Level 2+: Norway Unit

Join us this week for a journey north! Throughout the week, we’ll work on strengthening math, science, literacy, geography, and arts skills while exploring the country and culture of Norway. From their vibrant people to their stunning landscapes to a culture that has even inspired some of your favorite Disney stories, get ready to experience and celebrate some of the best Norway has to offer. Click here to download your skills tracker, and then, kom igjen! (Let’s go!)

Have you printed a Learn and Live passport? Don’t forget to add a stamp to your passport! to start your week in Norway!

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):

Optional chapter book:

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 OA.

Lesson 1:

Norway is a narrow country in northern Europe. It shares the Scandinavian Peninsula with Sweden and Finland. Its official name is Kingdom of Norway (Kongeriket Norge). It’s capital is the city of Oslo. (source) It is also sometimes referred to as a Nordic country, Norden, or Scandinavia, which is a group of northern countries consisting of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and sometimes Finland and Iceland. (source) Help your child to locate Norway on a world map, globe, or in an Atlas. Next, read the book If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway for a broad overview of this beautiful country.

Activity 1: Norway has changed their official flag several times throughout history as a result of various unions with other countries. The current Norwegian flag was designed in the 1821. It is based on the Danish flag, the Dannebrog, marking the union with the Kingdom of Denmark from 1397 until 1814. The blue cross symbolizes the union between Norway and Sweden from 1814 until 1905. The Norwegian flag is also used in Jan Mayen and Svalbard, which are both parts of the Kingdom of Norway.

Let’s use the flag to review finding the perimeter and area of squares and rectangles. Print this picture of the flag of Norway on a grid. For a review, you may want to watch this video about perimeter and this video about finding area.

Next, work your way through the various squares and rectangles in the Norwegian flag, finding the perimeter and area of each. Use a small white board or a separate piece of paper for your child’s work.

(-) Working with a younger sibling? Have them print this flag of Norway to color, and then let them use a ruler to measure the sides or other lines in the flag. Add in some number writing practice by letting them label the lengths of each line.

Activity 2: While Norway has tons of interesting topography, it’s especially famous for its fjords. A fjord is a long, deep, narrow body of water that reaches far inland. Fjords are often set in a U-shaped valley with steep walls of rock on either side. Some features of fjords include coral reefs and rocky islands called skerries. Some of the largest coral reefs are found at the bottom of fjords in Norway. (source) Click here to see some footage of one of Norway’s most famous fjords, Geirangerfjord.

Fjords were created by glaciers. In the Earth’s last ice age, glaciers covered just about everything. Glaciers move very slowly over time, and can greatly alter the landscape once they have moved through an area. This process is called glaciation. Fjords are usually deepest farther inland, where the glacial force was strongest. (source) This video shares more about glaciers and what they are, and this video explains more about the process of creating a fjord.

Finally, let’s bring it all to life by replicating the process of glaciation with an activity! Start by creating your glacier the night before you will do this activity. Take a plastic cup and add some rocks, dirt, and leaves from the outside. These will represent the types of things a glacier can pick up as it moves across a landscape. Add a few drops of blue food coloring and fill the cup the rest of the way with water. (Fun fact: Glaciers appear blue because the ice absorbs the red wave lengths of light passing through, appearing blue!) Freeze the cup.

Once your glacier is frozen, remove it from the cup and set on a plate to thaw a bit while you set up your landscape. Take a baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray (or rub with cooking oil). Sprinkle about two cups of flour over the baking sheet to represent the landscape that will be altered by the glacier. (You can also add dirt, rocks, leaves, etc.)

Put your glacier in one corner of the tray and have your child slowly slide it through the flour landscape. What is happening to the landscape? Your child should observe that the glacier has create a divot through the landscape. This is the same way a fjord would be formed over time! Have them observe how the glacier has changed. (It should have flour and dirt stuck to it.) This is how glaciers could also change the landscape of land, moving plants and seeds to new areas over time.

Activity 3: Norway is home to two official languages, Norwegian and Sami. Norwegian is by far the language spoken by most people, spoken by approximately 95 percent of the population. Like Swedish, Danish and Icelandic, Norwegian is a Germanic language derived from Old Norse. There are, however, two ways of writing Norwegian – bokmål and nynorsk. Eighty to 90 percent of Norway’s population uses Bokmål as its written standard.

Would your child like to hear and learn to speak a little Norwegian? This video shares some Norwegian greetings. For a little fun, you can also listen to the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen in Norwegian here.

Fun fact: Frozen is full of references to Norway and its culture! You can see some of the references in this article, and we will talk about more tomorrow.

Lesson 2:

The Sami, (also commonly spelled Sámi, Sampi, Saami, or Same) are the Indigenous People of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Kola Peninsula. They call their ancestral land—where they have lived for thousands of years—Sápmi. Today there are about 80,000 Sami living in Sápmi, and there are also at least 30,000 descendants of immigrants from those countries in North America who have some Sami ancestry. (source)

Let’s get a peek into the lives of the Sami people in the book Far North. If you’re not able to find the book, you can also learn more in this article or on this website, as well as in this brief video.

Activity 1: Ready for some fun facts? The Sami people had a large influence on many of the cultural elements your child might recognize from the movies Frozen and Frozen 2! Much of Kristoff’s clothing and lifestyle was inspired by Sami culture, and the make-believe Northuldra tribe in the Enchanted Forest are based on the Sámi people. (source) Additionally, joik, the folk music of the Sami, is featured in the opening music of Frozen and was composed by Frode Fjellheim, a musician and composer with Sami roots. (source)

Let’s listen to some joik and get a peek into other Sami cultural elements in this video.

Activity 2: The Sami culture has many characteristic expressions, and the duodji – Sami handicraft – is one of them. Duodji tools, clothing, and accessories are functional and useful and often incorporate artistic elements. Although there have been slight changes in the traditional duodji, many traditions of craftsmanship – such as pearl embroidery, weaving shoelaces, wood carving, and knife-making – are meticulously maintained. Today, traditional duodji are considered valuable pieces of art by collectors from all over the world.

The traditional costume “kofte” is another living tradition. Today, it is mostly used to dress up for special occasions, such as weddings, confirmations, and other cultural events. The colors, patterns and decorations of the costume can signify a person’s geographical origin. The traditional Sami colors are red, green, blue and yellow. (source) You can see some examples of genuine Sami duodji creations in this online store and examples of kofte here.

The woven belt is an important element of the traditional Sámi dress called gákti. The style and decorative patterns of a gákti together with headwear, shoelaces and belt indicate a person’s Sámi identity and belonging to a particular local Sámi community. This is a non-verbal means of traditional communication. You can learn more about how these are produced (and see more photos) here.

Let’s take inspiration from women Sami belt by tackling this weaving craft today. Your child may like to use the traditional colors of Sami kofte, or they can choose colors that are meaningful for them.

Activity 3: Reindeer has always been a central part of the Sami culture. There is almost no part of the reindeer that isn’t used: meat for cooking, fur and skin for clothes and shoes, and the horns are transformed into everything from useful tools to beautiful art. (source) Let’s learn a bit more about this beautiful animal. Begin by watching this video to learn some fun facts about reindeer.

Finally, let’s get a little math and number line practice with a reindeer racing game. Begin by making two reindeer using two clothespins, a brown pipe cleaner, a marker, and googly eyes (if desired). They should look like this:

Next, print these number line pages. (Only print as many as you would like your child to use. You can also use the last line to add more numbers if you would like to go higher.) Cut out the lines and tape or glue them together to create one long number line.

Now you are ready to race! Give your child two to three dice (depending on how comfortable they are with mental math) and have them roll. After they add their dice together, that is where they clip their reindeer on the number line. Then the second player does the same thing with their reindeer. Repeat until one player gets to the end of the line, adding on to your child’s previous total. You may also wish to give them scrap paper to work out their sums.

To work in subtraction work, play again, this time working from the end back to the start and subtracting your dice total each time.

Lesson 3:

Another remarkable thing about Norway is how its location on the globe affects its seasons. As a result, winter time can mean 20 hours of darkness per day—and even weeks without truly seeing the sun. Whereas summer can bring 24 hours of sunlight in some parts of Norway! (source) They’re often called polar night and midnight sun, and they can last days to months depending on your location in the country. (source) Let’s learn more about what it would be like to live under these conditions in the book Welcome Back Sun (or read it here on OpenLibrary).

Activity 1: So why does Norway experience polar night and midnight sun? It’s because of the earth’s tilt. Winter in Norway comes around when the northern hemisphere is farthest from the sun, and the polar regions in the north are that part of the planet that are angled farthest away. Even though the earth turns, the sun’s light never gets over the horizon. In other words, the rest of the planet blocks off the sun! (source) In the summer, the sun does not set at high latitudes. Depending on how close you are to the poles, the sun can remain continuously visible for one day to several months. (source)

Let’s compare our own days of darkness and light to Norway’s. We’ll use the city of Rjukan as our point of reference. First, download and print this chart. Tape the two pages together to create the full chart, like this:

Next, let’s look up the average monthly daylight hours for your city. You can use this website. (Type your city into the search bar at the top of the website, and then look on the climate page to find the average daylight hours. If you can’t find the right information, you could also try a Google search. You may need to find the average daily hours of daylight and multiply by number of days in the month.) Add a point on the chart for each month in one color of colored pencil or thin marker, and then connect the dots to make a line graph.

Next, look up the average monthly daylight hours for Rjukan. Using a different color, plot the daylight hours for each month, and then connect them. Discuss your findings with your child to see how your daylight hours differ from this city in Norway.

Activity 2: With such limited hours of daylight (and therefore limited hours to grow food), ancient peoples in Scandinavia needed to have a way of recording time and seasons in a reliable way. One solution was the Primstav, or calendar stick. Let’s learn more about this practical invention and make our own with this tutorial.

Activity 3: When winter can last half the year, you also need to be creative about making sure you have food long past the growing season. As a result, Norwegian peoples have been finding ingenious ways to preserve food for centuries. One popular method that is still used today is smoking meats. In our book, the narrator and her family and friends enjoyed smoked salmon, which has a long history in Norway. (Has your child ever tried it? If desired, look for some smoked salmon at your local grocery store to try this week!) But why does smoking a meat keep it from spoiling?

The practice of ‘smoking’ food has existed for many thousands of years. The exact story behind the discovery of this process is not entirely clear, but it is understood that it was one of the earliest techniques to help preserve meat and fish. Many communities of early humans throughout the Stone Age found themselves surrounded by waters that gave them an endless supply of fish. But there would be times when the fishing was less bountiful, so a means of preserving the catches was required. Smoked fish was an early solution to this problem.

Fish is smoked when it comes into direct contact with the smoke that rises from smoldering organic materials like wood and plants. The process relies on indirect heat, low temperatures and long cooking times, and the flavors it produces are truly mouthwatering.

Smoking helps preserve the fish as the smoke itself delivers an acidic coating onto its surface. This coating prevents oxidation and slows the growth of bacteria, which in turn slows the decomposition of the fish. The process also helps to dehydrate the meat, which also makes the environment less hospitable for bacteria. Preservation was the original purpose of smoking fish, but more effective methods of preserving food have since replaced it. Today, smoking fish is all about enhancing the food’s flavour and colour, and when it’s done right, the results are superb. (source)

Oxidation is any chemical reaction that involves the moving of electrons. Specifically, it means the substance that gives away electrons is oxidized. When iron reacts with oxygen it forms a chemical called rust because it has been oxidized (the iron has lost some electrons) and the oxygen has been reduced (the oxygen has gained some electrons). The same process of corruption happens to food.  When the inside of an apple is cut, exposing the inside surface to the oxygen in the air, a process known as oxidation occurs. (source)

Introducing an acidic coat (as with the smoking of the fish) prevents the oxygen from reacting with the meat or produce because the acid reacts with the oxygen instead. Let’s bring this all to life with this simple experiment.

Lesson 4:

One of the most famous parts of Norway’s history are Vikings! Vikings were a seafaring people originally from Scandinavia, who from the late 8th to the late 11th centuries raided, pirated, traded, and settled throughout parts of Europe. They also voyaged as far as the Mediterranean, North Africa, Volga Bulgaria, the Middle East, and North America. (source) Let’s learn more about them in the book You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Viking Explorer!: Voyages You’d Rather Not Make (or you can read this older edition on OpenLibrary). You can also watch this brief video about Viking history or (+) this more detailed version.

Activity 1: One practice of the Vikings was the creation of rune stones. (Rune was the name for Viking letters.) Rune stones were erected in memory of the dead—mostly for powerful people—and their honorable deeds. They were intended to be visible and were painted in bright colors. The stones often stood near roads or bridges, where many people passed by. They were not necessarily placed at the burial of the person they commemorated.

The rune stones bring us very close to the Vikings. Their inscriptions feature the names of the people who lived and died at this time. They also provide information about the travels, great achievements and sad fates of these individuals. You can learn more about these stones and see pictures of some of them here.

Viking runes and their meanings were said to have been obtained by Norse god Odin at great cost, so each letter was thought to have an important meaning. Below is a chart explaining the sound and meaning behind the Viking alphabet:


Would your child like to make their own rune stone? Traditionally, runes were carved on wood, bone, or stone, hence their angular appearance. Create a large flat “stone” out of air-dry clay and let your child carve their name or a short sentence into their stone. They could also add other decorative carvings like you see in these examples. If they make their stone small enough, you can also create a small hole in one end to turn it into a Viking pendant once dried.

Activity 2: Vikings were especially successful raiders because of the longboats they developed. Watch this video to learn what make these ships so special. Next, let’s build our own mini longboat! You will need a cardboard milk or juice container, brown paint, dowels, cardstock, markers, craft foam, and a hot glue gun.

Start by cutting your cardboard container in half and painting it brown.

While the paint dries, create your sail. Sneak in some math by having your child measure half-inch stripes on a piece of white cardstock.

Then color in every other stripe with a red marker.

Cut out your sail and use a hole punch to create two holes for your mast (a thick dowel or a piece of bamboo can work).

To create your paddles, cut small rectangles of craft foam (about 2×1 inches). Use a hot glue gun to attach them to one end of the dowels.

Once your boat hull is dry, use a hole punch to add holes on either side for the paddles. Thread the paddle dowels through the holes and add your paddles to the other side.

To create a dragon for the front of your boat, fold a piece of craft foam in half and freehand draw the head, like this:

Use hot glue to attach it to the front of your boat. Finally, glue on the mast with the sail (you may want to use a small piece of air dry clay or playdough to hold it secure while the glue dries).

Activity 3: Ready to dress like a Viking? Let’s craft our own Viking armor for some pretend play. Begin by making a shield. You will need a large circle cut out of scrap cardboard, paint, wash tape, stickers, or whatever else your child would like to use to create their shield. Find some inspiration for your shield design here, or feel free to let your child create their own design! (Fold in some storytelling by having your child create a backstory for their clan and what their symbol means.)

Present your child with the cut out circle and let them decorate their shield as desired.

(+) Looking for more? Try this helmet tutorial. You can also click here to see a real Viking helmet!

Activity 4: Want to try a little Viking-themed gameschooling? Try out the popular Viking game hnefatafl (pronounced “neffa-tafel”) with this printable version.

Lesson 5:

Another fun thing we get from Norwegian culture is a variety of fairy tale stories! Let’s read either East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon (or you can read it here on OpenLibrary) or (-) The Three Billy Goats Gruff (or you can read this slightly different version on OpenLibrary) for examples of classic Norwegian fairy tales. Then we’ll explore some Norwegian arts, music, and cuisine to end our week.

Activity 1: One popular artistic style from Norway is traditional rosemaling. The name rosemaling means “rose painting” or “decorative painting,” and it’s a style of folk art that dates back to the 1700s. It consists of brightly colored floral designs, either painted or carved on wood.

The style of painting grew up in the remote valleys of eastern Norway and, since transport links between the valleys were limited, each valley developed its own distinct style and rosemaling designs.

The original rosemaling artists were considered crafts people for their carving and painting skills, which added a splash of color to the otherwise austere Norwegian stave churches. They were also employed by wealthy families in the region to decorate the interiors of their houses. Click here for more history and to see some rosemaling.

Want to try it for yourself? Try this freehand tutorial video, or you can try this simplified version.
(-) Learning with a younger sibling? Let them try this printable rosemaling coloring page.

Activity 2: The most famous composer to come from Norway is Edvard Grieg. You can learn more about him here. One of Greig’s most famous compositions was written for a play, Peer Gynt, which was about the downfall and subsequent redemption of a Norwegian peasant anti-hero, particularly Suite No. 1, “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Because this piece was written to accompany a scene on stage, it is also a wonderful example of how the tempo of music can change its mood. Tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In many cases, music will have a steady (or unchanging) tempo. But when the tempo speeds up or slows down, it can add excitement or drama to the music.

As you listen to Suite No. 1, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” here, have your child tap or pat their legs or the floor to match the beat. About midway through the piece, the beat starts to change—what is happening? (The beat is speeding up!) Pause the song and ask your child how this changes the mood or feel of the song. What do they imagine in their mind as they listen? Continue the song, having them stand and use bigger body movements to keep the beat as it speeds up. Tell them to freeze if the music stops (in a dramatic pose, if desired!).

When the song is over, discuss how the tempo changed and the effect this had on the music. How did this song make them feel?

Activity 3: Let’s end our week with a traditional Norwegian recipe, kjøttkaker (AKA, meatballs!). Meatballs are a favorite Scandinavian dish (which you might know if you’ve been to an IKEA lately!), and this version is distinctly Norwegian. If desired, you can also make this lingonberry jam to serve with it! Håper det smaker! (AKA, enjoy your meal in Norwegian!)

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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.