Peru- Nazca Lines

PERU: The Nazca Lines are a group of ancient geoglyphs in Peru. They are made out of naturally occurring elements, like rocks, stones, or earth. These trenches–running in all different directions in this part of Peru–appear to be roads from ground level. However, from an airplane, you can see that they are actually huge designs depicting anything from hummingbirds and lizards to astronauts and spiral shapes. Drones are helping to uncover even more in recent years.

HERE is one activity you can do in class or at home. Because my classroom was carpeted last year, students recreated these designs with masking tape on the floor.

LINKS: Nazca Lines Craft for Kids (Peru)New Nazca Lines Found (Peru), Nazca Lines Geocaching (Peru), Ancient Drawings Discovered (Peru)


Guatemala- Sawdust Carpets

GUATEMALA: Thousands of Catholics in Antigua, Guatemala join together during Lent each year to make colored sawdust carpets in preparation for Semana Santa, or Holy Week. In 2014, they broke the Guinness Book of World Records and made the longest sawdust carpet ever, at an astounding 6,600 feet.

In class, the art teacher drew stencils in pencil on colored bulletin board paper, and then students filled in the designs with colored sand. For more images of the real thing, see HERE. Student work from home (Continued Learning) is below.

LINKS: Sawdust Carpets-More (Guatemala)Sawdust Carpets- Video (Guatemala)Sawdust Carpets- AMAZING, Sawdust Carpet Stencil Patterns, Easter in Guatemala

This video shows what the process looks like (note: there is no sound).

Colombia- Guatapé

COLOMBIA: Is this the world’s most colorful town? Last year, students painted colorful buildings and houses on tri-folds, and set up the cardboard in two lines so that they could ‘walk’ through town, stopping at various businesses and mercados along the way. The Señor Wooly song, “¿Adónde vas?” worked well with this unit.

This year, students also learned about finger painting street art in Colombia, and then mimicked the style on their whiteboards. *Image Credit Jessica Devnani


In Guatapé, Colombia, there is also the famous Peñón de Guatapé–a 70-million-year-old rock that stands 656 feet high. Students did a long-division problem to figure out how many of them standing on their clones’ heads would be that tall, and then used Popsicle sticks to build the staircase up the side of the rock (or, in our case, the side of the classroom wall).

Felipe Salgado, Peñon de Guatapé, Colombia

Paraguay- Landfill Harmonic

PARAGUAY: Cateura is the name of a landfill in Paraguay where a town of people have taken a difficult situation–living in, quite literally, a dump–and made the best of it. They began by taking trash and repurposing it to build instruments, and now have an orchestra called Landfill Harmonic.

In class, students extended their study of forces, causes and effects to create their own instruments out of recycled materials. What sounds can you make with boxes, rubber bands, and a few old beads (or beans!)? Let’s get creative!

ASIDE: While Spanish is one of the official languages of Paraguay, Guaraní is as well–and, in fact, more people in Paraguay speak Guaraní than Spanish. It is very important to the life and culture there. Listen to the videos to hear what Guaraní sounds like. Mixing Spanish and English is often referred to as Spanglish, but mixing Spanish and Guaraní is called Jopara.

LINKS: Landfill Harmonic (Paraguay)Landfill Harmonic- Amazon (Paraguay), Landfill Harmonic YT (Paraguay)

“There’s a saying in Paraguay that people who visit always cry twice – once when they arrive and once when they leave.”


Brazil

If this is of interest, also be sure to check out the Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s art HERE. He makes massive works of art all created from garbage. To give you an idea of the size, the pupil of her eye might be a tire. There is a film about it as well, called Wasteland, but I haven’t seen it yet, so be sure to preview before watching with children. He also does a peanut butter and jelly Mona Lisa, which is very cool!

Puerto Rico- Coquí Frog

PUERTO RICO: Students were so fascinated by the tiny size and loud voice of the Coquí frog (native to Puerto Rico), that they wanted to create a whole unit out of it. Diving into history, they learned that a long time ago, the Taíno people carved petroglyphs into rocks and caves, including a special symbol for the Coquí frog. To apply what they had learned, some students gathered natural materials outside and then drew the coquí symbol on the leaves and bark; others created a diorama with real dirt, sticks, and leaves (but fake frogs!); and others opted for the tree frog coloring page. Many were enchanted by The Legend of the Golden Coquí, and listened to the story repeatedly. THIS is also a fun story/description for kids about the idea that it “rains coquís“.

“In El Yunque National Rainforest, people claim that it rains coquís. This is somewhat true, but not technically accurate. The frogs are actually jumping out of the tree for reasons of survival. At certain times of the year, when the humidity is high, coquís climb up the tall trees of the forest.

As with many journeys, there are perils, and for the coquí the main danger is the tarantulas who lie in wait to eat them. They are smart little creatures, so to avoid the spiders, they jump from the trees instead of climbing back down, because they are so light that they just float to the ground. So if you are under a tree when they decide to descend, you could get caught in a coquí shower.” (Source)

Puerto Rico- Bioluminescence

PUERTO RICO: Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon where “living organisms emit light”, oftentimes when disturbed. You have probably seen this on land–fireflies lighting up the night–but it can also occur in the water. Mosquito Bay in Vieques Puerto Rico is the brightest glowing bioluminescent bay in the world.

If you scribble on your hands with yellow florescent markers and put them under a blacklight, it produces a similar effect. Note: This made my hands itchy, so be sure to wash up immediately afterwards. There are also Bioluminescent Kayaking Tours available in some parts of the country to see it IRL.

LINKS: Bioluminescence1Bioluminescence2Bioluminescence3, Bioluminescence4Bioluminescence5Bioluminescence- Moana (Puerto Rico), Puerto Mosquito, Vieques Puerto RicoThe Glowing Bio Bay in Vieques (Puerto Rico)NY Post: Magical Bioluminescence (Australia; Puerto Rico)Six Places to Witness Bioluminescence (Puerto Rico)An Ocean Full of Stars (Puerto Rico)

Bioluminescence2Bioluminescence3, The Glowing Bio Bay in Vieques (Puerto Rico)NY Post: Magical Bioluminescence (Australia; Puerto Rico), Six Places to Witness Bioluminescence (Puerto Rico)An Ocean Full of Stars (Puerto Rico), Bioluminescence- Moana (Puerto Rico)

Bolivia- Salt Flat

BOLIVIA: Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat formation in the world. During the rainy season, a light coat of water creates a perfect reflection of the sky–from sunrises and sunsets to beautiful starry nights. Students used watercolors to paint a sunrise on half of a sheet of paper, and then folded it over while still wet to create fun mirror-images.

Later, we all tasted a lot of salt and contrasted it with azúcar/sugar, and discussed how salt is a natural resource. HERE is a good read (with photos) called “Walk the Salar”. For more images, click this LINK.

LINKS: Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)Reflections from Uyuni Vimeo, World’s Largest Mirror (Bolivia)

Argentina- Southern Lights

ARGENTINA: Ushuaia, Argentina is the southernmost city in the world, and also a great place to view the Southern Lights. We tend to hear more about the Northern Lights simply because more people live close to the North Pole than the South Pole, but in the south they are just as beautiful!

In class, students created their own version (see LINK) of the “Southern Lights” out of black and white paper, chalk, and sparkles to further their color study. Here is the link we watched in class- skip to minute 1:49. The video is from Iceland, but it is the same atmospheric phenomenon in the south. Read more scientific info HERE.

Argentina- Yerba Mate

ARGENTINA: Yerba Mate Tea (“MAH-tay”) is the ‘friendship drink’ of South America, especially Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay. You drink the tea out of a gourd, and keep refilling it with hot water all day long to sip. The tea leaves are loose (not in a tea bag). It can be quite strong to some people. Students tasted it today and heard the Guaraní legend of how Mate came to be. A slightly different version of this legend in video form can be seen at this LINK. If you want to make more Mate at home, you can find it at most large grocery stores and also on Amazon HERE.

LINK: About Yerba Mate Tea (Argentina)

Short version of legend: The Goddess of the Moon comes to earth as a human, finding herself in the middle of the jungle at night and face to face with a ferocious jaguar that is ready to attack. She closes her eyes–expecting the worst–when she hears a man whispering to the jaguar in an unfamiliar language. The jaguar relaxes and does not attack the woman. The man says that the jungle is dangerous at night, and to come to his family’s hut and sleep there until morning. The man dreams that night that the woman leaves him a plant to thank him for saving her life. The plant’s leaves are meant to be ground into a tea and shared with friends to “[recreate]… the joy that is born when humans discover divinity in everyday life. When he awakens the following morning, the woman is gone but a plant is on her cot, as his dream foretold (source).

Long version (taken from this page HERE):

“A Guaraní legend has it that, once upon a time, there was a beautiful goddess with long black hair and skin as white as snow, who was so in love with human beings that she would spend hours and hours watching in fascination their every move from the skies above.

It was on a summer afternoon, at the scorching time of siesta, that she succeeded in convincing her father, the God of all gods, to let her walk at least for a few hours, secretly, through the infinite paths of red earth that go deep into the huge and thunderous waterfalls of the jungle in Misiones (2). Right there, humans, whom the goddess admired so, lived happily in huts made of straw and mud, in community and in contact with Mother Nature.

So it happened that, jumping for joy, that very night the goddess finally descended onto planet Earth. Her eyes wide open, like a little girl, and barefoot, so she could move more freely through the deep harmony of the thick vegetation, she ran gracefully like a gazelle, plunging herself into the scent of wild ferns and all sorts of herbs, smiling when listening to the many mysterious nocturnal sounds that inhabit the jungle.

It was while she was mesmerized with the buzzing sound that surrounded a beehive that, all of a sudden, a jaguar crossed her path. It stared and roared at her menacingly, with fierceness, getting ready to attack. The goddess was paralyzed with terror. Having become a human, she had lost all the powers that could have saved her from such a threat. She closed her eyes and mouth, expecting the worst. Yet, she heard a voice murmuring some meters away from where she was standing. Plucking up enough courage, she opened her eyes. And she saw a dark-skinned and brown-haired young man, dressed in a loincloth, who was on his knees close to the animal, whispering to its ear words in a strange language, which the goddess had never heard before. After a while, the jaguar eventually sat on its hind legs. Yawning, it shamelessly opened its mouth wide, inadvertently showing its ferocious teeth. It started to play with the lianas that hung in front of its head. The goddess understood that peace had been restored to the jungle.

“My name is Arami,” said the young man, while he petted the appeased feline and, at the same time, bowed before the girl.

“I thank you, Arami, for your help. I am Jasy, and the heavens will be eternally grateful to you for having saved my life,” replied the goddess, feeling a sudden rush of emotion.

“The sunrise is still some hours away, and it is not a good idea to walk in the jungle at this time of night. Let alone tonight, since darkness is deeper as there is no moon. If you wish so, you are welcome to rest in my family’s hut, Jasy.”

Hardly had Arami finished pronouncing the word “moon,” than the goddess had let slip the hint of a smile. Blushing, she had lowered her head and she had taken her hand to her mouth.

“Who might this strange and beautiful girl be?” wondered Arami, deeply intrigued.

Later that night, while he was sleeping, he dreamed the weirdest dream he had ever dreamed. He was floating over a huge, white and silvery lush forest. From behind, pale and extremely high despite towering trees, Jasy was watching him and smiling, with the same eyes and the same smile he had appreciated so much, hours before, while he was petting the jaguar. She was undoubtedly the same girl. Except that, in the dream, she was taller, so, so much taller, that her face rose above the jungle, reflecting on it a soft, brilliant and whitish light; and her hair was longer, so, so much longer and blacker, that it spread over the whole sky like a jet night where few stars shone. In a moment of clarity, Arami realized that, in truth, he was not floating but gliding over the white darkness while sitting comfortably on the palm of Jasy’s hand.

“As a reward for having saved me from the jaguar,” said Jasy to him, “tomorrow, when you wake up, you will find a new plant in the middle of your garden. Its name is Caá and, after toasting and grinding its leaves, you will make with it a special blend of tea you will come to call mate. You will share the drink with those people to whom your heart is attracted. With each sip that you and your friends drink, you will be recreating and manifesting the joy that is born when humans discover divinity in everyday life, a discovery that is as sacred and perfect as the roundness of my body navigating among the constellations.”

The next morning, Arami did not find Jasy on the improvised straw bed where she had slept. He did find, though, in the middle of his garden, the plant of yerba mate. He followed the instructions he had received in the dream and, finally, at sunset, he sat on the emerald-green grass growing from the red earth, and poured the ground leaves into a hollow, small gourd. He added hot water, slowly, very slowly. One, two, three and four sips, through a thin cane straw. As soon as the beverage began to enter his body, Arami thought he heard Jasy’s smile echoing in the fresh breeze that surrounded him. He raised his eyes, as if he wanted to find her. It was dusk. The whisper of the smile began to vanish, jutting into the night that was arising, towards the extreme East horizon. There, from behind thin clouds, the sharp reddish thread of a dazzling New Moon was beginning to shine its light over the lively green and thick jungle in Misiones.”

Mexico- Hammocks

MEXICO: The Yucatan in Mexico is known for its hammock culture. Here, 2/3 of children sleep in hammocks instead of beds, and there are even hammocks in hospitals! For this challenge, string up your own DIY hammock with a sheet and twine/rope. Attach it to your bedpost, a chair, or even a tree outside. Be sure to ask your parents first so that you choose a safe place.

Peru- Amazon River

PERU: Ed Stafford walked the entire Amazon River on foot. It took him 860 days, or almost 3 years, to complete the walk. He faced every kind of imaginable danger, and oftentimes had to machete his way through brush, while wading up to his neck in water. Unbelievable but true! Watch the videos to learn more, or check out his book about the Amazon on Amazon HERE.

Costa Rica- Rainforest

COSTA RICA: Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity–flora and fauna abound. 18% of the world’s butterflies, for example, are found there. Multiple Lower School classes helped to create their own rainforest in my classroom closet last week, printing out photos of realistic wildlife, hanging green streamer vines, artificial flowers, and relevant stuffed animals (no giraffes!) in unexpected places, and planting cucumber and petunia seeds in flower pots (currently in the greenhouse); hopefully, there will be REAL plants in the rainforest in a few weeks. I added Christmas lights and a howler monkey soundtrack to enhance the general ambiance and magic of it all. Did you know that howler monkeys are among the loudest animals on Earth?

As a final touch, several fifth graders mixed blue food coloring and water in a bowl to replicate the famous Río Celeste (Blue River), a definite must-see if you travel there! Note that nearly all Lower School classes have been exploring and sightseeing in the rainforest this week. Some even bring their iPads to take Insta-worthy nature pics. If you would like to extend this project at home, HERE is one idea.

LINKS: Make a Tropical Blue Morpho Butterfly (Costa Rica), Mariposa Morpho Abriéndose, Río Celeste (Costa Rica)

Garoch

Featured Image Credit to Tommy Krombacher

Spain- Tapas

SPAIN: An exciting part of traveling is getting to see and try different types of foods. What is “normal” to you is “strange” to others, and vice-versa. In Spain, tapas—also called pinchos when pierced with toothpicks—are found in many restaurants. They are snacks arranged in small dishes, and have an interesting history: a long time ago, many people were illiterate, so travelers going from one inn to the next could not read the menus; instead, they were given little plates to sample different types of food before ordering their meal.

Pretend you are in Spain and recreate tapas in your own kitchen. There are countless options, so find a few that you like, and have a little fiesta, or party. Some ideas include mixed olives and cheese; skewers with pickles; fried baby squid; mushrooms sautéed in garlic and oil, etc.—see more options HERE. Enjoy!

Mexico- Crystal Caves

MEXICO: The Giant Crystal Cave is a cave connected to the Naica Mine in Mexico with massive crystals. The average person can only stay inside for ten minutes because there is 99% humidity, whoa!

For this challenge, grow your own crystals at home with Epsom salts, food coloring, and a bowl. Turn off the air conditioning if you want to enhance the cave simulation, haha! Skip to 5:23 in the video below to learn more.

LINKS: Cueva de los Cristales- Naica (Mexico), Naica Mine (Mexico)

Image Credit

Spain- La Alhambra

SPAIN: La Alhambra is a famous fort/palace with beautiful gardens in southern Spain. Many students enjoy trying to build this fort during class time out of cardboard, so why not make one at home? Build a huge fort tent out of blankets, pillows, and chairs, based on La Alhambra. Ask your parents where in your house would be a good place to build it (so that you don’t have to take it down right away or get in trouble).

Draw or print out a Spanish flag to wave, put on Spain’s National Anthem or your favorite song in Spanish, and get to work! This could become a really comfy place to watch Spanish cartoons or study Duolingo. NOTE: The video is historically-based, and more for older students.

LINKS: La Alhambra (Wikipedia)La Alhambra (Spain)La Alhambra, Fotos (Spain)La Alhambra (languages)

Peru- Boiling River

PERU: Deep in the Amazon there is a river… that actually boils. You can fill an empty mug with a teabag and have instant hot tea. Animals that fall in are instantly boiled. The average coffee is 130*F; this river has been measured at 210*F. Yikes! It is an awesome thing to behold- just don’t get too close. For more information, check out the videos below. Students boiled water in class, measured the temperature with a glass thermometer, and then converted the degrees from Celsius to Fahrenheit.

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Andrés Ruzo– Photo from his book

Mexico- Chewing Gum

MEXICO: Making natural chewing gum is a fascinating, time-consuming, and dangerous job that dates back to the Mayas in the Yucatan. Chicleros climb high up to slash zig-zag patterns in the sapodilla trees with a machete, let the sap drain out, and then boil it until it turns into a thick paste, stirring all the while. They must be careful to avoid jaguars in the forest and falling machetes. Watch the videos below to learn more about this process.

Nicaragua- Volcano Boarding

NICARAGUA: Do you know what snowboarding is? Well, volcano boarding is just like that… except that you slide down the side of a volcano. Really! This is an extreme sport that began in Nicaragua fairly recently (2005). It is considered extreme due to the 40% gradient of the volcano–you are going straight down–but also because of the poisonous gases and the fact that the ash can cut your skin (you usually wear an orange suit to protect yourself).

Check out the video to see what it is like–and let me know if you find any VR apps to simulate the experience. This video at 0:25 is also awesome, but the background music is a little weird (FYI). Note that Cerro Negro is the only active volcano in the world where you can do this. Eeek!

Panama- Mola

PANAMA: The Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off of Panama are famous for a specific type of art, called mola. Mola means ‘blouse’ (or clothing) in the Kuna language. While women used to paint geometric designs on their bodies, nowadays the patterns come from nature—or, plants and animals—and are created with layers of fabric.

Students opted to trace the mola patterns instead. This in itself took time, and gave them a glimpse into the detail-oriented, intricate work involved in the process. In a word, paciencia.

Spain- Joan Miró

SPAIN: Artwork by Joan Miró and a watercolor copy by a student. Look at THIS VIDEO PAINTING and THIS VIDEO PAINTING to understand what he sees.

“For me an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings./Para mí, un objeto es algo vivo. Este cigarrilo o esta caja de cerillos contiene una vida secreta mucho más intensa y apasionada que la de muchos seres humanos.

Joan Miró

Dominican Rep.- Defy Gravity

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: “Defy gravity in Barahona! In the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic, there is a town called Polo. There you can go challenge gravity at the Magnetic Pole (El Polo Magnético). If you stop your car in neutral gear downhill, your car will roll up! As cool as it sounds, this is what’s called a gravity hill. This is caused by an optical illusion that has to do with the shape of the road and the landscape. Still, pretty cool to experience in person!” (Source)

Fried Plantains- Patacones

Students made tostones or patacones (plantain chips) to taste in class, which are a very popular snack in Spanish-speaking countries. If you would like to make this delicious snack at home, HERE is a recipe. Another way to prepare them is for breakfast, as mangú (eaten especially in the Dominican Republic)–recipe HERE. See below for the etymological origin of this word and a fun story.

“The origin of mangú started back in 1916 when the Americans invaded the Dominican Republic; afterwards, the soldiers would go into town. Then one day, one of the soldiers wanted to taste some of the mashed plantains he saw the locals eat. When he tasted it, he said ‘Man, this is good’ and pointing at it, he said in short ‘man good!’. The locals thought that the name of the mashed plantains in English was mangú.” (Source)

Cuba/Spain- 1715 Shipwreck

CUBA/SPAIN: It is the year 1715–King Felipe V wants his treasure, and he wants it now. As a result, he demands that his Spanish fleet (of 12 ships) makes its way back from Cuba to Spain, even though it is hurricane season in the Caribbean. The 1715 fleet gets caught in a terrible storm and sinks, with 1500 sailors aboard–and the treasure is lost. Modern treasure hunters have discovered some of this lost treasure–one family made $4.5 million dollars in 2017!–but much still remains somewhere on the ocean floor. Students acted out this story as a class, and then made artifacts for a faux museum display. After painting the Spanish crest and flag on them, students broke a few of the plates intentionally to make it seem more realistic!

For treasure artifacts, try this repoussé video for coins; painting actual plates and dishware with the Spanish crest; stringing together gold and silver beads for necklaces; painting those cardboard stuffers you find inside boxes a silvery-gold-rose quartz hue; and finally, drawing old navigation maps on paper soaked in coffee (to give it an ‘old’ look). These can be as artistic as is possible for the age group you teach. Good luck!

In 1715, a fleet of Spanish ships sank off the coast of Florida, en route to Spain and loaded with treasure from the New World.

LINKS: Spanish Colonies (1715)

Venezuela- Lightning

VENEZUELA: Catatumbo Lightning is a naturally occurring phenomenon in Venezuela. Here, lightning strikes continuously above Lake Maracaibo for 140-160 nights per year (some sources say up to 300) for 10-12 hours straight each night. This can produce up to 40,000 strikes per night!

To learn more, read this article HERE!! Or, to make lightning in a bottle at home, try this experiment. Mystery History has some great photos HERE.

LINK: Catatumbo Lightning (Venezuela)

Mexico- Underwater Museum

MEXICO: In 2005, someone noticed that tourists, anchors, snorkelers, and divers were damaging the coral reefs in Mexico–in particular, the Manchones Reef. By 2013, an underwater museum (MUSA/Museo Subacuático de Arte) had been created around the reef, in order to help protect it. Currently, there are about 500 sculptures that have been placed in the ocean. In class, students took an old fish tank and made their own waterproof sculptures to place underwater. This was fantastic, until the tank started leaking! Beyond the physical representation, it would be easy to extend this project into a discussion about how observant and considerate we are of others and the world in which we live, particularly because the exhibit:

shows how humans can live with nature and make a workable future between the two, but also how humans have damaged nature, specifically the coral reefs, and show no sympathy. The statues in The Silent Evolution show how some humans see their surrounding and embrace [it] while others hide their faces. Each statue was made to resemble members of a local fishing community where Taylor lives. Each statue has its own personality and features. Taylor made sure every detail from the hair to the clothes of the statues was perfect. They include a little girl with a faint smile on her face looking up to the surface; six businessmen with their heads in the sand, not paying attention to their surroundings; and even a man behind a desk with his dog lying him, but looking tired and uninvolved in the environment.

LINKS: MUSA- Underwater Museum (Mexico)

Argentina- Iguazu Falls

ARGENTINA: Iguazú Falls is the largest set of waterfalls in the world. They are amazing- my friends and I even took a speedboat under the falls! Here is more information about them.

I also saw a baby coatí in almost every direction when visiting Las Cataratas de Iguazú/ Iguazú Falls in Argentina. They were running around everywhere. For more information on the coatí, visit THIS LINK.

LINK: Cataratas de Iguazú/ Iguazu Falls (Argentina)

Argentina- Train to the Clouds

ARGENTINA: This terrifyingly high “Tren a las nubes” (Train to the Clouds) in Argentina is, well, terrifyingly high! Students are in the middle of creating a model of it out of Popsicle sticks. Check out this video compilation of “The World’s Most Extreme and Dangerous Railways”, including trains in Argentina (Tren a las nubes, 7:35), Ecuador (Nariz del diablo, 1:47), and Peru (Ferrocarril Central Andino). Oh my!

For more information on the railways of South America, read THIS ARTICLE or watch the “Tough Train Series: Across Bolivia The Pantanal to the Pacific” below.

LINKS: Tren a las Nubes/Train to the Clouds (Argentina), Most Extreme Railways in the World (includes Argentina/Ecuador/Peru)

Spain- El Prado

SPAIN: El Prado in Madrid, Spain is one of the most famous museums in the world, housing over 27,000 objects and artworks. In fact, it was the Google Doodle just this week, which celebrated the museum’s 200th anniversary! For this exhibit, students took an 8.5×11 copy of Still Life with Game, Vegetables, and Fruit (the first Spanish still life, by Juan Sánchez Cotán) and transferred it by eye to a large trifold, trying to imagine how artists filled such massive canvases. Fourth graders did an amazing job here! (See below.)

During the painting process, one student learned that the Prado was actually robbed in 2014— of a shocking 885 artworks. As a result, more than several classes were spent trying to merge their Spanish news show (including translated advertising slogans and commercial breaks) with an iMovie green screen breaking news “robbery” of their paintings in the style of Oceans 12. Ultimately, the project lost steam, but it was fun while it lasted! Here is the soundtrack we used.

La vista de Toledo, by El Greco (above)

The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí (above)

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez (above)

Spain- Bullfighting

SPAIN: Pamplona, Spain is perhaps most famous for its celebration of San Fermín and the annual Running of the Bulls. This tradition, although a huge part of Spanish culture, is highly controversial. To learn more, read this Wikipedia or Scholastic article, and watch the YouTube video below about the Running of the Bulls. Next, try debating the topic with your family, and take time to listen to the feel of Paso Doble music (video below). Do you see the nobility of the beast and the elegance of the bullfight, or do you see animal cruelty? Whatever your stance, start a conversation and try to understand both perspectives.

LINKS: Bullfighter – Traditional Dress, Bullfighting (Wikipedia), Bullfighting (Scholastic)BullfightingSan Fermines in Pamplona (Spain)


Bullfighting- First Grade

A fighter takes part in a fight in the arena, where the bulls are slowly weakened and exhausted before their final execution. 6 bulls, and 3 fighters, take part in each fight with the outcome all but assured.

This morning, one first grader came to class excited about the idea of bulls/toros and bullfighting (Ferdinand influence?). As enthusiasm quickly spread to the rest of the class, Señorita recalled that she had a video of the “Running of the Bulls” down the city streets of Pamplona. Somehow, she was able to locate said file deep in the digital archives, and shared with children that she had been in Spain during this holiday of sorts a few years ago. Because children are only in first grade and it is a controversial topic, they were only exposed to the following information: 1) bulls are very large animals; 2) they run in the streets to the bullfighting arena; 3) the police set up two layers of VERY heavy duty, wooden fences to keep observers safe; and 4) this takes place in Spain.**

With this information, the class transformed the Spanish Cave into the streets of Pamplona and a bullfighting ring arena! One student found a sheet of reddish paper, named herself la torera, and took it upon herself to lead the bulls down the streets to the arena. Another student waved Spain’s flag to the beat of Spain’s National Anthem playing in the background. Amazing!

**NOTE: That real people actually run alongside the bulls (and can be badly injured) was not mentioned. Students were much more invested in pretending to be toros/bulls, anyway. That said, if you would like to continue this discussion at home, please feel free to watch Ferdinand the movie.

Ecuador- Sneezing Iguanas

ECUADOR: There are sneezing iguanas that live here… and actually sneeze! HERE is a hilarious video to put on loop. We blend cultures by using the Colombian practice of saying, “Salud, dinero, amor” (health, money, love) every time someone sneezes in class, and then listen to a classic song about “Las tres cosas” by Cristina y los Stop, link HERE.

And why do they sneeze? Check out this ARTICLE’S explanation. Interesting!

Mexico- Chichen Itza

MEXICO: This pyramid is called “El Castillo” in Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36). It was built hundreds of years ago by the Maya civilization, but the amazing part here is that twice a year, exactly on the Spring and Fall equinoxes, a shadow appears that aligns perfectly with a serpent’s head. How did the Maya figure this out?

For project ideas, one year Lower School students created almost 400 miniature cubes to literally build “El Castillo”. This year, third graders are using LED lights to create a shadow of the serpent’s tail inside a diorama. Aside: The video below is subtitled in Chinese, but narrated in English.

LINKS: Chichen Itza (Mexico)Chichen Itza (de noche)Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36)Pyramid/20 Story High Apt. Bldg.

Mexico- Alebrijes

MEXICO: Alebrijes are mythical-type creatures and spirit animals. You may remember the alebrije Dante if you have seen the movie Coco. The origin of this art had an interesting beginning (read below). Fifth graders created their own alebrije out of papier-mâché.

“In 1936, when he was 30 years old, [Pedro] Linares fell ill with a high fever, which caused him to hallucinate. In his fever dreams, he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, frequently featuring wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulging eyes. He heard a crowd of voices repeating the nonsense word “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to re-create the creatures he’d seen, using papier-mâché and cardboard” (Source).

Guatemala- Worry Dolls

GUATEMALA: These tiny Worry Dolls are from Guatemala. Children make them and put them under their pillows at night to take away their worries (e.g., monsters, nightmares). Students were fascinated by these. They took a day to glue small pieces of fabric to mini Popsicle sticks, added a face, and soon afterwards, had their very own Worry Dolls. This Silly Billy video story below is a great introduction. Aside: Adults make Worry Dolls, too!

LINK: Worry Dolls (Guatemala)

Mexico- Día de los Muertos

MEXICO: El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is a day to honor family members who have passed away. This tradition dates back to the Aztecs. People believe that spirits come back to visit us from Oct. 31-Nov. 2nd. The skeletons you see are very happy to be reunited with their loved ones. People make ofrendas, or altars, in their homes to remember and honor their dearly departed. The movie Coco is a great introduction to this Mexican holiday, as well as the cortometraje/short film below. Keep scrolling to see an infographic contrasting Halloween and the Day of the Dead–they are not the same!

More Links: Day of the Dead (video)Sugar Skulls (Mexico), DIY Tissue Paper Flowers, Day of the Dead Makeup Tutorial, Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos (cortometraje/short film for kids), Coco Official Trailer (Mexico), Day of the Dead (video), Día de los Muertos (Wikipedia), Día de los Muertos – ofrenda (Mexico), Sugar Skulls (Mexico)

South America- Condor

SOUTH AMERICA: The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world. It weighs up to 33 pounds and can have a wingspan of nearly 11 feet. Students tried to make a life-size replica of this massive bird with paper feathers, but ultimately tired of cutting them out. So many feathers!

This year, a fifth grader cut one out of cardboard and painted it–much more efficient! Now there will be time to explore legends based on Andean mythology and Incan folklore.

LINK: Andean Condor (Chile)

Spain- El Camino

*Update: For photos of my Camino adventures, visit THIS PAGE. For more info about the pilgrimage, see HERE.

SPAIN: The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile hike across northern Spain. It takes about 30 days to complete on foot. You carry everything you need in a backpack, and follow the arrows and shells so you don’t get lost. Second graders made a very cool green screen video (see below) showing us their journey, while fifth graders opted to make a topographical representation of the walk.

For this challenge, put arrows and shells all over the house, leading to your learning space or bedroom, like it is the Camino de Santiago. Feel free to pack a bag and go on a mini-hike with your parents walking around the block, if you feel like it. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

LINKS: Camino de Santiago (video), Los Pirineos (The Pyrenees)El Camino – Roncesvalles, A Journey to Spain’s Wild Western Edge, Finisterre (Spain), Men Risking their Lives for Barnacles (Spain), Human Planet: Spain Sea Harvest, Percebes (Spain), The Day We Ate Barnacles (Portugal; Spain)

Chile- Marble Caves

CHILE: Chile’s Marble Caves are a truly beautiful natural wonder. Students mixed teal and green paints to capture different shades, and later added true-to-life purples and yellows to their paintings to accent the vibrant backdrop. The author of the video below describes the caves as “like being inside the Aurora Borealis”. Wow!

LINKS: Marble Caves1Marble Caves2, Marble Caves FACTS, Cavernas de Mármol (Chile)Cuevas de Marmol (video)

Peru- Rainbow Mountain

PERU: Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca in Quechua, has a unique composition–14 different, colorful minerals–that makes the mountain range appear like the inside of a jawbreaker. While the class used the amazing, paint-pouring video below to make a model of the mountain–crazy fun but really messy!–one student painted the middle image on a canvas (above). Wow! For more information on Rainbow Mountain, visit this link. Here are a few more interesting facts:

LINKS: Vinicunca: Rainbow Mountain (Peru)

Spain- Don Quijote

SPAIN: Don Quijote de La Mancha is a world-renowned, 900-page novel from Spain, written by Miguel de Cervantes way back in the 1600’s. Centuries later, Picasso made a sketch (see below) of the two main characters to commemorate the novel’s 350th anniversary.

After hearing and acting out the famous windmill chapter in class, students put a photocopy of Picasso’s sketch up to the window, place pastel-colored paper on top of it, and then trace-scribble the drawing with a Sharpie to create a two-tone replica. The class joke and icing on the cake was to cross out Picasso’s name and replace it with their own!

LINKS: Don Quijote & Sancho Panza1Don Quijote & Sancho Panza2, Don Quijote: Cuentos Infantiles (Spain), Picasso painting, Windmills – ModernWindmills – Old Fashioned

Don Quijote: Don Quijote & Sancho Panza1Don Quijote & Sancho Panza2Don Quijote & Sancho Panza (Picasso)Don Quijote: Cuentos Infantiles (Spain)Picasso paintingWindmills – ModernWindmills – Old Fashioned

Chile- Easter Island

CHILE: Easter Island is an island located in the South Pacific. There are hundreds of massive statues and wooden tablets scattered over this landmass, but no one knows how they got there–it is a mystery! The tablets have a mysterious language written on them (called Rongorongo) that no one can read. Third graders carved 3-D models of the statues and wooden tablets with clay and toothpicks.

LINKS: Easter Island (Chile)Easter Island (Moai)Easter Island (Chile)Easter Island Moai (Wikipedia)Easter Island pic (Chile)Isla de Pascua/Easter Island, BoustrophedonReverse Boustrophedon, RongorongoRongorongo New Interpretation