Norway Unit: Week 3

There is so much more to Norway than just Vikings! This week, we will learn about its medieval history, the language spoken today by millions, and famous artists and classical composers from this beautiful country. Norwegian sports will also provide a fun physics lessons, and Norway’s animals will provide lessons in biology and math. We will end the week with a delicious treat—heart waffles! Start by printing out our skills tracker, and let the fun begin!

What you need:

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

Optional additional reading:

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.

Leif Erikson poster:

Akershus Castle model:

  • Minecraft OR cardboard (and other recycled materials) and craft supplies

Rune stone craft:

The Scream-inspired painting:

Alternative Scream painting:

Friction + forces experiment:

  • sheet pan or cookie sheet
  • objects to roll (water bottles, small paper cups filled with coins, toy cars, etc.)
  • sandpaper, playdough, or dish towel to create friction
  • measuring tape (optional)

Ice hockey experiment:

  • cookie sheet with slightly raised sides
  • items to slide on the ice, such as bottle caps, rocks, pom poms, toy figurines, coins, or other small objects

Moose STEM activity:

Norwegian waffles recipe:

(+) Lingonberry jam recipe:

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on your child’s knowledge, 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:

Activity 1: Discover Erik the Red + Greenland. Erik the Red settled in Greenland with 25 ships full of people and goods. More than 3,000 Vikings were said to be living on Greenland as farmers at one point. Vikings also discovered Newfoundland after being blown off course on a voyage to Greenland. (source)

Let’s learn more about Erik the Red and his son, Leif Erikson. Read the book Who Was Leif Erikson? After completing the book, create a biography poster. Print out or draw a picture of Leif Erikson and decorate the poster with important facts about him. Include a map detailing his travels, a family tree, or any other facts you enjoyed learning.

Activity 2: Let’s jump forward in history a bit. Starting in about the 9th century, Norway began having Kings. The first was Harald Fairhair. He united the petty kingships of Norway into a single realm in about 885. (source) During the Middle ages, Norway entered a new period, and people started adapting traditional Norse religious beliefs with Christendom’s teachings. This can be seen in Norway’s oldest stave churches featuring figures from Norse mythology alongside more traditional church images. (source) Click this link to see inside the church. 

Vikings, who had been converted to Catholicism during their travels, brought their new religion home when they returned. In addition to converted Vikings, monks and kings were also incredibly influential when it came to bringing Christianity to Norway. One man in particular, King Olav Haraldsson, was responsible for a dramatic shift toward Catholicism. During his life, this was through force. It was his death, however, that most noticeably changed the tide: Reports of miracles occurring around his tomb led many people to convert willingly. Olav Haraldsson was canonized, and he is now the patron saint of Norway. (source + source)

The Norwegian royal line died out in the 1300s, and Norway lost its independence as a sovereign nation. In 1380, Norway and Denmark were merged under a single monarch, but Norway was given a subordinate role in the union and came increasingly under Danish control. (source

In the 1500s, Norway, like much of Europe, broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. This shift came when the royal family converted to Lutheranism, and the country followed suit. Although the state church wasn’t officially established for nearly another century, this shift to Protestantism was the first glimpse of the modern Church of Norway. In 1660, the country instated absolute monarchy. (source)

There were several shifts in government for the next few hundred years until 1904, when Norway gained full independence. (source)

Now that you are all caught up on Norwegian history, read the book Why Kings and Queens Don’t Wear Crowns

This picture book was written by a member of Norway’s royal family, Princess Martha Louise. You can read about her here. Which brings up the next question: How is Norway governed today?

According to the Constitution, which was adopted in 1814, Norway is a constitutional monarchy. It is also a hereditary monarchy in a direct male line: The king is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. 

The government is divided between three branches: a legislative branch, the Storting (parliament); an executive branch, the Government; and a judicial branch, the courts. (source + source)

Activity 3: Akershus Fortress (also called Akershus Castle) is composed of a medieval fortress and a Renaissance castle. It is one of the oldest and best-preserved fortifications in the country. The fortress was built in the 1290s by King Håkon V and has a strategic location by the sea. It has been a fixture in the city for more than 700 years. For most of that time, its primary purpose was to defend the city from foreign invaders, something it did well, as no foreign military ever managed to capture it by force. The fortress also served as a prison, a church, and a royal residence for a time. It provides a great view of the landscape surrounding Oslo! Now, it’s home to a visitor center, government offices, and two museums, the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum and the Norway Resistance Museum. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oslo. (source

Watch the first minute of this video to see Akershus Castle. The Akershus’ Digital Museum details information about the history and structure of the castle. Click this website to see photos of the castle, inside and out! What is your favorite room inside the castle?

Side note: This castle was the inspiration for several Disney fantasy castles! Take a look here to learn more.

Finally, build a model of Akershus Castle in Minecraft or using cardboard.

Lesson 2:

Today’s activities will explore more about the language of Norway and some of its art and music.

Activity 1: The ancient Scandinavians had a method of writing called runes. Runes made up an alphabet of twenty-four letters that could be shaped with twigs or sharp cuts into wood or bone. Runes, which were probably based on the Latin alphabet. The oldest runes are often found on items such as coins, suit buckles, weapons and implements, and are often the names of the owner of the item or the name of the person who made it.

The Vikings did not write on paper, but carved them into stone, wood, or iron. The hard materials made it difficult to make round edges, so the runes are more angular than our letters. Elder Futhark is thought to be the oldest version of the Runic alphabet. Younger Futhark or “Normal Runes” gradually evolved Elder Futhark over a period of many years. (source

The runic stones of the Viking Age were erected in commemoration of powerful leaders and their heroic achievements. Short runic inscriptions are also found on everyday artifacts from Viking towns and marketplaces. (source) Click this article to see one of the most recent rune stones. 

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: Discover the modern Norwegian language. Today, Norway has two official languages: Norwegian and Sami. There are two main dialects of Norwegian, Bokmål and Nynorsk, and they’re quite different. Most international students choose to learn Bokmål, as it’s the more widely spoken dialect. (source

Let’s learn the Norwegian alphabet and some basic vocabulary. Watch this video to get started with Norwegian language lessons.

Activity 3: Let’s explore some music from Norway! 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. It is called 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!). 

Rhythm is not the same as tempo. Rhythm is a pattern of sound which can be repeated to a regular beat. Rhythm has symbols as you can see here:


The rhythm of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” may sound familiar. That’s because it’s the same rhythm (but with a slower tempo) as a famous children’s song, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”! Print these pages to help your child discover the rhythm and what it looks like in rhythm symbols. After working on the directions for each page, listen to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” again. Can your child hear and clap along to the rhythm of this piece now?

Want to have a Greig-inspired dance party at home? Listen to this version of the song by Deficio!

Activity 4: Discover Edvard Munch. Have you ever seen this picture?

It was painted by Edvard Munch and it is called “The Scream.” Munch was famous for painting his feelings. This is a type of artistic style is called expressionism. Watch this video to learn more about Edvard Munch and the expressionist movement. 

(+) Want a book version instead? Try Edvard Munch (Art Profiles for Kids.

Working with little ones? Look at our Level 1: Big Feelings Unit for a corresponding lesson about Edvard Munch!

Let’s recreate a version of The Scream in today’s art lesson. Students can either try to copy the original or create their own expressionist art piece. Use acrylic paint and a small canvas or heavy art paper. Some students might benefit from using a pencil to plan out the picture before they begin painting their strokes.

Or you could try this alternative Scream Art project!

Lesson 3:

Today, we’ll learn about some popular sports in Norway. As we do, let’s apply Newton’s Laws of Motion to each of them. Here’s a quick refresher:

  • 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.

Start by watching this video that introduces students to Newton’s laws of motion. (We also discussed this subject in our Peru Unit: Week 3 when we applied it to rocket science.)

Activity 1: Skiing is one very popular sport in Norway. The first hints to the existence of skis are on 4,500- to 5,000-year-old rock drawings at Rødøy in Norway. There are also remains of skis in bogs, with the oldest ski found in Hoting, Sweden, which is about 4,500 years old.

The word ski goes back to two Old Norse root words, both older than 4,500 years old: saa and suk. In modern Norwegian, this word is pronounced “shee.” This word is now used in most languages in the world. In languages like English and French, one uses the original spelling “ski” and modifies the pronunciation. Interestingly, many languages make a verb out of it, like in English “to ski.” (source)

A few years ago, archaeologists made a fascinating find: a 1300-year old ski with the binding intact. This means that a proper reconstruction has been possible. In 2015, the skis were reconstructed and tested! (source)

Although skiing is an old means of transportation, the equipment has changed a lot through the years, as you can see in this link. This page also has a ski history timeline with pictures of where skiing is seen throughout history. 

Skiing also involves a lot of science! Watch this video to learn the physics of skiing. Next, let’s review the vocabulary in the video:

  • Force is a push or a pull. Sometimes forces cause objects to move, and sometimes forces slow, stop, or change the direction of an object’s motion. Read more about force here.
  • Gravity is an example of a force that pulls all objects toward the center of the Earth. When you jump on a trampoline, gravity constantly pulls you down. Read more about gravity here.
  • Acceleration is the name we give to any process where the velocity changes. Since velocity is a speed and a direction, there are only two ways for you to accelerate: change your speed or change your direction—or change both.(source)
  • Friction is a force that causes two surfaces to stick very slightly together when they slide against each other. Read more about friction here.
  • Wind resistance is a force that acts in the opposite direction of moving objects. The air resists, or slows things down.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion is also highlighted in the video because t acceleration of an object is connected to the force which is acting on it. (The object speeds up due to the force acting on it.) Newton concluded that there are two factors the acceleration depends upon: the mass of the object and the force exerted on it. How much an object will speed up directly depends on its mass and the amount of force applied to it. (source) Click here to learn more.

Want to use science to improve your ski or snowboarding skills? Read this article full of tips to reduce drag and friction. 

Watch this STEM demonstration showing Newton’s Second Law of motion in action. 

Finally, let’s recreate this experiment at home! Using a sheet pan or cookie sheet, create a ramp. Roll different objects down the ramp to see how they go down. You may wish to use a measuring tape to measure how far the object rolls. (To add a writing element, you can also create a chart to record your results.) Use water bottles, small paper cups filled with coins, toy cars, or whatever you have on hand. Experiment by changing the weight of the objects to change the acceleration. (Remove water or tape on coins to change the weight.) 

Provide a greater force to some of the objects to see how that changes your results. This can be done by pushing the objects instead of simply releasing them. 

What can you add to the ramp to add friction? Sandpaper, playdough, or a dish towel can cause friction. 

What else can be done to our objects to change the results? How about creating a deeper slope? Can you make hills on the ramp with playdough? How do these edits affect your results? 

Activity 2: Ice hockey is a popular sport in Norway and has been played since 1937. There is a Norwegian Ice Hockey Association and 10 professional teams. Although Norway doesn’t have international success in hockey (especially compared to its neighbors Sweden and Finland), it remains a sport that many enjoy and we can learn from. (source) Need a hockey primer? Watch this video to learn the basic rules of the game.

Ice hockey is another great way to learn about Newton’s Laws of Motion. (If you haven’t already, watch the video at the introduction of this lesson to learn all three laws of motion.)

(+) Want a few more videos for more details? Click here to read about Newton’s First Law of Motion and here to learn about the Third Law of Motion.

Watch this video to understand how all three laws of motion apply to ice hockey. 

Let’s play and experiment with the laws of motion with a mini hockey field. To prepare for this activity, freeze a layer of water on a cookie sheet to create an “ice rink.” Experiment with different objects to see which are able to glide on the ice best. Use household items, such as bottle caps, rocks, pom poms, toy figurines, coins, or other small objects. Which items slide on the ice best or further than the others? Now try bouncing that item against the sides and corners of the tray. Choose two objects that are able to slide on the ice well and collide them together. What observations can you make about Newton’s Laws of motion and this activity? If desired, record your findings in a chart.

Lesson 4:

Today’s activities will get us up close and personal with some arctic animals that live around Norway.

Activity 1: Norway has a long history of whale hunting. This tradition began in the 10th century, and it was an important source of food and income for the country for many years. Norwegian whalers hunted whales for their meat, blubber, and oil, and they were some of the most successful whalers in the world. Norway stopped hunting whales for commercial purposes in 1989, but it still allows for catches of minke whales for ”scientific research.”

The most common whale to spot during the summer season is the sperm whale, but if you are lucky, you may also see pilot whales, minke whales, humpbacks, dolphins, and killer whales. In winter, fin whales might also make an appearance! (source)

Let’s learn more about the humpback whale. Watch this video or (-) this video to learn some basic facts. 

The Science Museum of Virginia has created a fantastic humpback whale lesson plan booklet with pictures and activities. Let’s open this document and print Lesson 2 (pages 10-14) to learn about the humpback’s fluke and migration patterns. There are three suggested activities in this lesson. As you learn about migration, be sure to highlight the route from Norway to Northern Africa. If your child enjoys these activities and wants to learn more about humpbacks, continue working through the lessons in the PDF to learn about the humpback’s anatomy, the sounds they make, where they are in the ocean food chain, and environmental dangers they face as well as how we can help protect these beautiful creatures. 

Activity 2: Polar bears live in the Arctic, including the island of Svalbard off the coast of mainland Norway. There are around 3,000 polar bears on Svalbard, but only around 2,600 people live there. (source) Learn some amazing facts about polar bears in this video.

Polar bears are massive animals, especially compared to us. Let’s do some STEM work to see exactly how much more a polar bear weighs in comparison to your child—and how much they eat!

  1. Let’s first start by doing some conversions. Many of us measure our weight in pounds (lb), but scientists prefer to measure mass in kilograms (kg) instead. To go between the two measurements, we just need to know that 1 kg = 2.205 lb. Using a calculator, can you convert your weight from pounds (lb) to kilograms (kg)? 

Example: If your weight is 100 lbs, then your weight in kgs can be calculated as 100 divided by 2.205 = 45.35 kg. 

  1. Now that you know your weight in kgs, we can compare you to a polar bear! If an average polar bear weighs 450 kg, how many of you would make up a polar bear?

Example: If your weight is 45.35 kg, then the solution is: 450 / 45.35 = 9.92, so the polar bear is nearly 10 times as big as you. Imagine 10 of your friends all standing together, and that’s about the weight of one polar bear!

  1. Polar bears really like to eat seals—they are full of yummy fat! One bearded seal provides approximately 3,700 MJ (megajoules) of energy. It’s easier to understand just how much energy that is if we change the units to something more familiar: calories (the unit that is used to measure energy on food packaging)! One MJ = 239 calories, roughly the number of calories in one Clif Bar. 

Approximately how many Clif Bars are equivalent to one bearded seal? 

Answer: If one bearded seal is 3,700 MJ (3,700 MJ x 239 calories = 884,300 calories) and a Clif bar is 250 calories, then the bearded seal is equivalent to approximately 3,537 Clif bars. That’s a lot of Clif bars! (source)

Activity 3: Moose is the national animal of Norway. Moose are herbivores, and they generally live in areas with cold, snowy winters. During the summer, they eat tall grasses and shrubs. (Moose are very tall, and they have a hard time bending all the way to the ground to eat shorter grasses.) In winter, they eat woody shrubs and pinecones. Here are a few more facts about moose:

  • Moose are good swimmers! They can swim many miles without stopping and can stay underwater for up to 30 seconds.
  • In the spring, moose look for food in rivers and lakes. They nibble on the plants growing in the water.
  • Male moose are called bulls. They bugle, or make loud noises, in the fall to attract a mate.
  • Moose usually have just one or two babies, known as calves.
  • Moose can run up to 35 miles per hour. you won’t outrun a moose.
  • These animals weigh more than 1,300 pounds.
  • Males have huge antlers that can grow 6 feet across or more.
  • A female moose (also called a cow) cannot grow antlers.
  • Male moose use their antlers for fighting and self defense. Fighting is generally over a female mate.
  • Their front legs are longer than their back legs and , this helps the moose to jump over objects.
  • Moose have excellent hearing and a fantastic sense of smell. This makes up for their relatively poor eyesight. (source)

Read more about moose here.

You can also watch this Nat Geo documentary about moose for even more details and awesome video footage. (Note: This video follows moose in Alaska and Canada.)

It’s hard to imagine the actual size of these massive mammals. Let’s use a graphing activity to get a better idea of how huge moose really are. Do activity 1 in this PDF by the Idaho Forest Group. (You only need to print pages 2 and 3.)

Lesson 5:

“Waffles are such an integral part of the Norwegian identity and culture that we had to highlight it!” (source)

Activity 1: Scandinavian waffles are thinner than what you typically find elsewhere, and they are heart-shaped. They are not served as a dessert with whipped cream or for breakfast with syrup, but rather as a meal in itself typically served in the afternoon with a strong cup of coffee. They are usually sweet, not savory. Waffles are commonly eaten with butter and brown cheese or a dollop of sour cream and jam. Scandinavian waffles do not require any yeast and can be whipped together in a hurry, making them easy to offer to guests. (source) The first recognized recipes for waffle batter in Norway appeared in the early 18th century in Stavanger at the Kielland family library. The batter contained wheat flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, as well as ground cardamom, mace, cloves, anise seeds, and ginger. Today, many of these ingredients still show up in waffle recipes.

Let’s take a bite out of history by preparing this delicious waffles recipe. Save them for Tea + Poetry today!

Activity 2: One of the common toppings people enjoy on their waffles is fruit preserve. Read about the fruit that grows in Norway here. You can purchase jams and preserves from online stores like this one, or, if you are able to get lingonberries, you can make your own lingonberry jam with this recipe. (We talked about the science of fruit preserves in our England Unit: Week 4—if you would like a lesson on that, jump over to Lesson 5.)

Activity 3: Norwegian tea is a mixture of black tea, white tea, raspberry leaves, natural currant flavor, blueberries, orange, bergamot flavor, and blue corn flowers. It might be difficult to find Norwegian tea in North America, but here’s one place you can order it.

While you enjoy your tea + heart waffles, read portions of Norway’s folk stories. You can find a few in the book Nordic tales: Folktales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark or other similar books available at your local library, such as East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon (or you can read it here on OpenLibrary). 

Folklore and folktales have deep cultural roots in Norway as a popular form of oral storytelling. These tales and myths, along with folk songs, have shaped the identity and cultural landscape of this country and make up the bulk of ancient literature. While the rest of Europe was writing down poetry and prose during the Middle Ages, Norway relied on oral traditions to preserve their history and culture. (And aren’t we glad they did!)

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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.