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Creating Your Own Mini Unit Studies: National Holidays

Creating Your Own Mini Unit Studies: National Holidays

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“Over the course of a few years, we found that each holiday deserved a small topical study of its own, and while some are simple and have a minor amount of history behind them, some have so much history they had the potential to become a larger unit study if we had the time.”
“Over the course of a few years, we found that each holiday deserved a small topical study of its own, and while some are simple and have a minor amount of history behind them, some have so much history they had the potential to become a larger unit study if we had the time.”

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Published by: The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine on Mar 22, 2013
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Creating Your Own Mini Unit Studies: National Holidays
 
Amy Pak
In the Pak household, as the school year progressed and we would all get entrenched in ourdaily studies, no matter how exciting our topics might be, each day would begin to blendinto the next. We would find ourselves looking for a way to shake up our schedules andbreak away from the mundane. We found that each month shared something in commonworth celebrating
a holiday. As each holiday came upon us, we questioned what to do withit!Over the course of a few years, we found that each holiday deserved a small topical study of its own, and while some are simple and have a minor amount of history behind them, somehave so much history they had the potential to become a larger unit study
if 
we had thetime. There are many kinds of secular and unofficial holidays, such as Labor Day and CleanUp Your Room Day (May 10 for those who want to mark their calendars!).
To illustrate how a unit study for a holiday works, let’s use Independence Day as our
example. In the United States, Independence Day is also called The Fourth of July, for anobvious reason
—that’s when it takes place! Now we will take each subject area and see how
it relates to the topic. Some subjects will be utilized more heavily than others and someperhaps not at all.
History:
There is so much w
ritten about the topic of America’s independence that tracking
down the history will not be hard. In addition to articles found on the Internet, your locallibrary should have books in several age ranges. You will want to encourage your child toidentify what was happening in history that led up to each event, as well as the outcome. Inthis case, it was the desire of the people of the thirteen colonies to become free of Britishrule that led to a Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.You can also study the history of how and when that date transitioned from an anniversaryto an actual federal holiday. You may wish to include video and audio media for learning aswell.
Geography:
Incorporate maps of the colonies and the date when each one was grantedstatehood. You might want to focus on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as that was where theDeclaration of Independence was signed and the Liberty Bell was rung.
 Science:
One thing is highly associated with Independence Day
fireworks! How do theywork? Where are most of them manufactured? Research the chemistry of a variety of fireworks and learn how to make your own sparklers!
Health:
Talk about the dangers of handling explosives. If you choose to focus on theAmerican Revolution in your unit study, there are many ways to incorporate studies of health issues and medical practices during the war.
 Bible:
Many of the Founding Fathers were strong Christians and believed that the hand of God was prevalent in determining their path to create a new nation. However, modernwritings have not only diluted facts, but they also have rewritten history to give a distortedview of these men and their faith in God. Show and read aloud the words of the menthemselves, and point out their reliance on God to lead and protect them.
 
 
Physical Education:
Include a study/survey of games of the Revolutionary War period,such as tag, hopscotch, marbles, horseshoes, and bean bags. Have the children dress upand reenact battle scenes.
Music:
A number of patriotic pieces have been composed since the inception of the UnitedStates, many of which are played at parades and celebrations. Some of the most popular
include “The Star
-
Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle,” “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” and “America the Beautiful,” to name a few.
 Art: 
’ s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and 
’ s “Declaration of Independence” are examples of well recognized images. Art can also be
covered with crafts and projects your child creates! Have your child stitch a small flag ormake a papier-mâché version of the Liberty Bell. There are many scenes that can beportrayed by the creation of a diorama, or perhaps your map of the colonies could be madeout of salt dough.
 
Reading:
Look into authors such as Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire for books written foryoung people about Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and “The Star SpangledBanner.” For older children, Charles Coffin wrote several texts about the beginning of 
ournation. Visit your library and ask for assistance in locating the best resources for yourstudents as you study Independence Day and events during the Revolutionary War.
 Writing:
If you are in need of penmanship practice, use the words of the Founding Fathersfor copy practice. For creative writing, have your child journal as if he or she was therewhen the Liberty Bell was rung for the first time, or ask your student to journal as a Patriotor Tory during the war. How did the news of a Declaration of Independence affect him orher?
 Math:
Several numbers are associated with the American flag. Have the child research theflags
from the first, with thirteen stars, to the flag we use today. What did each flagrepresent? What about the number of stripes?Now you can see how your topic can be approached through a study of various subjects.Our study of Independence Day focused on a United States holiday, but you might want tochoose a topic or holiday that encompasses many cultures, such as Thanksgiving Day,which is celebrated in many countries around the world. If you are interested in finding out
what holidays other countries celebrate, do a search on the Internet and you’ll find all kinds
of lists and the history behind them.Although we share many ho
lidays with other countries, it’s amazing how our ways of celebrating can vary widely. Let’s take a look at some ways to learn about Christmas:
History, Geography, and Bible:
This is the perfect time to share the story of the birth of Jesus from the Gos
pels. For Christians, Jesus’ birth is our focus at this time of year, but this
is not necessarily true around the world. Throughout the centuries, pagan traditions havebecome common practice during the Christmas holiday. How did this situation come about?Research with your child several of the traditions, such as the yule log, mistletoe, orTannenbaum. Even the history behind Santa Claus is different in various cultures! Keep anotebook with sections that designate different countries and their practices.
Science, Health, and Physical Education:
Have you ever seen a snowflake up close? Usethis time to research the nature of snowflakes, and make one yourself! If you are in snowterritory, plan a snowball war, make a snow angel or snowman, and collect snow for making
 
snow cream. Is it okay to eat snow? Why is snow sometimes powdery and at other times
easy to pack? Or perhaps you’d like to study reindeer and what makes them different from
other deer. How are they used in other countries, such as those in northern Europe?
Art and Music:
Classic artists and composers have created a wealth of pieces that pertain
to the birth of Jesus. From Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and Handel’s “Messiah” to Michelangelo’s “Pieta” and Raphael’s “Madonna,” inspired art and music a
bound. There are so many waysto incorporate both into Christmas! Go caroling as a family or with friends, but researcheach song first. Create Christmas cards that mimic the masters who have gone before us.
Research a “Jesse Tree” and make one of your own
as a way to incorporate Bible andcelebrate Advent during your unit study.
Reading and Writing:
Assign books such as Dickens’ 
 A Christmas Carol 
 
or Moore’sclassic poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Have older children read well
-loved favorites tothe yo
unger children, such as Dr. Seuss’s
How 
 
the Grinch Stole Christmas
. Writing skillscan be practiced by having your child organize or contribute to a family newsletter to besent to others at Christmas.Additional studies can involve practical living and community. There are many ways to helpduring the Christmas season, and getting your child involved with an act of compassion is awonderful way to teach character. Of course, food is a staple at this time, and there aremany tasty recipes to choose from. Think of the elderly and widowed or those withoutfamily. You can take cookies or shovel a walkway or driveway. Learn to knit and make ablanket for a pregnancy center to give to a new mom, or make mittens for the homeless.You can volunteer to serve a meal at a homeless shelter or offer to babysit for a couple withyoung children so they can get their preparations done without little eyes watching!Learning the history behind the holidays through mini unit studies allows for a break fromour regular studies and gives children something to look forward to. It also gives us a betterunderstanding of the holidays we celebrate annually and offers an opportunity to developnew traditions that will create memories to come!
SidebarFederal Holidays
Holidays that are shared in one way or another by many countries around the world are
called national holidays. In the United States, these are designated as “federal” holidays. In
the United States, we have ten federal holidays:
• New Year’s Day
January 1
Martin Luther King Day Third Monday in January
• President’s Day
Third Monday in February
• Memorial Day
Last Monday in May
• Independence Day
July 4
• Labor Day
First Monday in September
• Columbus Day
Second Monday in October
• V
eterans Day November 11
• Thanksgiving Day
Fourth Thursday in November
• Christmas Day
December 25

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