February 16, 2005

Inuit and Arctic Animals Lesson Plans

Today's lesson is an example of something that started unplanned and blossomed into a full blown themed day. It started simple enough. Rhiannon picked up a fiction books called "The Seasons and Someone" by Virginia Kroll. She has been feeling quite sick and wanted to just read today. She curled up and I read it aloud. The first page talked briefly about Eskimos and igloos. As we read the book that she enjoyed listening and she started asking questions.

This week we are studying the letter I with Ciaran and I had recently picked up some books about the Inuit (proper name for Eskimo) and their igloos (really means Inuit home not just ice home) so I offered to read one. She was interested and we worked our way through two non-fiction books on the lives and history of the Inuit. Ciaran and Sirah played nearby and from time to time I would have to stop to manage a squabble between them or give them some concentrated attention. From time to time Ciaran would join us to listen if something interested him. Rhiannon actually enjoyed learning about their lives and if we had started the day saying "We are going to learn about the Inuit" I assure you the rest of the day would not have gone the same. She would have drudged through it because it was what we were doing but she would have been unhappy and not excited.

As we read these non fiction books several animals from the Arctic area kept coming up as did much of the traditional dress. Reading about mukluks reminded her of a book we own "Mama Do You Love Me?" by Barbara M Joose. Reading about the use of reindeer and caribou skins reminded her of our book "On Mother's Lap" by Ann Herbert Scott and the ptarmigan reminded us of "Blueberry Shoe" by Ann Dixon which Serona bought from Alaska a few years ago. We sat on the couch and read through these favorite storybooks and now she picked up on more details having just learned about them through "Whole books on the subject" to me it was a nice combination of whole and living books that really brought the lessons and stories home for her. I did also put out a Q and A Animal Encyclopedia that I have which had a chapter on arctic animals. She flipped through that and enjoyed looking at the pictures though never seems to enjoy them as much as whole books on each animal - which I did not have. Still she did learn about how big polar bears were and get a sense of all the different kinds of animals in more lifelike pictures than the storybook ones she saw.

Then I went to the computer and began my hunting around - this is still my responsibility while they are young soon it will become theirs. Though before I began I sat down with her and had her list all the things she remembered and wanted for her book. Here is the list she came up with: igloos, amautiq (baby sling), caribou, walrus, whale, seal, salmon, mukluks, storyknife (still looking for this), umiak, parka, polar bear, artctic fox, inuit flag, kumatik (dog sled), bush plane, inuit alphabet.

I found coloring sheets for the animals and pictures to print of all the rest to add to her book. I found some Inuit coloring sheets here, and some arctic animal printouts to color or paint online (today I let her do many of them online and print since she is not feeling well) of the animals we read and learned about in the book. During my searching I also came across these sites of Inuit games and more games.

I found and printed out a glossary of Inuit terms and some pictures of their traditional dress. Rhiannon also wrote a few sentences on igloos and how igloos is really a name for all types of Inuit homes. She wrote sentences about three of them and then drew pictures of each (wood, tent, and icehome).

All our talking brought up the fact that Serona and I went to Alaska for our honeymoon and I agreed to show her the pictures from then. We were talking about glaciers and icebergs and I explained that Serona and I took a helicopter to land on one and the pictures don't really give you the perspective of how big they are. We also saw harp seals, orca and humpback whales and other animals. We looked through our honeymoon pictures.

It was a tremendous and fun lesson and we might spend more time on it tomorrow. She really seemed to enjoy and understand much of the material. Having the storyboks and pictures helped her even more. Tomorrow we may do a blubber experiment and play some of the traditional Inuit games as well as make a pair of snow goggles.

It was the kind of day that you are so thankful you homeschool because a single storybook can lead to many more interesting and detailed lessons that are driven by the child's interest. We spent a whole day examining this and seeing many of the interconnections between history, geography, culture, science, art, government, entertainment, and how to use storybooks to learn about life and how to bring to life whole books.

I highly recommend diving into a storybook the next time the opportunity arises and seeing where it goes. After our day we went back and looked at the storybooks we read and pointed out details that would show us that they would be about either the Inuit or the animals of the arctic area.



  1. What a great day!

    I love "Mama Do You Love Me". I gave it to my son one Christmas and at 8, he still asks me to read it to him.

  2. Mamma, Do you love me? Is one of my favorites, too.

    This is the perfect example of why homeschooling works, and why you don't need to spend money on an expensive curriculum.

  3. qamutiq, NOT kumatik