Oceania Unit Study: Week 2

This week, we will continue our Oceania adventure through the islands of the Pacific Ocean, specifically Micronesia. Our activities will be be filled with important science lessons about earth science, conservation, and botany. We will also learn about pop artist Andy Warhol and a fascinating tree. We will read a mermaid folk story and practice our comparing and contrasting skills. Finally, we will learn a new math skill―exponents and square roots! But first, download and print your skills tracker here.

What you need:

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

Recommended 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.

Ocean current STEM activity:

Pop art project:

Banyan tree project:

Coconut chicken curry recipe:

Glazed orange coconut cake 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:

Activity 1: Ocean currents are made possible because of variations in ocean temperature, which cause differences in water density. Learn more about them in this video. Next, do this water STEM experiment. 

Activity 2: Ocean currents collect the ocean’s pollution into one huge garbage patch. Read the book Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to learn more about this sad “island” in the pacific. Next, watch this video

All those floating plastic bottles probably made you never want to drink out of a plastic bottle again, right!? Learn what can be done to help ocean conservationists by reading pages 30-37 of the book What a Waste. Next, watch this video about the efforts some are making to protect the oceans. Finally, read this blog post together with your child and make a plan to help the ocean.

Finally, let’s practice spelling and eye-coordination with this word search.

Activity 3: The next section of the Pacific Ocean that we will focus our attention on is Micronesia. Start by watching this video.

The islands of Micronesia are divided into seven different nations or territories. The majority of the central islands, known as the Caroline Islands, belong to the Federated States of Micronesia. As an independent nation in free association with the United States, the Federated States of Micronesia is divided into four states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. To the west of Yap (also considered a part of the Caroline Islands) is the Republic of Belau (or Palau). To the north are Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, which are both territorial protectorates of the United States. To the east of the Caroline Islands are two archipelagos that run roughly parallel, known as the Republic of the Marshall Islands. To the southeast are Nauru and Kiribati (formerly known as the Gilbert and Phoenix Islands), which are independent nations. (source)

Find these places on a map, atlas, or Google Earth. Next, add them to your map project of Oceania from Week 1.

(+) Geography lovers, watch this video to dig deeper into the history and geography of the Federated States of Micronesia.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’ll take a closer look at the Micronesia Islands.

Activity 1: Discover Palau. Start by watching this video to learn about this country in Micronesia. There is a lot to learn in that video, including about the beautiful nature sites and the many things that Palauan’s have in common with Japan and the United States. 

Let’s pretend to plan a trip to Palau. Print these planning pages to organize your information. Using this website, learn about the top 10 places to visit on the island. Research each location and decide which places you would want to visit. How long would you need to stay to see all these locations? How much money will each activity cost? Use page one of your printable to track these expenses.

Next, research travel, food, and hotel accommodations. Use the second sheet of your printable to create a travel budget. Finally, add up all your costs and determine how much money would be need to for you to travel from your home to Palau.

Activity 2: One of the foods you will find on Palau (as well as many of the islands in Oceania) is SPAM. Let’s learn the interesting history of this pork product in this video.

(You can even visit the SPAM museum virtually! You will need to email them to schedule a tour.)

SPAM also inspired pop artist Andy Warhol, a leading arts figure in the 1960s. Take a look at his piece here. Why would an artist create a piece of art out of a food packaging image? To answer that question you will have to learn more about pop art!

Pop Art emerged as an art movement during the 1950s in America and Britain and peaked in the 1960s. The movement was inspired by popular and commercial culture in the western world and began as a rebellion against traditional forms of art. Pop artists felt that the art exhibited in museums or taught at schools did not represent the real world, and so looked to contemporary mass culture for inspiration instead. At the height of its heyday, Pop Art was often heralded as ‘anti-art’ for refusing to abide by contemporary art standards at the time. (source)

Watch this video to learn more about Pop Art. So what do you think: Was SPAM worthy of a place in art history? Why or why not? Did it have a large influence in commercial and popular culture?

Next, watch this video to learn about Andy Warhol. 

Finally, let’s make Pop Art of our own! This is a great activity to do with a co-op or large family. Modify the activity to do at home with only one child.

What you need:

  • 4 colored construction paper sheets
  • 1 cardstock page
  • scissors
  • glue
  • paint + paint brush

What to do:

  1. Cut four pieces of construction paper into 4×4 squares. Paste them onto a black back ground as you see below:

2. Next, find an item that you think has influenced pop culture. Either print or photocopy the item. (You will need 4 copies of the image.) Cut and glue the print-outs onto each box.

Alternative idea: If your child can’t think of an item that they want to work with for this project, have your child trace their own hand 4 times and cut out the hand print and glue that to each box.

3. Use paint to add and create more dimension and texture to your picture. 

If using a painted hand print, you can use your own hand to make hand prints over the cut out version. Place the print in a different place for each square to make each square look unique.

4. Use a black marker to make any additional markings to finish your artwork.

Lesson 3:

U.S. Territory Islands include Marshall Islands, Guam, and the Wake Island. Let’s learn more about these islands today.

Activity 1: Read the book Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam. (Or you can listen to this read aloud.) This story likely reminds you of The Little Mermaid, a classic Disney movie. Let’s do a bit of comparing and contrasting between the two stories. For example, did both the main characters start off as humans or as mermaids? Were they happy to be transformed? Chart out your observations. Next, transfer the ideas into a short essay detailing one to two differences and one to two similarities.
(-) Create a Venn diagram to organize the similarities and differences of these two stories.

Activity 2: Did you enjoy the Sirena ending? If you think it needs a different or better ending, rewrite the story to end in a different way.

Activity 3: Although the majority of the people of Guam identify as Christian, many of the ancient ancestral religious practices of the island continue to influence their culture and beliefs. Read the book Pulani: A Rhyming Story Book of Guahan to learn the story of a young girl’s journey to knowledge and healing. This story reveals much about Guam’s religious background.

The girl in the story encounters taotaomona, ancestral spirits who live in banyan trees. (Click here to learn more about this ancient belief.) Let’s learn more about banyan trees! Here are some interesting facts about the banyan:

  1. The banyan (Ficus benghalensis) is one of more than 750 species of fig trees, each of which is pollinated only by its own species of tiny wasps that breed only inside the figs of their partner trees.
  2. Banyans are strangler figs. They grow from seeds that land on other trees. The roots they send down smother their hosts and grow into stout, branch-supporting pillars that resemble new tree trunks.
  3. Banyans are the world’s biggest trees in terms of the area they cover. The biggest one alive today is in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It covers 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres) and can shelter 20,000 people.
  4. For thousands of years, people have used banyans as sources of medicines. Today in Nepal, people use banyan leaves, bark, and roots to treat more than twenty disorders.
  5. The banyan tree is believed to have originated in India but can be found today in Florida and parts of the Caribbean, South America, Australia, Guam, and other Pacific Islands and Asian island countries like the Philippines. (source)

Watch this video to learn a few more details and see the strength of the banyan tree. If you have been inspired by this beautiful tree, it’s time to create some art around it! Follow these instructions to create a beautiful abstract art piece.

An optional chapter book that you can start this week and continue into next week as we learn about Hawaii is Aunty Pinau’s Banyan Tree.

Lesson 4: 

Activity 1: Let’s learn more of the flags from Micronesia.

The Federated States of Micronesia consists of several islands that have joined together to form a single nation, and the flag represents that union. The Micronesia flag has a light blue field that displays four white stars arranged in the pattern of a diamond. The four stars represent the four islands that make up Micronesia, while the blue field represents the Pacific Ocean that surrounds those nations.

The Republic of Marshal Islands. Following World War II, the United States administered as a trust territory the area that later became the Republic of the Marshall Islands. When the first local government was introduced there on May 1, 1979, the occasion was heralded by the hoisting of a national flag, which had been created in a flag design competition. The winning entry was designed by Emlain Kabua, wife of the president of the new government, Amata Kabua. The blue background of the flag refers to the Pacific Ocean, the white stripe stands for brightness, and the orange stripe is for bravery and wealth.

The flag of the Republic of Palau is a golden-yellow full moon slightly off-centered on a field of sky-blue.

Republic of Nauru became independent on January 31, 1968 and created a new flag design to establish its independence. The background of the flag is blue for the Pacific Ocean, and the yellow horizontal stripe stands for the Equator, which lies less than one degree north of Nauru. The location of the island is reflected by the white star located below the stripe, contrary to normal flag design principles. Its position near the hoist corresponds to the fact that Nauru is on the western side of the international date line.

The Republic of Kiribati. The new flag, hoisted at independence on July 12, 1979, was based on the coat of arms granted to the islands in 1937. At the bottom were three blue and three white waves, representing the Pacific Ocean, while the top of the design was red with a yellow sun and a typical local frigate bird. 

Use this printable to play Guess the Flag. Use descriptive words to describe the flag without showing it to your partner. Once they guess correctly, switch roles.

Activity 2: One ocean animal that resides in the waters of Pacific Ocean is the giant manta ray. The giant manta ray is the largest ray and one of the largest fishes in the world. It is also an endangered species. Reaching widths of up to 29 feet (8.8 m), these manta rays are much larger than any other ray species. For many decades, there was only one known species of manta, but scientists recently divided that species into two: the giant manta ray, which is a more oceanic species, and the reef manta ray, which is more coastal in nature. Giant manta rays have the biggest brains of any fish studied so far. They use that brain power to learn, exercise their memory, distinguish between objects, and even recognize themselves in a mirror. (source) Learn more about the manta by reading the book Manta Rays (or here on OpenLibrary) or by reading this webpage.

Ask your child to pick one of the facts from the book we read and use it as the basis for their own independent research. For example, they could compare the manta ray with another species of fish (e.g. sharks, examining similarities and differences of each, such as length, diet, etc.). Have them record their findings in a table.

If your child would prefer a creative writing activity, ask them to write a poem about the manta ray, thinking about how it moves through the sea and how manta rays come together to swim and hunt. (source)

Activity 3: Nauru is an oval-shaped island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, 42 km (26 mi) south of the Equator, listed as the world’s smallest republic, covering just 21 km2 (8 sq mi). With 10,670 residents, it is the second least-populated country, after Vatican City. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, which is exposed at low tide and dotted with pinnacles. The presence of the reef has prevented the establishment of a seaport, although channels in the reef allow small boats access to the island. A fertile coastal strip 150 to 300 m (490 to 980 ft) wide lies inland from the beach. (source)

Let’s take math detour for this lesson. Did you notice that the Island of Nauru is measured as 21 km2? That floating “2” is called a square root. Let’s learn about this math terminology and script with help from this video. Practice this new math concept with this game.

Lesson 5:

Activity 1: The main staple foods in the Federated States of Micronesia are taro, yam, bread-fruit, banana, and coconuts, of which there are hundreds of varieties. The staple foods from the ocean are the many reef and pelagic fish, crabs, shellfish, pig, and chicken. Pigs, especially in Pohnpei and Kosrae, are raised by nearly every family for ceremonial and cultural purposes, such as weddings, funerals, and feasts of celebration. (source) Read about the traditional foods of Micronesia here. Ready for a taste of this culture? Prepare this Micronesian coconut chicken curry recipe.

Activity 2: The Federated States of Micronesia is a tropical fruit heaven. Bananas, breadfruits, coconuts, mangoes, pineapples, wild apples, star fruits, papaya, guava, sour sop, and so many more local fruits can be found in the islands of the FSM. It also has several fruits and crops that are not commercialized but mainly used in the villages, for instance, breadfruits, sour sop fruits, and karat. While there are many varieties of banana found in the FSM, the “karat” is unique and has been found to have high nutrient and vitamin content and is mainly used for infants as baby food. You can see pictures of the karat banana here. You will likely not get to enjoy a Micronesian banana unless you visit the Pacific Islands, but your local international food market might have a variety of bananas for you to try and compare.

There are over 1,000 different types of bananas in the world. They are grown in over 150 countries and vary in taste, texture, color and shape. Bananas are either classified as “dessert bananas” or “cooking bananas.” Dessert bananas are soft-textured, sweet, and can be eaten raw. “Cooking bananas” have to be cooked to be edible. (source) After visiting your market, make a list of the bananas you were able to find. Research their origins. If you aren’t able to taste the variety of bananas in your area, read about them here.

Since fruit is so abundant in Micronesia, it’s not surprising that a fruit inspired cake is on our menu this week! Let’s make this glazed orange coconut cake.

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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.