When we hear the word Viking, we might think of our favorite Marvel superhero or a cartoon with dragons and warriors. Hollywood and historical fictional writers have created a lot of imaginary story lines that have altered our understanding of this word and the culture and people it has come to represent. This week, we will learn about Norway’s Viking Age, Norse mythology, and work on some fun math skills. We will also do a lot of science, building and creating this week. Track your progress using our skills tracker here, and let’s go Viking!
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
Note: There are many books about Vikings available at local libraries. Although we are recommending a handful of books this week, use whatever you have available to you. Most of them are very similar and provide many of the same facts and details.
- A Child’s Introduction to Norse Mythology: Odin, Thor, Loki, and Other Viking Gods, Goddesses, Giants, and Monsters by Heather Alexander OR DK Norse Myths by Matt Ralphs
- National Geographic Kids: Everything Vikings by Nadia Higgins
- Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map by Cindy Neuschwander (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
- DK Eyewitness Books: Viking by Susan Margeson (or you can read this different edition on OpenLibrary)
Optional additional reading:
- Lords of the Sea: The Vikings explore the North Atlantic by Allison Lassieur (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
Optional gameschooling idea:
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.
Norse mythology illustration:
Draw a Viking ship:
- black marker
- crayons or colored pencils
Viking mapping activity:
- poster board (this is usually cheaper to buy locally)
- origami paper
Viking longhouse model:
STEM boat challenge:
- scrap cardboard
- paint brushes
- crafting foil
- paint in metallic color
- faux jewels
Viking toys craft:
(+) Viking helmet craft:
- white cardstock
- stapler + staples
- flexible tape measure (optional)
- silver and bronze paint
- hole punch
- glue stick
Viking sword project:
- scrap cardboard
- silver duct tape
- black permanent marker (optional)
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!
Let’s begin with an introduction to the Vikings and Norse mythology.
Activity 1: Read + Discover. Who were the Vikings? Vikings is a term used to identify a group of people who lived in Scandinavia (including Norway) from the middle of the eighth century until the end of the eleventh century. It is derived from the Old Norse words víkingr and víking, which are usually translated as ‘raider’ and ‘to raid.’ Over time, it has become the modern term to describes an entire civilization. This means that an entire Medieval Nordic society is now identified by a word that is actually intended to mean a specific job and activity. This evolution in language has sparked a heated debate around how we should use the word ‘Viking’ and whether it can really be applied in the broad strokes as it is often used today. (source + source)
Medieval Normans were sailors, traders, and farmers. They were gifted story tellers, fortune finders, explorers, and warriors. Watch this video for an introduction to the Viking Era (-) or this one for younger students.
Next, read about Vikings in the book National Geographic Kids: Everything Vikings, pages 10-13.
Activity 2: Vikings did not use maps. Instead, they used lots of different methods to work out where they were and which direction to travel in. They looked at the color of the sea, the way the waves moved, and the way the wind blew. They looked out for birds and could smell if they were near land. They also looked at the position of the sun and the stars. (source) But cloudy days could have sent their ships dangerously off course, especially during the all-day summer sun experienced seasonally at those far-north latitudes.
The Norse sagas mention a mysterious “sunstone” that was used for navigation. Now, a team of scientists claims that the sunstones could have been calcite crystals and that Vikings could have used them to get highly accurate compass readings even when the sun was hidden.
The trick for locating the position of the hidden sun is to detect polarization, or the orientation of light waves along their path. Even on a cloudy day, the sky still forms a pattern of concentric rings of polarized light with the sun at its center. If you have a crystal that depolarizes light, you can determine the location of the rings around the hidden sun. Need a little help understanding polarization? This video explaining how polarized sunglasses helps to break it down.
This image helps us understand the difference between unpolarized light and polarized light. As you see, light traveling from the sun travels in waves that are horizontal and vertical. The crystal used by the Vikings (calcite) is able to polarize the light.
Light passing through calcite is split along two paths, forming a double image on the far side. The brightness of the two images relative to each other depends on the polarization of the light. By passing light from the sky through calcite and changing the crystal’s orientation until the projections of the split beams are equally bright, it is theoretically possible to detect the concentric rings of polarization and thus the location of the sun. (source)
Learn more about the crystal in this video.
Activity 3: Ancient Vikings and Norse myths often go hand in hand. What is Norse? What is a myth? For this activity, you can use either DK Norse Myths OR A Child’s Introduction to Norse Mythology to learn more about this topic.
Let’s read about the Norse’s creation story, the world tree (Yggdrasil, pronounced eeg-drah-sil), and the nine worlds in DK Norse Myths, pages 4-19, OR A Child’s Introduction to Norse Mythology, pages 8-21.
Consider the ancient religion’s beliefs. How do they compare to your family’s belief of how the universe came to be? How does it compare to other creation stories you have learned about?
Draw a picture depicting the nine worlds in Norse mythology along with the Yggdrasil tree. Use the illustrations in the suggested books as your model.
Activity 4: What does our calendar today and Norse mythology have to do with one another? Some of the names of the days of the week actually come from the names of Norse gods! Sunday and Monday are named after the celestial bodies, sun and moon, but the other days are named after Norse gods: Tyrs’s day, (W)odin’s day, Thor’s day, and Frigg’s day. (The English ‘Saturday’ originates from the Roman god Saturn, and can be recognized from Latin, where the day is called ‘Dies Saturni’.) (source)
Learn about these and other gods and goddesses of Norse mythology in our books today. Read either A Child’s Introduction to Norse Mythology pages 22-31 OR portions from DK Norse Myths, pages 34-109. (DK Norse Myths introduces each god/goddess with a brief bio followed by a story. Feel free to read the bios only and leave the stories for free reading.)
(-) Working with a younger child? Try National Geographic Kids: Everything Vikings, pages 34 and 35.
(+) If your child really enjoys Norse Mythology, they will likely enjoy this Crash Course video.
Thor and Loki are Norse gods that have become quite popular in pop culture. If your child is a Marvel fan, let’s compare how these gods are characterized in comic books, cartoons, and movies to their bios in the book. What is different? What is the same? Create a Venn Diagram to make your assessment.
In today’s activities, we’ll examine the famous Viking ships and how they enabled exploration.
Activities 1: The Vikings were the lords of the sea. Read about their long ships here, or in the book Everything Viking on pages 18 and 19.
(+) Expand your knowledge of Viking nautical expertise and their warships by reading the DK Eyewitness: Viking book, pages 8-11. Vikings also built other kinds of ships that weren’t used in battles. Read pages 24-25 to learn about them.
Watch this video of a visit to the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. You can also see the same ship on page 54 and 55 in the book National Geographic Kids: Everything Vikings.
Next, draw a Viking ship. Encourage your child to make edits to this drawing based on the details they see in their books and in the video above.
Activity 2: Let’s track the places Vikings traveled with a mapping activity. Refer to the map on page 16 and 17 in the book National Geographic Kids: Everything Vikings. (There’s also a map on pages 4 and 5 in DK Eyewitness: Viking, or you can use this map as a reference.) Begin by freehand drawing, coloring, and labeling your own map of Scandinavia, Northern Europe, the western corner of Russia, Greenland, and the tip of North America on a medium size piece of oak tag or poster board. (Don’t worry if it’s not “perfect”—start with pencil so you can erase until your child is happy with their outline.) Next, make a paper origami model Viking ship and have it travel around your map as you read about Viking travels. Read pages 16-23 of DK Eyewitness Vikings to guide your travels.
Activity 3: What made the Viking ship so special? Watch this video to learn all about the unique structure of Viking ships. A ship’s ability to float has to do with its buoyancy. There are three types of buoyancy.
- Negative Buoyancy: Exists when the weight of the body is greater than the weight of an equal volume of the displaced fluid. The body sinks.
- Neutral Buoyancy: Exists when the weight of the body is equal to the weight of an equal volume of the displaced fluid. The body remains suspended – neither rising nor sinking – unless acted upon by an outside force.
- Positive Buoyancy: Exists when the weight of the body is less than the weight of an equal volume of the displaced fluid.
Check this link to see these illustrated.
Next, let’s try to build our own buoyant Viking ship using craft sticks, hot glue, and some other crafting supplies like modeling clay, straws, cardstock, and tape. The idea is to have your child create their own design (possibly drawing out their plan before they build), but here are some hints to get them started:
- To build the hull of the ship, use popsicle sticks and hot glue. Make the bow (front of the boat) tall enough so water won’t submerge and sink the ship. The bow and stern (back of the ship) should be the same height since Vikings designed their ships to travel either way. You may also want to use modeling clay or extra hot glue to plug any holes in the hull.
- For better balance, create a keel (the fin below the bottom of the boat) using popsicle sticks. This should run from bow to stern. The keel counteracts the side to side motion of the ship. Test in water before proceeding.
- Use a straw and card stock to build a sail and mast. Use modeling clay to attach the mast to the hull.
- Add ballast (weight to balance) to the inside of your boat if the ship isn’t balancing. Small amounts of modeling clay work well.
Test your designs in a full bathtub or sink, letting your child make any needed modifications until they are happy with their boat. Discuss which type of buoyancy is at play here.
Looking for some extra reading? Try the graphic novel Lords of the Sea: The Vikings Explore the North Atlantic.
Activity 4: Let’s take the Vikings on a math adventure. Read the book Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map to learn about grids, axes, and coordinates before we begin.
Learn more about coordinate grids in this Khan academy video. Let’s practice plotting points with this Viking ship-inspired math printable. Once the points are plotted, color in the ship and any add extra details desired.
Fun fact: What some students may not realize is that Minecraft is one giant geometric grid, also called a cartesian coordinate grid! By turning certain settings on, students can find their location on the grid and share it with others. Each block is given a coordinate on the x, y, and z axis.
To find your grid in any world you have built, follow these basic directions: For Bedrock Minecraft edition, go to the main menu settings (in world settings) under Game>World Options>Show coordinates. For Java Minecraft edition, press the F3 key. (It will look like a bunch of code.) Read the page looking for the coordinates. This is a great way to give your teammates your location. Chuckbase.com is a third party website used to create a grid map of the world you are playing in. This is great math practice!
Activity 1: Let’s review what we’ve learned so far and dig a little deeper in the Viking culture by watching this video.
Read more about the Vikings’ everyday life in the DK Eyewitness: Viking book. Read about the people (pages 28-31), their farm life (pages 38 and 39), and their homes (pages 32 and 33).
Viking homes, called longhouses, were simple log houses. Houses were usually one big, long, rectangular room with a central open fire and a hole in the roof to let out the smoke. Read more about longhouses here. Click here to see a replica of a longhouse.
Now, let’s build one! Use sticks from your backyard, crafting supplies (we’ve recommended a few things in the supply list), LEGO, or even Minecraft to build a Viking longhouse.
Activity 2: Learn about Viking death and the afterlife. Read this post to learn about how some Vikings would be buried and what they believed about the afterlife.
According to ancient myth, Viking warriors who died in battle would be sent off in a longboat to a majestic hall called Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. The boat, holding the dearly departed, would be set ablaze and launched at sea. Read more about burial ships in pages 54 and 57 of DK Eyewitness: Vikings.
Archaeological evidence shows the majority of Viking burials were cremations. The bodies were burned and then the grave, stone cairn, or mound was raised over them. There are many variations in burial mound shape and height. Most mounds are circular and can be as much as 10 meters high. It is thought that objects which belonged to the deceased were intentionally broken, then burned and buried with their owners. This may have been done to prevent theft by grave robbers, especially in the case of swords and knives. In addition to swords and knives, jewelry, tools, household utensils, food and drink items, and even furniture were common finds at Viking grave sites. (source)
This tradition may remind your child of the Ancient Egyptian tradition of burying royalty with their possessions in tombs. In both cases, this practice enables modern-day archeologists to deduce many things about the person who was buried.
Let’s turn this into a writing exercise! Have your child pretend they are a Viking and make a list of 5-10 possessions they would like to be included in their burial mound. It could be anything from a piece of sports equipment to a favorite sweater to a beloved video game! For each item, have them write one sentence about what this object would tell future archeologists about them.
Activity 3: Viking Fashion. Both men and women in the Viking-age wore jewelry and brooches, often made from precious metals and decorated with complicated designs. Pins and brooches were not just a fashion accessory, but also essential for holding clothes in place! Learn more about Viking brooches in this museum printable. Next, make your own Viking inspired brooch.
Today, we’ll learn more about Viking kings and the battles they waged.
Activity 1: Vikings have become famous for their battles. Read the National Geographic Kids: Everything Vikings book, pages 28 and 29 to learn more about them. Next, read DK Eyewitness: Viking, pages 14 and 15, to learn about the weapons they used in warfare.
Many artists, authors, and media outlets depict Vikings wearing horned helmets, but let’s read page 48 of the book National Geographic Kids: Everything Vikings to learn if horned Viking helmets were fact or fiction. (+)For more pictures and details on this subject, read this article and this article.
After reading the sources list above, draw and design your own historically accurate Viking helmet. (+) If your child is interested, you could also make this helmet craft.
Activity 2: Artifacts from the Viking Age show that children, both boys and girls, had small toy weapons among their belongings. Click here to see pictures and read about Viking toy artifacts.
Using modeling clay, create your own Viking toys. Allow the clay to thoroughly dry, and then paint to complete your work.
Activity 3: Discover Swords. Virtually visit this Met Museum exhibit to see a 10th century sword. After reading the description and listening to the audio, make a sword out of scrap cardboard and duct tape. Draw a pattern of a sword onto a piece of cardboard and wrap the cardboard in silver duct tape to give it a metallic finish. Add decorative “carvings” with permanent markers, if desired.
As is our tradition, we’ll spend the last day of our unit looking into some food history. Today’s highlight will be a traditional Norwegian dish called fårikål (pronounced foh-ree-kole).
Activity 1: Learn about Viking meal time by reading pages 34 and 35 in the DK Eyewitness: Viking book. Typically, food was prepared around the hearth in the center of the living room. Meat was stewed in cauldrons or huge pots made of iron or soapstone. Some cauldrons were hung over the fire on a chain from the roof-beam. Others were suspended from a tripod.
Using the information from the book (or you can look at this article or this one), have your child create a prix fixe-style menu for an imaginary Viking restaurant. The menu should include an appetizer, a main dish with a side, a drink, and a dessert. They can also name their imaginary restaurant and decorate their menu, if desired.
Activity 2: Fårikål is a traditional Norwegian dish that is made from lamb and peas. In 1927, fårikål was named Norway’s national dish. Recently, a controversially vote was retaken in 2014 and fårikål received 45% of the vote, maintaining its place as Norway’s most beloved dish. (source)
The name of the dish means “lamb and cabbage stew,” and it is typically served with a dollop of sour cream. Fårikål is a popular autumn dish, and it is often cooked in a slow cooker or pressure cooker to allow the flavors to meld together. This dish is hearty and filling, and it is a great way to warm up on a cold day. Prepare this recipe, and enjoy!
Activity 3: There are many folk stories that are set during the Viking era. As you enjoy your meal, read this story of the golden hair and answer the included questions.
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