Peru Unit Study: Week 1

Hola and Allinllachu! Let’s head south of the equator to the Southern Hemisphere and visit Peru to learn some amazing history and see impressive architecture, beautiful landscapes, and fascinating animals. This week, we will begin by learning about a lot of geography and science, including getting up close and personal with mountains, deserts, and rainforests. Finally, we will end the week with Peru’s most famous sweet treat—chocolate! If you’re ready to start, click here to download your skills tracker for the week.

What you need:

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

Optional additional reading:

  • Maria and the Stars of Nazca by Anita Jepson-Gilbert (This book is very expensive from Amazon—instead buy directly from the author by contacting her here. You can pay via Venmo (@Jepson-Gilbert). Her price for our group is $18. This includes the book, shipping, and some extra materials. She can also be contacted at 303-431-6774 if you need more assistance.)

Optional chapter book:

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.

Time zone activity:

Peru map activity:

DIY barometric pressure meter:

Angles activity:

Quilled cactus craft:

Animal lapbook report:

Nazca lines craft:

Rainforest diorama:

  • medium-sized box
  • materials to decorate your diorama, such as scrap cardboard, toilet paper rolls, green paper and tissue paper, pipe cleaners, and other greenery
  • animal figurines (or you can make your own with craft supplies)
  • index cards

Rainforest terrarium:

DIY monkey figurines:

Peruvian hot chocolate:

(+) Turron de chocolate 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:

We’ll begin our lessons by taking a closer look at the fascinating geography of Peru. Start by watching this Welcome to Peru video to introduce this country to your child. How long would it take you to travel to Peru?

Activity 1: Let’s start by exploring Peru on Google Earth. Look around and find the country’s borders. What five countries share a border with Peru? What ocean is on its coast? Take a street view and look at the mountains, the beach coasts, and the rainforest. Next, take a peak at the city Barranca. You will see an oceanside city with shops, museums, boutique hotels, a beach community, homes, and businesses. Look closer at the beautiful art murals lining the streets

Activity 2: Next, let’s learn about time zones. Start by watching this video explaining what time zones are and how they originated. Next, print out this time zone wall clocks printable.

Write the names of the city/country in each space. Start with your local time, and then add the following cities: Lima, Peru; Los Angeles, CA; Sydney, Australia; Honolulu, Hawaii; Tokyo, Japan; London, Great Britain; Johannesburg, South Africa; New Delhi, India. (If desired, add one more city of your choice.) 

Draw in the local time for each of the city/country using this time zone calculator. Finally write the UTC offset.

Here’s how to figure out the UTC offset: Every place on Earth is measured in terms of its distance east or west of the prime meridian, or 0°longitude in Greenwich, London, United Kingdom. This is also the reference point for Coordinated Universal Time (UTC…and yes, that abbreviation is correct) with 1 hour per 15 degrees longitude. (source)

(+) Activity 3: Ready for a little persuasive writing practice? You may have noticed that some of these time zones get altered because some countries (like the USA) use daylight savings time. Read this Newsweek newspaper article that details why daylight savings time started and why it is still used today. But there is also an argument that daylight savings causes physical health problems like depression and sleep deprivation! (source) Watch this video to learn more about the debate. Have your child write (or scribe for them or electrically record their oral argument) a one-paragraph argument  either supporting or against daylight savings time. 

Persuasive writing should include:

  1. A position statement: State your opinion and arguments succinctly.
  2. Reason: Support your statement with facts and data.
  3. Ethics: Convince your listener you are fair, trust-worthy, and well-informed.
  4. Emotion: Appeal to your listener’s emotions.
  5. Conclusion: Restate your opinion succinctly.

For more tips on writing your persuasive piece, see this article.

Activity 4: Draw a map of Peru. Print this map of Peru and use this website to guide you as you color in the three different biomes (natural zones) of Peru: the majestic Andes Mountains, the mysterious Amazon jungle, and coastal desert. Make a key and label the zones. Keep the map handy for the rest of the unit to label the map as we learn about new places.

Lesson 2:

The mountains of Peru are part of a much larger mountain range called the Andes. Begin today’s activities by reading the story Up and Down the Andes: A Peruvian Festival Tale. (Read it here on OpenLibrary or listen to this read aloud) Today would also be a good day to begin our recommended chapter book, Secret of the Andes. It starts off slow. So try reading the first few chapters with your child to build their interest.

Activity 1: Read + Discover. The Andes Mountains stretch from north to south along the entire western side of South America. They separate a narrow strip of land along the Pacific Ocean from the rest of the continent. The Andes are about 5,500 miles (8,900 kilometers) long and in most places are no wider than 200 miles (320 kilometers).

Many Andean peaks are higher than any mountains in North America. At 22,831 feet (6,959 meters), Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua is the highest mountain anywhere in the world outside Asia. (source)

Learn 10 facts about the Andes Mountain range in this web article

(-) The first fact on list describes how the Andes Mountains came to be formed. Using this hands-on experiment, recreate the formation of a mountain. 

Activity 2: Science Application. One problem that can occur when visiting the mountains in Peru is altitude sickness. Learn about altitude sickness here. If you visit Peru, you might look for coca tea, which is served everywhere in the high Andes, and is one effective relief of symptoms of altitude sickness.

What’s the science behind all of this?

At higher altitudes, the air becomes thinner and the amount of breathable oxygen decreases. The lower barometric pressures of high altitudes lead to a lower partial pressure of oxygen in the air sacs in the lungs, which in turn decreases the amount of oxygen absorbed by red blood cells for transport to the body’s tissues. The lack of oxygen in the blood supply causes visitors to feel altitude sickness. (source)

Let’s create our own barometric pressure meter at home with this STEM experiment

Activity 3: Math Application. How do we measure the height of a mountain? Measuring a mountain relies on some basic high school math. To calculate the elevation of a mountain, scientists measure the distance between two points on the ground and then measure the angles between the top of the mountain and each point. (source) (So when your child gets older and begins learning trigonometry and asks, “Why do I need to know this?”, this is why! So they can measure the top of mountains! Let us know how that answer goes over with them.)

Read this article together describing how mountains were measured over a hundred years ago compared to now. All of this sophisticated math starts with the understanding of angles, so let’s play with some! This video explains angles very clearly, but it’s a little dry. Use two craft sticks and a white board to follow along with the video in a hands-on way. Pause the video and recreate and label the angles as you learn them. Next, practice measuring angles with this fun math activity. (We’ll do activity 2 in that post.)

Lesson 3:

Let’s learn about the deserts of Peru as well as the fauna and flora you can find there.

Activity 1: Discover Peruvian Deserts. Peru has a coastal desert. Air blowing from the ocean to the shore is cooled by the cold water, which produces a layer of fog. This fog flows onto the land and produces high humidity, but rainfall is extremely low. This is how a coastal desert is formed. (source)

The Sechura Desert in Peru is one of the driest places on earth. The Pacific Ocean regulates the temperatures in the desert, with summer temperatures ranging from 24 to 38 degrees Celsius (75 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit), and winter temperatures ranging from 16 to 24 degrees Celsius (61 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). The summer is dry and sunny, while winter skies are often overcast. (source)

The closest we can come to learning about Peruvian deserts is reading the book The Atacama Desert. This is a book about the desert of Chile (which borders Peru’s desert) will give us the most details about this Peruvian biome. Alternatively, you can also read the fun desert book Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry?

Let’s take a closer look at one of the plants that live in the Peruvian desert: the Peruvian Apple Cactus. Next, watch this time-lapse video of a Peruvian Apple Cactus blooming. Now make this quilled cactus craft

(+)Activity 2: Ready for more of a challenge? Learn about the endemic animals of the Peruvian desert, which include several lizards (such as the Peru Pacific iguana and the coastal desert iguana), the gerbil leaf-eared mouse, many species of butterflies, the Sechuran fox, and the endangered Peruvian plantcutter. Visit these websites to learn more about these animals: here, here, here, or here. Finally, create a lapbook or a mini report of interesting facts you learned about these animals. (Click here for more tips on how to make a lapbook.)

Activity 3: Discover Nazca lines. One of the most interesting things found in the deserts of the Peru are man-made lines in the sand called the Nazca lines. The Nazca lines are a set of geoglyphs that occupies an area of ​​50 square kilometers (19 square miles) in the desert of southern Peru. Watch this video to learn more about the Nazca lines. The Nazca lines were made by the Nazca people who lived in Peru from 200 BCE to 600 CE They were great astronomers and mathematicians, and we will learn more about them in Week 2 of our unit.

As we learn about Nazca lines, let’s meet Maria Reiche! She was a German historian who immigrated to Peru in 1932. She became known as the Lady of the Lines because of her extensive work uncovering the secrets of the Nazca lines. 

Maria found herself in Peru in 1932 when she responded to an advertisement in the newspaper that requested a governess for the children of the German consul in Cuzco. In 1939, while working as a teacher in Lima, she learned that the American historian Paul Kosok was studying strange drawings on the floor of the Nazca pampa, so colossal that they could only be seen by flying over the region. The following year, Reiche became Kosok’s assistant and with him she explored from the air the geometric and animal figures that formed the Nazca lines. The historian soon appreciated that these furrows were not deep enough to have served as irrigation systems, which was the main object of his research. Despite this, for years Kosok and Reiche studied the group extensively. When Kosok left Peru in 1949, Reiche continued working on what had become the purpose of her life. Reiche did much more than preserve the geoglyphs—thanks to her training in science, she developed the first theory about their possible purpose as an astronomical calendar, a hypothesis still debated today. (source)

Read the book Maria and the Stars of Nazca. Next, do this Nazca lines craft. Want to take this lesson outside instead? Try this sidewalk Nazca line chalk idea

Activity 4: Discover the Humboldt Penguin of Peru. It might surprise you to learn that Peru is also home to penguins! We find them on the southern coast where the desert meets the sea. Read the book Penguin’s Family: The Story of a Humboldt Penguin to learn more about this cool species.

Let’s organize what we’ve learned into a poster or a lapbook about Humboldt penguins. Start by finding and printing pictures of Humboldt penguins online, or you can draw them yourself. Utilize additional research material found on here or here to round out the information you share on your poster or in your lapbook.

(+) For additional details about the Humboldt penguin and their environment, watch this 26-minute video documentary to learn about several birds that call the desert shores of Peru home. 

Lesson 4:

Ready for our next biome exploration? Today, let’s explore the rainforest of Peru, the Amazon Rainforest!

Activity 1: Discover Peru’s rainforest. Peru’s rainforest is found along its eastern border. Read one the following books: One Small Square: Tropical Rain Forest or Does it Always Rain in the Rain Forest? to begin learning about this biome. You can also take a closer look at the animals with either the fun fold-out book Jungle Trek, Who Am I? Rainforest Animals, or any rainforest animal book in your library. 

Next, use a medium-sized box, some scrap cardboard, toilet paper rolls, green paper and tissue paper, pipe cleaners, and other greenery to create a multi-layer diorama of a rainforest like you see here:

To add animals, you can either use figurines like these, or make your own out of paper, mini clothespins, popsicle sticks, or whatever other materials you have on hand.

Next, create an index card for each layer naming it and including 3-5 bullet points about the trees and animals as you learn about them from the books listed above.

Prefer to work with real dirt and plants? You could build this rainforest terrarium instead!

Field trip suggestion: Many local botanical gardens will have rainforest exhibits or sections. Visit your local museum or gardens to see rainforest plants up close!

Activity 2: Read + Discover Isla de los Monos (Monkey Island) in Manu National Park. Click here to learn about the monkeys and sloths that live on this reserve and print out the files at the bottom of that post. (Spanish speakers and learners can read the profiles of each animal in both languages!)

Next, visit this website and watch the embedded video to learn about the Peruvian Spider Monkey.

Using air-dry clay or playdough, make a few little monkeys and add them to your diorama. Don’t forget to place them in the correct layer of the rainforest to keep them away from predators!

Why is the rainforest the perfect home for monkeys? Read this article to find out.

Activity 3: The Amazon Rainforest can get up to 3,000 mm (that’s 9.84 feet!) of rain each year. (source) Let’s use the weather as inspiration for this math puzzle. Print the puzzle and cut out the pieces, and then have your child solve the math equations and match each equation to a piece with it’s answer. Some of the problems are very simple (basic addition and subtraction) and others are more challenging (square roots, multiplying decimals, dividing, and long division). When your child finds a match but doesn’t know the math, invite them to investigate the equation. If it’s a new math concept, look up how to solve it if they are interested.

Lesson 5:

For our final day of week one, we’ll discover some of the foods we find in the rainforest.

Activity 1: Do you like chocolate? Chocolate comes from the cocoa tree, and the cocoa tree is native to the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. This low growing tree grows near the equator in wet, hot environments. The flowering plant grows a fruit called a cocoa pod. The fruit is thick and oval-shaped, usually yellow or red, and can sometimes grow as big as a football. Inside the cocoa pod are about 50 cocoa beans. 

Click this website to see pictures of the cocoa tree and learn a few more details about this special plant. Next, watch this video to see what the fruit looks like. Then, watch this SciFi video to learn how cocoa goes from bean to delicious treat. 

Let’s bring it all to life with this recipe for Peruvian Hot Chocolate. (Want to make a dessert instead? Try this turron de chocolate recipe.)

Activity 2: The process of making hot chocolate and turron, or the process of going from fruit to powder, is a great opportunity to practice sequencing. 

Sequencing is the skill that we use when we break down an event into simple steps and put those steps in order. Once you have completed preparing the hot chocolate or dessert (or learning the chocolate making process in the video), ask your child to write or draw out the sequence of events in order. This activity will take several skills to complete. Students will need to gather the facts and put them in logical order, prioritizing important details and excluding details that aren’t essential.

Students can organize their work by timeline, for example, adding how long each step will take to complete. Or they can create pictures to represent each step. Or they might want to create a story around the sequence as if they were writing a short story. When sequencing events, students should use sequence words like first, second, next, then, and finally

Note to parents: Younger children will need a lot of help to make all these pieces come together. You may need to write out their ideas on sticky notes so that they can be moved around into the correct sequence of events. This activity is multi-facilitated and will target skills like logic, language, memory, and writing. If this is your first time teaching this or their first time working on sequencing, be patient—it isn’t always as easy as it sounds!

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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.