Level 2+: Peru Unit

From a rich history or stunning mountains and fascinating rainforests, there’s something for everyone in Peru! Throughout this week-long unit, we’ll get a taste of the cultural wonders of this country while exploring geography, flora, fauna, folk tales, and a few famous native residents. Your child will have the opportunity to try their hand at some local handiworks and music, taste some Peruvian cuisine, and speak a language spoken by the Incas. Ready to get started? Click here to download our weekly skills tracker.

Note: Occasionally we include project modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings) and upgrades (for children ready for more). We’ll mark those with the minus (-) or plus (+) symbols.

What you need:

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

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

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!

Phonics Guide:

New to our phonics guide? Start here. The Phonics Guide this week will highlight the phonogram AW. You’ll have an opportunity to work on reading this phonogram in Lesson 4 this week!

Lesson 1:

Let’s begin our exploration of Peru by reading Up and Down the Andes. Next, you can watch this brief video for an overview of this beautiful country.

Activity 1: Like so many flags, the Peruvian flag is rich with the history of this beautiful country. The current state flag of Peru was officially adopted on February 25, 1825, and modified in 1950. The flag consists of three equal, vertical bands of red (hoist side), white, and red with the coat of arms centered in the white band. The coat of arms features a shield bearing a vicuna (representing fauna), a cinchona tree (the source of quinine, signifying flora), and a yellow cornucopia spilling out coins (denoting mineral wealth); red recalls blood shed for independence, white symbolizes peace. The colors are said to symbolize the Incas and their lasting impact on the country. (source)

Let’s use the rectangles of the flag to learn more about how to measure perimeter. Begin by watching this video for an introduction of what perimeter is. Next, print these sheets for the activity. On the first page, show your child the flag on the grid and explain that each box represents a unit, which we’ll say represents 1 centimeter (cm). Count how many units (cm) long and high the total flag is and use the second sheet to record your answers. Then, add the sides together to find the perimeter.
(+) If your child is ready for multiplication, you can show them a shortcut to find the perimeter of a rectangle faster with the second equation on the record sheet. Add one long side and one short side, and then multiply your answer by two.

To reinforce what we’ve learned by having your child calculate the perimeter of one of the red segments.

(-) This activity will likely require a lot of focus! If you have a younger sibling who wants to be involved in our geometry math lesson, you can let them trace the shapes on this printable while you work with your older child .

Activity 2: As we learned in our book, one of the most notable geographical elements of Peru are the Andes Mountains. The Andes are the longest exposed mountain range of the world (about 5,500 miles!) and the second-highest after the Himalayas in Asia. The very tallest part (or peak) of the Andes is named Aconcagua, and it reaches 6,962 meters above sea level. (source) Let’s bring this impressive mountain range to life by making our own clay raised-relief map, or a three-dimensional map of the terrain.

Start by printing this template of the map of Peru. (You can either laminate this or spread a piece of plastic wrap over it to keep your clay map from sticking.) Next, use this topographic map of Peru as a reference to create your own version out of air-dry clay. Being with one layer filling in the whole map, and then use the clay to build up a three-dimensional mountain range. Once the clay has dried, you can paint it to reflect the different elevations on the topographic map.

Activity 3: Does your child want to take a trip to Peru? We can relate! Since we can’t hop on a plane, let’s watch this video tour of Peru’s capital city, Lima to see how this city combines the history of the nation with today’s modern technologies. If you haven’t already, download our L+L Passport printables and add your Peru stamp!

Lesson 2:

The people and country of Peru have a rich history that extends back hundreds of years, but much of it was almost lost due to colonization, or when one country invades and takes control of another country, claims the land as its own, and sends people—called “settlers”—to live on that land. Happily, there have been many people who have worked to preserve the culture and history of Peru, and one of them is famous archaeologist Julio C. Tello, also known as Sharuko! Let’s learn about his interesting life and incredible discoveries in today’s book, Sharuko: Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello.

Activity 1: Julio C. Tello’s family grew up speaking a language called Quechua. Want to learn a few simple greetings in this language? Watch this video to learn how to say “hello” and “goodbye.”
(+) Ready for more? This video shares more of the history of this centuries-old language.

Activity 2: One of Julio C. Tello’s most famous discoveries was the Chavín de Huántar Archaeological Site. This website shares more information and photos of some of his discoveries, including the famous Tello Obelisk (named for its discoverer!).

An obelisk is a stone rectangular pillar with a tapered top forming a pyramidion, set on a base, erected to commemorate an individual or event and honor the gods. The ancient Egyptians are credited with creating the first obelisks, but they were created by many ancient civilizations and can even be seen in some modern architecture, like the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.! (source)

The Tello Obelisk is one of the most intricately complex carvings found in the Americas for its time and is carved out of solid white granite—an extremely hard, durable type rock—carved in relief to depict two caimans along with condors, humans, jaguars, plants, and snakes. A relief carving is a sculpture with figures that protrude from a background while still being attached to it. (source)

Let’s make our own relief carvings using bars of soap! Start with a bar of plain white soap, and then use carving materials (or skewers, spoons, vegetable peelers, etc.) to carve in some figures of animals from Peru, something similar to what you see in the Tello obelisk, or whatever images your child is interested in creating. As they carve, draw their attention to the effort it takes to create art this way. Next, imagine what it would be like to try to achieve the same detail in extremely hard stone!

Activity 3: Another of Julio C. Tello’s most famous discoveries was the Incas use of “mummy bundles.” In this funeral ritual, a body was wrapped in layers of textiles (oftentimes with other food, clothing, and material goods in the layers) and then buried in an underground cavern-type room, sometimes with other members of their family. This webpage shares more details about the practice, as well as an illustration of the layers of textiles used to wrap the body. The bodies that Tello found were surprisingly well preserved due to the dry climate and high salt content in the region. (source) Another term for the removal of moisture for the sake of preservation is desiccation. Let’s see how desiccation helped to preserve these mummies for archaeologists today with this apple desiccation experiment!

Lesson 3:

Another great way to learn about the values of another culture is through their folk tales. Today, you have the option of two Peruvian folk tales, both about one of the most popular animals from this region, the llama! Read (or listen to) The Llama’s Secret or Llama and the Great Flood, which are both renditions of the same Peruvian legend.

Activity 1: As we learned in our Level 2+: Desert Unit, a folk tale is a story that is passed down from generation to generation, often without a specific author (so it is said to be authored by “folk,” or the people.) Folk tales tell about different parts of life, entertain, teach a lesson, or explain things that people might see in nature. Often, folk tales stem from a certain culture, but they are retold so often the stories can become part of different cultures. (source) Now that your child has read a few folk tales in our units, let’s write their own!

Many folk tales feature a native animal or plant and explain something about that animal. If your child is looking for inspiration, share with them this list of 13 of the most notable forms of wildlife found in Peru. If a particular plant or animal catches their interest, spend some time researching the animal for some of its famous characteristics. Next, have them create a story of how that animal could have come to have this characteristic. To encourage their flow of creativity and story-telling ability, you may want to scribe for them instead of having them hand-write the story. After they get the basics down, create a simple paper book with the story by stapling a few sheets of paper together and let them illustrate their book, if desired.

Activity 2: The llama featured in our books (along with three other species of South American camelids, alpacas, guacanos, and vicuñas) provided wool that was used often in creating many of these textiles. Click here for a video that breaks down the differences between llamas, alpacas, guacanos, and vicuñas.

During the Inca Empire’s height, llamas were the largest domesticated animals in South America; there were no horses, mules, donkeys, or any other mammals that we find now. For this reason, the Incas used llamas to transfer food, guano, and construction materials as they expanded the Inca Empire. Their fiber was also widely used for the population’s clothing since Alpaca and Vicuña were reserved only for the royal family. (source)

The great historical and cultural heritage of Peru has developed and nurtured a thriving tradition of handicraft and artisanal production in the country. The handicrafts and art created carry rich meanings and symbolism for the people who created them. The top three major Peruvian handicraft industries are pottery, textiles, and jewelry. (source)

Let’s work on a Peruvian-inspired weaving craft of our own! Use this tutorial to create your own textile.
(-) Modify for younger sibling by cutting slits every inch or inch-and-a-half for simpler weaving.

Activity 3: Next, let’s create some Peruvian-inspired pottery! First, click here to view some Peruvian pottery on display at The Met Museum. Pottery is perhaps the oldest surviving art form among the indigenous people of Peru. In ancient Peru, pottery had practical, ceremonial and religious purposes. For that reason, ceramic vessels were often elaborately decorated or made to represent important human figures or animals, but there is a lot of diversity in the art depending on the culture that created it. If your child is interested in learning more of this history, this article breaks down some of the differences and shares more photos.

The manufacture of Inca ceramics was somewhat simpler, and most potters molded their work with their hands. When it came to decorating, although they used many colors, the preferred ones were black, white, red and orange. The Incas had a preference for geometric designs, with bars, diamonds, circles, and triangles predominating. (source)

Let’s make our own clay pots with this pinch pot tutorial and some air-dry clay. Your child can add some geometric shapes prior to letting the pot dry with a pencil or skewer, or they can choose to paint them on after the clay dries.

Lesson 4:

Another famous feature of Peru? The Amazon Rainforest! Let’s get an introduction to this fascinating biome in the book Zonia’s Rain Forest (or you can listen to this read aloud).

Note: If your child is interested in learning more about rainforests, we recommend checking out our Level 1: Forest or Level 2: Forest units!

Activity 1: There are many reasons we should want to conserve our rainforests. One of the big ones is that the rainforest makes a significant contribution to pulling carbon dioxide out of the air, which contributes to keeping our planet’s temperatures from rising. (source) The plants in the rainforest do this through the process of photosynthesis, which is how they make their food. Your child has likely heard and learned about photosynthesis in the past, so let’s go deeper with today’s activity by learning about how plant cells convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Begin by watching this video that breaks down the process, or you can read through this article together. Next, let’s build this model of a plant cell using noodles! (Note: You may want to dye the noodles the night before to speed up prep the day you do this activity.)

Activity 2: One famous resident of the Amazon rainforest is the Macaw. Click here for a brief video about these stunning birds. This gorgeous bird’s name is also an example of this week’s featured phonogram! Let’s practice reading a few more AW words with this word search.

Activity 3: Not surprisingly, one of the most notable things about the rainforest is its rainfall! A tropical rainforest is defined as an area where temperatures are always high and that receives 70-100 inches of rainfall annually. (source) The average annual rainfall of the Amazon Rainforest is about 120 inches. (source)

Let’s use this data to work on some charting! First, use 2-3 pieces of graph paper (or print ours here—you will need three sheets if you use ours) and tape them together to make one long sheet. Along the bottom of the sheet, label your locations: the Amazon Rainforest, the Atacama Desert (the driest place on earth!), and 2-3 other locations that are meaningful to your child, such as your hometown, where their grandparents live, etc. It should look something like this:

Now, let’s chart the average precipitation in inches of each place. Tell your child that each box represents 1 inch of annual precipitation. We’ve given you the rainfall of the Amazon, but do research online to find the average precipitation of the other locations. Chart all of these on your graph paper. It should look something like this:

Now, compare the results to give your child a more concrete understanding of just how much rain the Amazon gets!

Lesson 5:

Hopefully by now your child has a good idea of the rich history of Peru. Today, we’ll look at a few more cultural treasures from this beautiful country. Let’s begin by reading Kusikiy: A Child of Taquile, Peru.

Activity 1: Our book is set on Lake Titicaca, a sacred site to Native Peruvians and the home of the famous “Floating Islands” made by the Uru people. These structures are not really islands, but rather large floating rafts made from layers of cut totora, a thick reed that grows in Lake Titicaca. The Uros make the islands by continuously bending over the reeds that grow in the lake.

Legend says that the Uru people came from the Amazon river area, and moved to Lake Titicaca. The local people did not allow them to have their own land. They then built the reed islands, which could be moved into deep water or to different parts of the lake for safety. (source) This article has more photos of the floating islands to show your child.

But how do these islands float? Let’s learn more about the force of buoyancy with this simple experiment.

Activity 2: In our book, we see Kusikiy with his flute, but there are several instruments unique to Peruvian music. Let’s learn about and listen to some of them in this article. Next, let’s make our own pan flute with this tutorial that also explains the science behind how this instrument can create different sounds.

Activity 3: Kusikiy’s family grows quinoa. For more than 6,000 years, Peruvians and Bolivians considered quinoa a sacred crop because of its resistance to high altitudes, heat, frost and aridness. Today, quinoa supports farmers in Peru, as Peru is one of the world leaders in quinoa production and exports. In 2016, Peru produced 80,000 tons of the crop, about 53.3% of the world’s volume, with 47% of quinoa exports worldwide. (source) Has your child tried quinoa? Let’s make some today! You can choose between this sweet quinoa porridge or this savory quinoa salad with avocado recipe.

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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.