by Shoo Rayner, pages 12-15. Then, we will conduct a science experiment to prove water displacement. (If you are a LEGO family, you might enjoy this version.) Before or during the experiment, review this vocabulary:

  • Displacement: the moving of something from its place or position.
  • Volume: the amount of space that a substance or object occupies, or that is enclosed within a container.

Additional reading: If you have an older child that is looking for more on this subject, read Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bencick.

Activity 2: Archimedes’ discovery might have inspired the story The Crow and The Pitcher by Aesop. Read the story here. What do you think? Was that a smart bird? The storyteller behind this story was a Greek man who wrote many other stories that you have probably heard before. Read about Aesop in the Ancient Greece for Kids book.

Activity 3: Writing. Add Archimedes and/or Aesop to your journal of Greek people.

If your child is looking for an alternative writing prompt, encourage them to read through some of Archimedes’ other discoveries in Archimedes: The Man Who Invented the Death Ray (or simply research a few others if you don’t have the book). Have them pick their favorite one and write a short story like The Crow and the Pitcher inspired by that discovery.

Activity 4: If you just can’t get enough of Archimedes, try building this model of the Archimedes’ screw. This is an example of a simple machine. The blogger gives a brief explanation, but if you want to know a bit more about this, read pages 8-11 of Archimedes: The Man Who Invented the Death Ray.

Lesson 5:

Another interesting thing that came out of Greek history? Asparagus! Let’s learn more about it with today’s food lesson.

Activity 1: Read about the history of asparagus here. Next, let’s prepare this delicious roasted asparagus salad recipe. First, though, let’s work on the math application in the next activity.

Activity 2: Math application. Let’s work on estimation! Asparagus have rough, fibrous ends, and most recipes will instruct you to break them off before cooking. (Here’s a video to learn how to do it.) To start this activity, measure your whole piece of asparagus with a ruler. Feel the vegetable gently with your fingers and break off the rough bottom. Estimate how much you broke off. Then, measure the broken piece to check your estimation. Do the same think for each stalk. How did you do? Did you get more accurate in your estimations the more you cut and measured?

Activity 3: Science application. Did you know that asparagus makes your pee smell bad? (We know, it’s gross! But we think your kids will enjoy this—and it just might get them to eat their asparagus.) Read this article to learn about why it happens. Now, there’s only one way to test this theory: Eat the asparagus recipe in Activity 1 and see how your pee smells later today!

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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.

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