Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Around the World: Japan

We are going around the world with our Five in a Row studies this winter. Our next stop after Canada was Japan. We studied the book Grass Sandals:The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak from Volume 4 of Five in a Row. This book tells the story of Basho, one of the first and greatest Haiku poets in Japan. We also used the book Kaleidoscope Kids Japan: 40 Activities to Learn about Japan.
The Volume 4 Manual of Five in a Row is geared toward older kids and is just jam-packed with activities. We spent two weeks with this book. We tried our hand at Japanese caligraphy and learned the meanings of the Kanji words on the back of the book.

We made hats like Basho's out of poster board and wrote on our hats just like he did. My five-year-old managed to fit every word from the book and more.
Videos have been a great supplement to these Around the World units because the kids get to see the country and people. We watched Little Travelers: Japan, which is about two little girls traveling in Japan with their parents. The kids liked this so much, that we also checked out Little Travelers: Iran, Germany, and Bali from the library.
Basho's name means Banana so we cut up some bananas and other fruit to make a fruit salad. We learned about how citrus juice can keep bananas from turning brown so quickly. Over tea time, we read haikus, as well as some of our other favorite Japanese books including A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno, Tea with Milk by Allen Say, and Yoko and the Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells.

Of course, we learned all about haikus, which happened to coincide with Ella's Write Shop lesson on haikus this week. We took a walk in nature to get inspired.
Ella wrote this poem:
Warm winter morning
Mud squelches under my feet
Quiet winds blow the trees 
and Mabel wrote:
In Spring, leaves are green
In cold winter, leaves are gone.
In Fall, leaves are red.

and I wrote this one:
Nature walks with kids
Muddy knees, armfuls of sticks
Poop, he stepped in it!

We made little origami pockets to keep the poems in, which was an idea from Write Shop Jr. Once the kids got started making origami, they couldn't stop. They decided to set up little shops and trade origami with each other.

We also collected a fallen branch and made a cherry blossom branch. We were out of pink tissue so we painted coffee filters pink, tore them up,  and glued them on. This is always a fun winter craft and helps brighten up the house.
 For science, we spent almost a week learning about volcanoes. We did two activities from Mystery Science: Can a volcano pop up in your backyard? and Why do volcanoes explode? The first had a volcano mapping activity and the second had an experiment with blowing bubbles into thick and thin lava. The kids loved the lava experiment so we also made our own volcano. We put modeling clay around an old relish jar. We even figured out how to make two types of lava. The thin lava made from baking soda and vinegar, bubbled up really fast and spread out over the pan just like a cone volcano.

The thick lava made from yeast and peroxide bubbled up more slowly, with bigger bubbles, and didn't spread out as much, like a shield volcano.
We capped off our studies with a Japanese feast. We took a field trip to a local Asian supermarket and picked up seaweed wrappers, rice, and vegetables. Then Daddy taught us how to make sushi.
 We pulled out our $2 thrift store kimonos from our last Japanese tea party two years ago, and realized just how much the kids had grown. So we added some extra material and made obi belts from old silk ties, and wore the hats we had made. Check out Gilead's ninja moves.
 Then we set up a low folding table and cushions for our meal. In addition to the sushi, we made miso soup and added ramen noodles. We also bought chocolate and green tea pocky and green tea mochi. We drank green tea in our Asian tea cups.
One thing I love about Five in a Row is how it has encouraged my kids to try new foods by learning about other cultures. Most of the kids didn't end up liking sushi that much, but they all tried it because they had helped make it. Several of them really loved the pickled ginger. And, it's always fun to use chopsticks!


  1. What an interesting post. Your children will know about other cultures. A good job was had by all. Thank You for sharing your Japan lesson.

  2. What an inspiring post. Your children are learning about other cultures and a few words from those countries. Thank you for sharing his post.