North America Part 1: Focus on Mexico, Canada, and Animals of North America
I won’t lie, when I started preparing for this unit, I didn’t know how much I would find for a “North America" unit but I knew it would be an immense amount. I felt like the concept was too broad and there was too much information to cover, which would thoroughly overwhelm me. So, I decided to divide the continent into two units: a unit on the United States and a unit covering Mexico and Canada. I knew I could find plenty on the USA to fill up at least a week, but I wanted to save the US until President’s Day (though in hindsight it would’ve worked well in conjunction with the elections too). Covering Mexico at this time of year really ended up being a perfect fit because of the timing of Day of the Dead (which is November 1st this year). Plus, so many of the activities we did for Day of the Dead segued easily into our Halloween unit. I was also pleasantly surprised at how many fun ideas I found for Canada and learned more about both cultures than I ever expected.
I started the week covering North America as a whole (where things are and the animals of North America) and then spent the rest of the first two days talking about Canada. I found a really amazing site with loads of sensory and fine motor skills activities for Canada, so it was a fun unit to do with both girls, not just Aria. By the end of the first two days, we had made a fizzy baking soda flag, played with a felt flag, played in a Canadian flag rice sensory bin, and made the flag with play dough. (Tip: Save the red and white rice for used again over Valentine’s Day week). Aria knew the flag so well and enjoyed working on it so much that she painted me the flag multiple times of her own volition. On top of that, we did maple leaf painting, painted with maple syrup, and even made our own book about Canada. Two days were plenty for Canada, though, so we gladly moved on to Day of the Dead and Mexico.
For co-op this week, we focused on having a Day of the Dead celebration Coco style. That means, we in no way covered all of the significance of the holiday but did our best to learn about and honor some of the traditions of the day that we got a glimpse of in the movie Coco. We decorated masks and dressed up in costumes from Michaels. We also decorated the house and colored skulls. Then, we made a feast together from a Mexican cooking book of really basic dishes, like guacamole, salsa, quesadillas, a Mexican banana smoothie, and a fruit salad (see Taste of Mexico in lesson plans). I considered making dishes more traditional to the day, but I wanted the kids to take part in making the meal and figured it might be too much for both me and them! Some of the kids loved all of the food and some weren’t interested in trying any of it, but they all took part in making it and enjoyed cooking as a team.
For the rest of the week, we worked on Mexico as a country and covered a few more Day of the Dead activities we couldn’t get to with our friends. We made play dough in the colors of the Mexican flag and made it smell like coconut with coconut extract. (We saved the play dough to use again at Christmas because the colors work well for Christmas colors, so we will see how it holds up.) We also made paper plate skull masks, homemade Mexican chocolate in skull molds (which was a fail but ah, well), maracas, a sun craft, clay bowls and more. The girls both really got into all of the crafts and learning fun facts about Mexico.
I loved this unit far more than I thought that I would, though I really think the key to that was celebrating Day of the Dead with our friends and being super hands on with everything that we did. I will definitely repeat this unit and I think both girls can’t way to celebrate Day of the Dead again. I’m glad we are taking a bit of a break from our geography units to really enjoy all of the seasonal activities and units coming up, but after this week I have renewed vigor about our units in the spring and all of the exciting things we will learn!
Please keep comments contructive
Jessica and Ana
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