Countries and Cultures

My dad always joked that my middle name was “Go.” If anyone started to ask, “Do you want to go – ?” I was in the car before they could finish their sentence, regardless of the destination. I loved road trips; at 15 I decided I wanted to be a pilot after reading a couple Richard Bach books; when I got my driver’s license I actually suffered injuries that first weekend from driving so much without changing position. I wish I could say I had seen the world by now, but sadly I have only been to two countries. If we could all travel abroad, it would be such an amazing learning experience for our families. Unfortunately, many of us can only travel from our living room and bring the world to us – but we can still make it fun. There are so many ways to explore different cultures and countries, and I would say try a mix of them all – and the real deal whenever the chance presents itself!

Out in the Community:

  • Visit a restaurant relevant to an area you are studying, or try a new kind of cuisine every week, month, etc.
  • Consider finding a global penpal program.
  • Visit a cultural center.
  • Visit museums featuring cultural exhibits.
  • Hunt for cultural festivals or events in your area.
  • Research the dominant cultures in your area, and how they came to be there – and what cultures used to inhabit the area and why they no longer do.

Lesson Building Blocks:

  • Do a little armchair exploration. Find where you are off to on a map, a globe, a computer – or all of these. Which direction is it from where you are? What time is it there? What season? How long would it take to travel there?
  • What is the land like physically? Is it mountainous, forested, a desert? Find an artistic way to represent the landscape. You could sculpt it, draw/paint, go outside and make nature art to represent it.
  • What is the predominant language? Try learning to count to 10 and say a few common phrases, or even dig deeper with the Language Immersion Challenge.
  • Get into the culture – make a traditional craft, cook a common dish, explore their music through listening, dancing, or creating homemade instruments and playing along.
  • Explore the society. Who are a few key figures, past and present? How did they help shape the area? Try If I Were You… to explore them on a different level.
  • What sorts of events have defined the region? What is the current social climate?
  • What are some indigenous animals? Read books or watch nature videos pertaining to them. Explore the flora and fauna (or other aspects) with Decisions, Decisions.
  • Create their flag (with whatever materials inspire – paper, nature items, paint, fabric) and write a few key facts about how it came into being.
  • What would your life look like if you lived there? Consider clothing, housing, transportation, work, climate, school, family dynamics, economic factors, etc. Immerse your family for an hour/day/week and examine areas of your life and compare in a version of pretend play.
  • Design a travel brochure, make postcards, or create a collage poster (National Geographic magazines often abound at thrift stores and make excellent sources for photos).
  • Keep a “travel diary” of these adventures (and a passport, crafted “souvenirs,” and whatever other fun additions you can dream up). Where did you go? What was exciting, what were reasons to want to live there or not? What are they key differences or similarities?
  • Want to spread out? Try putting the World in Your Backyard.