France Unit: Week 2

This week you will no doubt be impressed with the beauty of France. From its gorgeous gardens and impressive architectural structures to the creative art of masters and glorious music of famed composers, France is filled with magnificent things! We’ll also tackle some of our favorite science lessons in this unit as we explore several French recipes through the science of eggs. Let’s dig into some history and make it come to life with hands-on fun! Allons-y! (Let’s go!) Click here to download your skills tracker for this week.

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 by so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.

French garden model:

(+) Arc de Triomphe model:

(-) Paris paper cut-outs:

Rousseau craft, option 1:

Rousseau craft, option 2:

This activity can include a variety of supplies, including:

Egg food science:

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:

We’ll start our week with a subject that combines engineering and science—the classic French garden!

Activity 1: One of the features found all over France, from palaces to cottages, are beautiful gardens. Visit this website to see some of the most beautiful gardens in France. Ask your child to make observations: What do they notice about them? Perhaps it’s the symmetry, the defined lines, or the vines and moss that look wild-yet-manicured. What are some of the distinctive features of a French garden? 

Here are some of the distinctive features of French garden design:

  • The focus of the garden tends to be the house, usually a palace or chateau, and paths radiate out of focal point, creating long axial views.
  • A geometric plan is used, and symmetry is very important.
  • A central axis leads away from the house in a perpendicular line.
  • Paths tend to be gravel and edged with clipped hedges and topiary laid out in symmetrical patterns.
  • Water is often a key feature of French garden design, and lots of round pools and long rectangles of water will be incorporated. The reflection of the water adds to the symmetry and tranquility of the scene. Fountains and cascades are also very common features.
  • Close to the house, plants are kept low (no trees) and tend to consist of parterres, or enclosed gardens separated by gravel. Parterres close to the house can be quite intricately patterned and will tend to become more simple further from the house.
  • Further from the house, paths are often edged with trees that are almost always manipulated in some way. Trees are always planted in straight lines to add perspective and and reinforce the symmetry of the garden.
  • Pavilions and ‘follies’ (a building used just for decoration) are often incorporated, too.
  • There is almost always a terrace from where the garden and its symmetry can be seen from above.

One of our favorite features of French garden style is the interplay between formal and informal garden elements. The plants commonly used in French garden design vary from severely pruned topiaries to naturally growing flowering trees, vines, and perennials. They combine to make the planting of a French country garden an exercise in melding order and chaos. (source)

Want to bring some French elements into your own backyard? This blogger gives you eight tips that can transform your space.

Activity 2: Design your own French garden on graph paper, with LEGO, or in Minecraft! (Click here and here for ideas to get tips on using Minecraft for agriculture design.) Do extra research to find the plants you want to include. Be sure to incorporate the elements of design that we learned about in Activity 1. 

Field trip ideas: Even though you can’t visit a French garden, you may have a local botanical or public garden that incorporates French design. If so, visit the garden this week and observe the elements that have been incorporated.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’ll examine parts of the French Revolution of 1787. Note: We know we are barely skimming the surface on this topic. The French Revolution is a pivotal part of world history (and an important part of American history), and your student will continue learning about this topic as they go into high school and future studies. We hope that our lesson provides a very basic foundation for many years of curious interest in the way revolutions change history and tip the balance of power.

Activity 1: Read + Discover. Read UEWH, pages 332-333, to learn a brief history of the revolution. After discussing the reading, watch this video for an understanding of why the revolution occurred. 

The French Revolution began with Storming the Bastille, which is why today the French celebrate Bastille Day. Read about it in detail here.

(+) Watch this video for a more detailed overview of the revolution and also some understanding of why it occurred and what the people wanted. 

Activity 2: Writing. One of the outcomes of the French Revolution was the writing of their first constitution. In order to write this document, the people had to decide what they wanted their government to be like, who would rule it and how, and what the rights of the regular people would be. For our assignment, write your own Family Constitution and address the same issues.

This doesn’t have to be a serious writing assignment. (For example, your child can decide that the dog is in charge!) To ensure that we are still tapping into deeper critical thinking skills, ask your child questions to back up exactly how their family government will work. For example, if the dog is in charge, what is the basis for that authority? What are the dog’s demands? Is it a democracy? Are all votes equal? What are the penalties for disobeying the dog? Challenge your child’s answers to get them to think in-depth and defend their answers.

Lesson 3:

Today, we’ll take a closer look at a famous piece of French architecture, the Arc de Triomphe!

Activity 1: Read this post to learn the historical significance of the Arc de Triomphe. Watch this video to see what it would be like to visit this structure in person, and to get a bit more detail about its history. Next, click here to get a closer look at the architectural design.

One of the design elements found in the Arc de Triomphe is egg-and-dart molding. Click on the link to learn about it.

(+) Activity 2: Build a model of the Arc de Triomphe with this video tutorial. It will take about 60 minutes to build this paper model.

Activity 3: Build the Arc de Triomphe on Minecraft. Here’s a tutorial that can get you started. (There are three parts to this build, so look for the next two videos if you want to complete it with the help of this Youtuber.) Here’s someone else’s design that might inspire your child as well. (This building project will likely take a bit of time, so build it into your day for the next few days.)

Note: Levels 1 + 2 will be learning about the Arc de Triomphe in a couple of weeks, so if your family schools together, you might want to save this lesson for Week 4. 

(-) Activity 4: Along with the Arc de Triomphe, there are many other famous structures to learn about in France. We will learn about the Eiffel Tower in Week 4. But in the meantime, here are some paper cut-outs that can be used for play.

Lesson 4:

Today is all about Art + Music!

Activity 1: One of France’s famous classical composers was Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Saint-Georges’ given name was Joseph Bologne, and he was born in the French colony of Guadeloupe to a wealthy plantation owner and an African enslaved woman. Read the story Joseph Bologne Le Chevalier de Saint-George: The first black classical composer a.k.a. the black Mozart to learn his story. (Click this article by the LA Opera to learn more about his life and his great accomplishments. Or you can listen to this video about him for more details, including the challenges he faced being mixed race.) Listen to his works here. (You can keep the music on in the background as you continue to the next activities.)

Want to learn a little more about opera? 

  • An opera is like a play, except that the characters sing all of their lines instead of speaking them.
  • All operas have solo singers (meaning one person who sings alone) and an orchestra, and many have choruses (or a group of people who sing together in harmony), too.
  • Both men and women sing opera, and the parts are determined by how low or high a singer can sing.
  • Opera singers do not use microphones or any technology to make their voices louder or more powerful. But they never yell—they have usually trained for many years to be able to project their voices and fill large theaters with sound. They use their bodies to make louder sounds, and this is done in part by learning to control their breath. Want to try it out? Take a deep belly breath and then let the sound out in a “tssssss” sound. See how long you can make the sound before you run out of air!

Want to try singing a little opera? This Learn + Live tutorial will get you started.

Activity 2: Read The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (or listen to this read aloud) to learn about this famous French artist. Next, watch this video to learn a bit more about his unique style and what inspired his art. Take a virtual tour of his art here or visit the artist’s official website

Activity 3: Pick from one of these two art projects to attempt a Rousseau-inspired piece of your own:

Option 1: Paint your own forest scene in the style of Henri Rousseau with the help of this artist’s tutorial.

Option 2: Create a mixed media collage as you see here. (If your child is more free-spirited when it comes to art, this is a great option!)

Lesson 5:

We’ll end our week with some food science around an ingredient that features in many French dishes—the egg!

Activity 1: Eggs (or les œufs) play an important part of French cuisine. The French eat eggs for lunch or dinner but not typically for breakfast. They are used to make omelets, quiche, or eggs en cocotte (baked eggs). Eggs are also used in many baked goods, such as crepes and various desserts. Read this magazine post all about the way the French buy, store, prepare, and eat eggs to learn more about the culture. There is even an omelet recipe included at the end if you want to try to have a French lunch today!

Note: Today’s lessons will have several recipes. Read through all the lessons ahead of time and decide which ones your family will prepare. 

Activity 2: The science of eggs. Read the first two paragraphs of this page for a scientific explanation of egg proteins. Next, let’s get into the kitchen and manipulate (heat, beat, and mix) eggs to experiment with egg proteins! You will need four eggs total.

Start by separating two (2) egg whites from their egg yolks. You will need egg whites for part 2 and egg yolks for part 3. Read over this post while you conduct this experiment–it provides the science explanation for the cooking.

  1. Next, let’s add heat! Boil an egg in its shell for 12 minutes (also known as hard boiling). Read over this post for more details. Once it is cool enough, remove the shell and slice the egg. Examine and make observations of the egg whites in this state.
  2. Then, beat it! Beat one raw egg white until it becomes meringue. (You can also use an electric beater if your arm gets tired.) Here are some more tips for getting the best results.
  1. Finally, get mixing! Make a mayonnaise just like the French do and watch the emulsification process as described in the post come to life. (What’s going on with the egg this time? Read this post for more details.)

Once you have made all the different manipulations to the egg, compare the results. Discuss what is happening to the egg proteins and why.

Activity 3: One of the most famous French desserts is the macaron. Macarons are very delicate, exquisite cookies consisting of two layers of baked almond meringue with a creamy filling inside. The filling is pretty flexible, so you can use chocolate ganache, fruit purees, various types of buttercreams, and firm meringues. (source) Read more about the science of macarons here.
(+) Do you want to try to make macarons? They are tricky, but the results are extremely delicious when you get it right! Try this recipe with the help of this video. Bon appetit! 

Activity 4: Let’s end our lessons with a little biology. The amino acids that are found in egg proteins are essential amino acids. When we eat proteins, our body breaks them down and digests them and amino acids are what is left behind. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the human body, therefore we must get them from our food.

The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. (source) And the humble egg boasts them all! These amino acids are present in a pattern that matches very closely the pattern the human body needs, so the egg is often the measuring stick by which other protein foods are measured. In addition to the nine essential amino acids, there are also nine other amino acids in an egg. (source

Your body makes different proteins by linking amino acids together in different ways. Read (or listen to the recording of) this explanation by Ducksters.com.

(+) Forms of life are mostly made of a bunch of similar things repeated over and over again like beads on a string. Many times, there are only a few different types of “beads,” but the many different ways that they can be arranged allow living things to survive. The best examples of this are DNA, fats, sugars, and proteins. Here are some other interesting facts about proteins:

  • Proteins are strings of around 300 “beads” called amino acids (though they can be much longer or shorter). There are 20 different amino acids, which leads to a pretty much infinite number of protein combinations that can be made.
  • Proteins form the basic machinery of the cell. They make structures to support the cells and have many functions, such as using food to make new things for the cell. A large proportion of a cell is made of proteins because they’re just super useful—they can do just about anything!
  • You’ve probably heard that DNA contains information about us. The main reason why DNA is important is because it has instructions for making proteins. DNA is basically a manual of all the proteins a cell needs to make and when it needs to make them.
  • So proteins are really what make complex life possible because they have endless functions that allow life to adapt to just about anything! (source)

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Published by learnandliveletter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-11.

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