When you think of Egypt, do you only think of pyramids and pharaohs? So much has happened to Egypt in the last several thousand years—and this unit study will give your child an updated idea of what it would be like to visit this country with such rich culture and history. Click here to download your printable tracker to keep tabs on the books you read and skills your child works on this week. لنذهب ! (That means “let’s go” in Arabic, the national language of Egypt. 😊)
Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (which can be useful for children looking for more of a challenge). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) symbol.
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
- Follow Me Around Egypt by Wiley Blevins
- We’re Sailing Down the Nile by Laurie Krebs (or listen to this YouTube read aloud or read it online on OpenLibrary.org)
- The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil
- The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide (or read it on OpenLibrary here)
Optional additional resource:
Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):
- paper + access to a printer (don’t have one? we like this model)
- laminator + laminator sheets (optional, but recommended for repeating lessons)
- crayons (or other coloring materials)
- clear plastic box (a clear takeaway food box would work as well!)
- double-sided tape
- deck of cards
- 2 popsicle sticks
- green paint
- googly eyes
- white cardstock
- dry erase markers (optional, but great for using with laminated sheets)
- beads, pom poms, or some other counting manipulative
- 2 dice (optional for upgrade)
- thin cardboard (the back of a notepad would be perfect)
- a straw
- thin ribbon, twine, or string
- ingredients for this recipe
- decaf black tea
- watercolor paper
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!
For our first day, let’s take a closer look at where we can find Egypt on the map. Using an atlas, globe, or Google Earth to familiarize your child with Egypt’s location. Next, let’s read Follow Me Around Egypt to get a peek at this fascinating country.
Activity 1: Review this page for some facts about modern-day Egypt. You don’t need to read the whole thing to your child, but share with them Egypt’s capital (Cairo), the language, and details about the people and culture as they look at the vibrant pictures.
Activity 2: Color this printout of the Egyptian flag. As your child works, you can share with them the meaning behind the colors:
- The Egyptian flag represents freedom and independence. It represents their rich history and is a reminder of what Egyptians can accomplish when they work together. [source]
- The red stripe symbolizes the time before Egypt’s revolution, when they were under British rule, the white stripe symbolizes peace, and the black stripe signifies the end of oppression.
- The eagle symbolizes strength, courage, and determination, while the gold color represents power.
Activity 3: Much of Egypt is covered by desert. Build a ‘desert in a box‘ to learn more about this biome.
Activity 4: Egypt is also home to a variety of interesting land and water formations, including the Nile River, Suez Canal, and Sinai Peninsula. Let’s review these geographic formations with these printable nomenclature cards. The post has a few ideas for how to use the cards, or you can turn it into a literacy activity by having your child write the words as you explain them, either with a moveable alphabet or a pencil and paper.
You can’t talk about Egypt without taking a closer look at the Nile River! Let’s start today by reading We’re Sailing Down the Nile. Next, review this web page for more interesting facts about the Nile and the animals that call it home.
Activity 1: In ancient Egypt, the Egyptians relied on the seasonal flooding of the Nile to irrigate their crops. As a result, they invented the first 365-day calendar to predict its flooding! Their calendar didn’t look exactly like ours, but let’s use that as a jumping off point to better understand why the 365 days are divided into months.
For this activity, you’ll need a deck of cards (any cards will work, you just want to know the total number in the deck) and four bowls. Explain to your child that the Egyptians worked out that there were 365 days in a year—this helped them to predict when the Nile would flood again. Today, our year is divided into 12 months, but how do we determine how many days are in each month?
Tell them to pretend the cards represent the number of days and the bowls represent the months. (You aren’t actually using 365 items and 12 bowls because these numbers are too abstract for your child to grasp.) Start dealing out the cards, putting one card in each bowl again and again until the cards are all dealt. Next, cound the cards in each bowl. You will have roughly the same number in each bowl.
Explain how the days were evenly divided into the months, but there were a few leftover that didn’t divide evenly, which is why some months have more or less than 30 days.
Activity 2: Today, the Nile’s flooding is controlled by the world’s largest dam, The Aswan High Dam. Learn a bit about it here, and then let’s build our own dam! (The blog post shares a few examples of materials her children used to make their dams, but use what you have! Let your child take the lead and try whatever materials they can find or create.)
Activity 3: Next, watch this video to learn about the Nile’s biggest resident—the hippo! Next, let’s do a hippo literacy activity. First, use the template on this page to create the paper hippo. Print the pieces on cardstock, then glue them together and draw the hippo’s face. On each tooth, write either a letter, digraph (a combination of two letters that represent one sound, like “th” or “sh”), or sight word your child has been working on. Work your way around the teeth to review each sound or word.
Today, let’s take a closer look at Egypt’s capital city, Cairo! Start by reading The Day of Ahmed’s Secret, taking special note of the book’s beautiful illustrations to get a peek at what it’s like to be in this vibrant city. If your child is interested, you can learn more about Cairo here.
Activity 1: The official currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound. You can see a picture of this colorful money (which is written in Arabic on one side and English on the other) here. The Egyptian pound is available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200. Today, we’ll use the 5 and 10 denominations to inspire a math activity.
First, print this number chart in whichever color you prefer. Show your child how the numbers go from 1 to 100 and tell them you are going to practice counting by fives. Count to five (pointing at the numbers), and when you get to five, put a pom pom on that square. Then show how counting five more gets to 10 and put a pom pom on that square.
Continue counting by fives (either by skip counting or by letting your child count out five each time), putting a pom pom on each multiple of five. Soon, there should be an obvious pattern for your child to see and they should have an easier time knowing what comes next. When you get to 100, repeat the activity counting by tens.
(+) You can also use this method to practice skip counting other numbers as a pre-multiplication skill. Count by 2s, 3s, and 4s.
Activity 2: Camels are one of the most notable animals found in Egypt. While they aren’t typically used for transportation anymore, camel racing has become a popular sport. Watch this brief video to see what it’s like! Next, let’s have a camel race of our own with this STEAM activity.
Activity 3: The obelisk is a famous piece of architecture invented by the ancient Egyptians, and some of these ancient structures can still be found today. This webpage shares more about the obelisk, including how it has influenced modern architecture. As you read, encourage your child to draw and decorate their own obelisk.
Today, we’ll take a look at some of the culture that makes up modern-day Egyptian life. As you learn, encourge your child to compare and contrast their own life—they will likely find plenty of similarities even from halfway around the world! We’ll start by reading The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story.
Activity 1: Many Egyptian citizens understand and speak English and French, but Arabic is the national language. Want to learn a little Arabic? Click here to learn how to say hello and introduce yourself!
Activity 2: In The Arabic Quilt, the children all learn to write their names in Arabic. Use this tool to see how your child’s name would be written. Print it out and have your child practice writing their name, either by tracing over the letters or copying them onto another piece of paper.
Activity 3: Now, let’s make and enjoy a delicious food eaten throughout the Middle East, including in Egypt—hummus! Click here for the simple recipe.
For our final day, we’ll learn more about the daily life and culture of many modern-day Egyptians.
Activity 1: Tea is a staple in the diets of many Egyptians. Click here to read more about the history of tea in Egypt and to find a recipe you can try with your child. (This is the perfect activity to try if you do Tea + Poetry!)
Activity 2: The primary faith practiced by Egyptians today is Islam. If you are Muslim, use this time to talk with your child about the meaning of your traditions. If not, here is some information about Islam you can share with your child. Compare and contrast your own beliefs to see what common ground you can find. Note: Not all Muslims believe exactly the same thing. For more information, please visit this article.
- Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, with about 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide.
- The word “Islam” means “submission to the will of God.”
- Muslims are monotheistic and worship one, all-knowing God, who in Arabic is known as Allah.
- Followers of Islam aim to live a life of complete submission to Allah. They believe that nothing can happen without Allah’s permission, but humans have free will.
- Muslims believe several prophets were sent to teach Allah’s law. They respect some of the same prophets as Jews and Christians, including Abraham, Moses, Noah, and Jesus. Muslims contend that Muhammad was the final prophet. [source]
Activity 3: A Muslim place of worship is called a mosque. Click this blog for ten notable mosques of Egypt. Then, let’s work on this pretty mosque craft. The mosque in our craft has a minaret (the tower) and a dome. A minaret often has balconies, and the people are called to pray from these locations. The inside of a mosque will not have images of people or animals but will have decorated reliefs, symmetrical tile work, quotes from the Qur’an on the wall in Arabic calligraphy, beautiful architectural arches, and lamps lighting the rooms. Has your family ever visited a mosque? If so, talk about how your child remembers it and some of the details you saw.
Activity 4: Another important part of Egyptian culture? Music! There are several popular folk music styles in this county, but today we’ll look closer at Arabic folk music. Click here for a video of a famous Arabic musician, Simon Shaheen, and his ensemble and to learn more about the instruments commonly played in this style of music. Have you heard of all of them? If they are unfamiliar, ask your child if they remind them of other instruments they know. Finally, listen to this Arabic lullaby. Can you pick out some of the instrument sounds?
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