Peru Unit: Week 3

This week we will learn about the animals, the music, and the art of Peru. We will also meet some famous characters from Peru’s past and present and learn about another famous food ingredient beloved in this country. Click here to download this week’s skills tracker before you get started!

What you need:

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

  • Peru: The People and Culture by Bobbie Kalman (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
  • The Llama’s Secret by Argentina Palacios (or listen to this read aloud) OR Llama and the Great Flood by Ellen Alexander (this book is difficult to find, so we have linked to the version available on OpenLibrary)
  • We will also be writing folk tales about a native Peruvian animal. Have your child pick a cock-of-the-rock, poisonous frogs, sloths, or the hummingbird to star in their folk tale, and look for a book at the library featuring the animal they select.

Optional additional book:

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.

Draw a llama:

Orchid craft:

Make a pan flute:

Whittling activity:

Make Peruvian jewelry:

Newton’s Laws STEM activity:

DIY recycled paper cards:

Air pollution test:

Peruvian sweet corn:

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:

Let’s begin our week by learning about some of the flora and fauna of Peru!

Activity 1: The llama is one of the most famous native animals of Peru. Watch this video to see the llamas of Machu Picchu. Next, watch this video or read this article to learn the difference between llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos. 

Read the book The Llama’s Secret (or listen to this read aloud) for a llama folk story.

Next, learn to draw your own llama with this art lesson

Activity 2: There are several other unique and amazing animals that call Peru home. Read the book you selected about one of the animals of Peru, or click the links below to learn about one of the following animals: 

Last week, we read a folk tale about a fox, and today, we read a tale about a llama. 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

There are many folk stories about animals from Peru. There is also a traditional story with an explanation for how people came to exist. Read pages 4 and 5 in the book Peru: The People and Culture under “Inca creation myth” to learn more about it.

Now that your child has read a few folk tales and myths, encourage them to write their own!

Many folk tales feature a native animal or plant and explain something about that animal. Using the research your child did today as inspiration (or perhaps this list of 13 of the most notable forms of wildlife found in Peru), create a story of how that animal could have come to have its special characteristic. To encourage your child’s 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 their words down, create a simple book by stapling a few sheets of paper together and let your child illustrate their book, if desired.

Activity 3: There are literally thousands of orchid species in Peru, many of which are located in the low cloud forest eco-regions around Machu Picchu and along the famed Inka Trail. It is estimated that as many as 50% of Peru’s more than 3,000 orchid species remain unidentified by science!

Click here to see a few of the orchid species that can be found along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. 

Next, watch this video tour of the orchid garden in the New York Botanical Gardens.

Finally, create this orchid craft.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’ll take a closer look at some art and music from Peru.

Activity 1: Have you ever heard of the pan flute? Read page 22 of the book Peru: The People and Culture to begin our music study.

If any sound captures the essence of Andean culture, it is the sweet tones of the panpipe (or pan flute), an instrument known and played across the Andes since ancient times. Most likely, the Andean panpipe first developed among the Aymara cultures of the Lake Titicaca region and spread from there to other regions, where it took on diverse designs and sizes. It is said that early Andean shepherdesses would walk the mountain slopes playing their panpipes to attract their goats. The Andean pan flute has many shapes, sizes and tunings, and each has its own name. In general, the panpipe is known in Aymara language as the siku, in Quechua as antara, and in Spanish it is also known as zampoña. Additionally, different-sized sikus (and there are at least four sizes) have their own names. (source) Read about the history of the pan flute here. Next, listen to it being played in this video.

Now, make your own pan flute.

(+) Is your child a musician? They might enjoy this upgraded version of the pan flute using the same materials.

Activity 2: Many wood carvings can be found among the artifacts of ancient Peru. The ancient people carved oars, poles, idols, and ancestral images used for funeral rites. (source + pictures) You can see examples of these wood carvings in museums and galleries around the world, as you can see here. A perfectly preserved wooden sculpture was recently discovered at the Chan Chan archaeological complex in northern Peru. Click here to see it!

Wood carvings are also seen in the craftsmanship of modern-day Peru. If you travel the market places, you will likely see many wooden items being created and sold.

Try your hand at whittling wood with this project. The blogger shares tips on keeping kids safe while working with wood.

Activity 3: The Inca Empire is known for their gold. Read this to learn more about this topic. Peru has a long history of jewelry making using their abundance of gold and silver, as well as precious stones, such as amber, onyx, lapis lazuli, tiger eyes, Andean opal, obsidian, jaspers, serpentine, and turquoise. Glass, mussels, bamboo, and coral are also favored as precious items. (source)

Let’s try making your own Peruvian jewelry with this tutorial.

Ready for a new chapter book? Introduce the book The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis.

Lesson 3:

Let’s learn about the discoveries of two famous Peruvians, and then we’ll end the day by learning a bit about Peruvian money.

Activity 1: Native Peruvian Pedro Paulet discovered the advantages of liquid fuel for rocket propulsion and designed, built, and tested the first liquid fuel rocket engine known to history. Paulet also designed an early spaceship prototype. Click here to read about him and see his picture. 

How do rockets fly? Watch this video to find out. Next, watch this video to learn about important science principles that affect space travel. These principles are called Newton’s Laws of Motion, named after the famous scientist Isaac Newton. (source) Here are Newton’s first three laws of motion:

  • Newton’s First Law: An object that is sitting at rest will stay at rest, and an object that is in motion will stay in motion until a force acts upon it.
  • Newton’s Second Law: The greater the force the greater the acceleration. The greater the mass, the greater the force needed to move the object.
  • Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Let’s test out these principles with this STEM experiment

Activity 2: Mining for gold is a common activity in Peru, but it often has undesirable consequences. The Peruvian government has long struggled with curbing rogue miners and reducing pollution in the Amazon basin. Gold mining has also caused or been linked to other environmental issues, including deforestation of the Amazon. NASA uses its satellite technology to identify illegal mining activity in the Amazon to help stop it. You can see their work here

Peruvian engineer Carlos Villachica invented a simple machine to isolate gold from sand without using toxic mercury (as it had been done previous). The small machine instead uses water and biodegradable chemicals to isolate the gold. Villachica’s small, cylindrical machine blends mineralized dirt with jets of pressurized air, water, and biodegradable chemicals in a centrifugal motion that produces thousands of bubbles that rise to the surface attached to specks of gold. Carlos Villachica describes his invention as “ethical gold mining.” (source)

There are many engineers and inventors like Villachica who want to help preserve the natural resources of our planet. Discuss ways you and your family can practice more conservation with the help of this article

Craft time! Use recycled materials from your home to create your own greeting cards. Watch this video to learn how, then follow the directions below:


  • Cut paper into thin, small pieces (using a paper shredder works too).
  • Add water to your paper and let sit until mushy.
  • Mix with hand mixer or in a blender.
  • Poor in a food strainer or in your screen to remove all water.
  • Press down into a flat sheet. Allow to dry 12-24 hours.
  • Once your paper is dry, decorate as desired. We love the idea of fresh or dried flowers! Glue them directly on your paper for best results.

Activity 3: Currency. Peru has its own money or currency, the Peruvian Nuevo Sol. The word sol comes from the Spanish word for sun. Nuevo sol means “new sun.”

Take a look at these images for a close up look at the nuevo sol currency. 

Peruvian coins used to come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 but the 1 and 5 centimos coins were discontinued because they were rarely used. Bills come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200. 

The 10 soles banknote shows an image of José Abelardo Quiñones Gonzales, a Peruvian war pilot regarded as a national hero in Peru. The 20 soles banknote features Raúl Porras Barrenechea, the former president of the Republic of Peru who was also the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. On the 50 soles banknote, you’ll see the image of Abraham Valdelomar, a famous Peruvian journalist, essayist, poet, and dramatist who lived from 1888 to 1919. (source)

Math application: When traveling to a country, most visitors will have to convert their money to the country’s money. This conversion requires some basic math skills. Let’s practice some multiplication to convert your country’s money into nuevo sol. First start by researching the conversion rate on this site

Next, use multiplication to convert the amount. Here’s a sample equation to show you how it works:

If you have $45 USD, how much nuevo sol will you have after the conversion?

Multiply $45 by the current rate (3.82). Answer: S/171.86

Next, try these amounts:

  • $80
  • $200
  • $525

Check your work with the conversion calculator linked above.

Lesson 4:

We’ve learned a lot about ancient Peru, but today we’re going to focus on the country’s more modern history.

Activity 1: After colonization, a hierarchy emerged in Peru and other Spanish colonies in South America called casta (or caste). People who moved to the continent from Spain were called Peninsulares. People born in the American continent from Spanish descent were called Creoles. These two groups were not considered equal, and they vied for power, status, and wealth. They each looked down on the other for different reasons, but one thing they both agreed upon was their prejudice against everyone else. Below them in the casta were Mulattos (mixed white and black people) and Mestizos (mixed Native people), Indos (Natives), Negros, and then slaves. (source and source)

After centuries of this South American hierarchy, the Creoles decided they were tired of the social and political structure (they wanted to be tax-free and in power) and so began the many attempts to secede from Spain. One man who became the face of independence was Simon Bolivar. Although he was born in Venezuela, Bolivar was seen by some as the freedom leader for all of South America. Unlike the American Revolution which was relatively short, the Spanish-American Independence wars took much longer—over 25 years of war. Bolivar became the first dictator and President of Peru, but his rule was short-lived and not welcomed by many.

Watch this video for a brief summary of South American Revolutions.

(+) For those who just love history videos, watch this hour-long series of videos: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

Activity 2: Art History. After almost two decades of fighting, on July 28, 1821, Peru was declared independent from Spain. (source) Today, Peru celebrates its independence (known as Fiestas Patrias) on July 28th and 29th of every year. (source

The historic figures of Spanish independence can be seen in paintings and sculptures across South and North America. Take a look at this link to see some of these works. The first picture is a statue of Simon Bolivar in NYC. Let’s examine another portraits of Simon Bolivar. (For more on his life and his influence on the continent, read A Picture Book of Simon Bolivar. )

Note for Parents: Read this paragraph before examining the photo with your child. Next, ask them the questions below.

Portrait of Bolívar in Bogotá” by José Gil de Castro (below). In the portrait, the use of text helps to reinforce Bolívar’s heroism, stating that he is El Libertador (the liberator). While military dress seems to be a consistent feature in his portraits, his facial features and skin tone change according to the artist. Despite the fact that Bolívar was a creole, Figueroa calls attention to his uniquely Latin American character by depicting him with darker skin—a reference to the racial mixing that characterized Latin America after colonization. The format and composition of the portrait, as well as the pose might remind you of the famous picture “The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries” by the French artist Jacques-Louis David. The globe placed prominently in the background announces Bolívar’s worldliness and regional ambitions, as reflected in his liberation of multiple Latin American countries. (source)

This portrait of Simon Bolivar was painted by colonial artist José Gil de Castro. This artist was well known for painting political leaders in the independence movement. Look at the picture again and consider:

  • What does the artist want me to think of Bolivar?
  • Is he strong and brave or weak and cowardly?
  • What is he wearing and why?
  • What do you notice about his skin tone?
  • What do you notice about his hands?
  • Does it remind you of any other portrait you might have seen in our France Unit?
  • What do you notice about the background of the portrait?

Activity 3: Modern-day Lima. 

Lima is the capital city (where the government works) of Peru, and is considered the most important and largest city in the country. Lima is the industrial and financial center of Peru, and one of the most important financial centers in South America. (75% of the Peruvian economy is handled in Lima.) Lima is a city in constant urban growth. It has a large population, with over 8 million people living in the metropolitan area. It’s characterized by its historic center, museums, art galleries, festivals, and historical sites. After 1824, many people immigrated to Peru from Europe. Then, after the abolition of slavery in 1854, people came from China, Northern Europe, and Japan to do labor work in areas such as farming. (source) Take a virtual tour of Lima, Peru here.

Like any city, Lima faces a pollution problem. A local inventor and retired naval engineer, Jorge Gutierrez, is deploying giant air purifiers that double as billboards to suck up carbon dioxide and freshen the city’s sometimes choking air. He developed and designed the 15-foot high, box-like steel contraptions, called “super trees,” and says each one can convert as much carbon dioxide into oxygen as 1,200 trees. “The secret is to reproduce what nature does for free to clean the air,” Gutierrez says. The machines, which each cost $100,000 to build but just $6 a day to run, suck in the dirty air and trap contaminants in water. Residual solids are eventually packed into secure containers that can be deposited at a landfill. Although the purifiers run on electricity, Gutierrez said the greenhouse gas emissions they produce are only a fraction of what they can remove and that they would quickly pay for themselves through advertising revenues. (source)

Conduct your own air pollution test with this STEM project

(+)Want to build your own air filtration system? Watch this news report about college students from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire who built a system using a boxed fan, some cardboard, HVAC HEPA air filters, and duct tape.

Lesson 5:

Today, we’ll learn more about another staple of Peruvian cuisine, corn!

Activity 1: For a history of corn in Peru, read this blog post from Eat Peru. Next, prepare this sweet corn recipe. 

Activity 2: Let’s learn more about corn. Visit this website and download the “We Grow Corn” activity guide in the link at the bottom of the page to learn the part of a corn stalk. You only need to print page 4 of the download. (Although this website is from Kansas, USA, many of the lessons and principles apply to corn grown in South America, too.) Watch this video to learn a detailed explanation of the grown cycle of a corn plant.

This website is filled with videos and activities. Feel free to click around and see what interests your child. Want to know about the different types of corn varieties? Watch this video lesson to learn the differences and compare and contrast them in a Venn diagram. Or try the “Space it Out” activity link. It will bring you to an online game to learn about farming practices!

Can corn grow in hot temperatures? How hot can it get? Read this kids article to find out. There’s also a pretty cool time-lapse video of corn growing.

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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.