Norway Unit Study: Week 1

Welcome to Norway, a land with a long history of exploration! This week we will learn about this country’s unique geography, its native people, and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. We will also learn about reindeer, a famous Norwegian modern artist, and traditional handicrafts. The week will end with a delicious recipe for one of their most famous meals—Norwegian meatballs! Click here to download your skills tracker, and then, kom igjen! (Let’s go!)

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):

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.

Cardinal directions activity:

Glacier STEM activity:

Fjord sketch:

Svalbard travel guide:

Lavvu model + STEM challenge:

Reindeer number line math

Reindeer research project:

  • file folder OR poster board (poster board is cheaper to purchase at a local store)
  • glue stick
  • drawing materials

Reindeer art activity:

Cheese tasting activity:

  • brunost and other cheeses on this list (don’t worry if you can’t find them all—you can also purchase local cheeses to compare and contrast to these Norwegian varieties)

Meatball 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:

Welcome to Norway! Today, we’ll explore the geography and landscape of this remarkable northern country. Prepare for Activity 2 by freezing dirt and water in an ice tray.

Activity 1: Using a map, atlas, or this link, let’s find Norway on a map. Review cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) and ordinal directions (northeast, southeast, northwest, northeast) in this video. Upgrade the lesson with this website and learn Secondary Intercardinal Directions. Next, do this printable activity to practice directions in Europe. 

Activity 2: Norway is a spectacular land, filled with glaciers, mountains, forests and rivers. (source) Let’s learn more about glaciers. Glaciers are massive bodies of slowly moving ice. Glaciers form on land, and they are made up of fallen snow that gets compressed into ice over many centuries. They move slowly downward from the pull of gravity. (source)

Start by watching this video to learn what a glacier is, how it is formed and what we can learn about the earth by studying them. Next, watch this video and do the STEM activity at the end.

Activity 3: 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 explains more about the process of creating a fjord.

Some of the largest coral reefs are actually found at the bottom of fjords in Norway. They are home to several types of fish, plankton, and sea anemones. Scientists know much less about these deep, cold-water reefs than they do about tropical coral reefs, but they have learned that the living things in cold-water reefs prefer total darkness. Organisms in cold-water reefs have also adapted to life under high pressure. At the bottom of a fjord, the water pressure can be hundreds or even thousands of kilograms per square meter. Few organisms can survive in this cold, dark habitat. See some of the amazing fjords of Norway in this picture album.

The beauty of fjords have inspired many artists from around the world. Look at this link from the Smithsonian to see American artist William H. Johnson’s drawing of a Norwegian fjord. Next, create your own sketch of a fjord inspired by the ones in our lesson today. Either use pencil, black, or colored chalk.

Activity 4: Discover the islands of Svalbard. Find Svalbard in a globe, an atlas, or Google Earth. Watch this video to learn about this remote island off the coast of Norway. Next, read these interesting facts about living and visiting Svalbard. 

Next, let’s create a visitor’s guide brochure for the island! Fold a paper in three parts to make a brochure, and create a title page that includes a picture you draw or a one you print from the internet. (Alternatively, try creating this brochure digitally using a Word processing program.) Include facts about Svalbard, including what a visitor would need to know throughout their stay. Here are more resources to use in your project: source and source.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’ll get an introduction to the Sami, Norway’s indigenous people.

Activity 1: Discover the Sami People. The Sami are an indigenous people of northern Scandinavia who have lived in these lands for thousands of years. To begin learning about this beautiful culture, read Far North by Jan Reynolds. Learn more about the Sami in this article by NatGeo Kids. (+) Next, watch this video to learn more about Norway’s first people.

The permanent homes of Sami were either frame buildings or sod huts. (source) The Sami are semi-nomadic, though, meaning they don’t stay in the same place all year. Sámi herders migrate with their reindeer during the seasons, heading to the mountains for winter and coming back together with the community in the summer. On the journey, Sami herders will camp in a traditional tent, called a lavvu (also spelled lavvo, laavu or laavo).

The simplicity of the lavvu enabled the Sami to move quickly with their semi-domesticated reindeer herds at a moment’s notice. This structure enabled the indigenous cultures of the treeless plains of northern Scandinavia and the High Arctic of Eurasia to live in harmony with nature. Although the lavvu can be easily confused with the Native American tipi, it’s actually quite different. The differences between the two structures are reflected in their respective environments and cultures. Being more centered to the ground, the lavvu is better able to endure the fierce winds of the Scandinavian tundra, thus being a more stable structure. (source)

Next, let’s build a model lavvu using crafting sticks, play dough, or modeling clay, paper or wax paper, and glue or tape. Attempt to make your structure as wind resistant as possible. Challenge your structure by blasting it with air from a hair dryer for 30 seconds (use the cool setting) and be sure it can withstand the air. Make adjustments as needed to create a more stable structure. 

(+) As we read in the intro of our book, the Sami’s survival as a people has been threatened for hundreds of years. Read this article to learn how they have endured. Share the information you think your child is ready for as they work on their Sami shelters.

Activity 2: Discover the handicrafts of the Sami culture. 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. You can see some examples of genuine Sami duodji creations in this online store.

Let’s take inspiration from the 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.

Lesson 3:

Historically, reindeer have been extremely important to Sami culture. We’ll learn more about this centuries old connection in today’s activities.

Activity 1: The Sami have practiced traditional reindeer herding since the 17th century. Reindeer herding is more than just a profession—it is a way of life. In traditional herding, reindeer were used for food, clothing, trade (reindeer as a form of currency), and for labor. (source) Even before reindeer herding began, the Sami lived on wild reindeer. 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.

Let’s take a math detour: Let’s use the idea in this blog post but upgrade it! Start by making your reindeer close pin. (this is optional, but will be fun!) Next, review what negative integers are by watching this video. Next, we are going to learn how to add and subtract negative numbers. This next video will help explain this math skill. Let’s practice and play with our reindeer and a number line.

1) Write out a number line on a long strip of paper including numbers -25 to 25.

2) Let’s play with our number line by using these math dice. First, roll the operation dice to know if you will be adding or subtracting. (Roll again if you get a x or ÷ symbol.)

3)Next, roll an operation dice and a number dice to know where you will begin on your number line. (For example, if you roll a and a 4 you have rolled a -4.) Place your reindeer at that spot on your number line.

4) Again, roll the operation dice and a number dice to know the next integer in your operation. (For example, if you roll -6 your operation will be -4 + -6) Finally, solve your number sentence. Use your reindeer to count either up or down your number line accordingly.

5) Continue playing from the point in your number line your reindeer landed.

Activity 2: Only ethnic Sami are allowed to own and herd reindeer in Norway. As a result of Sami activism, the Reindeer Husbandry Act was passed in 2007 in an effort to protect Sami culture and customs. The act declared that only people who are Sami and have a parent or grandparent who practices reindeer husbandry as their primary occupation are allowed to own and herd the ungulates. 

Reindeer are organized by earmarks, which are small cuts in a deer’s ear that signal which person or family the animal belongs to. There are about 20 to 30 different earmarks that are approved by the committee responsible for determining if someone is able to own and herd reindeer in Norway. The 2007 act also specifies that reindeer husbandry in Norway must be “economically, ecologically, and culturally viable.” (source)

Prepare a research project about reindeer. Students can either make a lapbook or a poster board. Your child may wish to use this research guide worksheet to organize their thoughts as they research the topic. Read the book Reindeer (A Day in the Life: Polar Animals) or a similar book from your local library to learn about reindeer. Additionally, you can utilize online sources in your research. Optional topics include: reindeer anatomy, life cycle, and behavior. Answer the questions:

  • Where do reindeer live?
  • What do they eat?
  • Do they migrate?
  • How long do they live?

You can also have your child list any other questions they have about reindeer and search for the answers.

Activity 3: Sámi artist, activist, and writer Máret Ánne Sara is from a reindeer-herding family in Kautokeino, a village in northern Norway. She has created art from reindeer skulls. Read about the artist and see her work here

How would you artistically decorate a reindeer skull or antler? Let’s create our own design while also working on writing. You will need two people for this activity, so you can do it in a group or by working with your child. Print these pages for this assignment and follow these directions:

1) Use the first page of the printable to decorate your reindeer skull and antler with fine-tip markers. Keep your design hidden from your partner.

2) Next, looking at your own decorated reindeer, write a paragraph describing your design on the second page. Use adjectives to describe colors, textures, shapes, and design features. 

3) Give your partner your paragraph description. The partner should then attempt to draw out the design on the skull on that page based on the descriptive paragraph written.

4) If not enough details were provided, the second student (or grown-up) should use the third page to write specific questions to their partner asking for clarification of the antler design.

5) The first student can then use the bottom section of the third page to answer these questions with additional details and clarifications as needed.

6) The second student can now make any edits to their picture.

7) Finally, compare both pictures. How did you do at sharing information? Was your partner able to envision the picture based on the descriptive words used in the paragraph? What other words would have been helpful? 

Note: This can be a challenging assignment because writing what we see and giving directions in written form is extremely challenging. If writing is a challenge for your child, scribe for them or use a recording device instead of paragraph writing.

Lesson 4:

In today’s activities, we will learn more about the traditional clothing of Sami people, as well as some unique ways it has influenced modern culture!

Activity 1: The typical clothing of the Sami people is bright and beautiful. The traditional Sami clothing is called gákti, which in past times was made from reindeer leather and sinews, but is now more commonly made from wool, cotton, or silk. Women’s gákti typically consist of a dress, a fringed shawl, and boots/shoes made of reindeer fur or leather. The boots typically have pointed or curled toes. Traditional gákti are most commonly in variations of red, blue, green, white, medium-brown tanned leather, or reindeer fur. The colors, patterns, and the jewelry of the gákti are indicative of where a person is from, whether the person is single or married, and sometimes even a specific family. (source) This is a non-verbal means of traditional communication. You can learn more about how these are produced (and see more photos) here. You can see some examples of kofte here.

The traditional costume, called kofte, is another living tradition. Today, it is mostly used to dress up for special occasions, such as weddings, confirmations, and other cultural events. (source

Ask your child to design a modern day fashion design inspired by the Sami people. Draw several clothing pieces borrowing from the Sami’s use of color and textiles using one or more of these printable templates.

Activity 2: Your child might recognize features of the Sami culture 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)

Listen to more samples of joik music here

Lesson 5:

Ready for a little food history? Let’s take a bite out of Norwegian culture with these activities!

Activity 1: Norway might not be the country you think about when you think of cheese varieties—but maybe it should be! Norway is home to a variety of delicious cheeses. Read this article to learn about eight popular cheese varieties from Norway. If you have a local cheese shop that has at least a few of these in stock, take a field trip and purchase a few. (If possible, purchase brunost to taste for the next activity.) Prepare a cheese tasting with your family. Create a table listing the names of each cheese and have your family taste and rate the cheese. Which was your favorite? 

Activity 2: One unique Norwegian cheese is brunost. Brunost is derived from the same byproducts as goat cheese. It then goes through a unique series of processes and ends up as a tan-colored cheese…that is not actually technically cheese anymore! The preparation involves the process of taking the whey that is present in goat milk and boiling it until the sugars within the milk reach a point where they become caramelized. Afterwards, the resulting product is removed from the heat and left to cool and harden. Once it has reached its ideal amount of solidity, which is approximately as soft as average cheese, it is ready to be eaten. (source)

Brunost is a popular cheese in Norway, and it is often served as a snack or dessert. This cheese has a nutty flavor and a slightly sweet taste, and it pairs well with fruit and nuts. You can also have it with toast and waffles. It is also melted and made into fondue. 

Brunost is also an ingredient in this traditional meatball recipe. Prepare this meal and enjoy!

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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.