Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Madagascar

Every summer vacation, I pretend to travel the world with my kids. They learn geography, appreciation for other cultures, and that they shouldn't complain they're bored or this is what happens.

(For more on how this tradition began, read this post.)

This week we learned about Madagascar, and to be honest it was hard to find relevant books and DVDs. Every time I searched the library catalog I got 1,042 results for DreamWorks' Penguins of Madagascar.

But we did find some great resources, with a little digging.

(This post contains affiliate links in case anyone wants to buy this stuff for a homeschool unit or to do an educational summer vacation with their own kids. If you don't want a tiny portion of your purchase to go to me, for goodness' sake don't click on anything!)

Monday



Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Usually the kids are all pretty excited to fill out their passport pages, but one child fought me tooth and nail this week (I think we need to start getting to bed earlier this summer.)

After compromising ("Fine, just write the country and the capital and you can be done") we moved on to the flag of Madagascar, which was apparently more interesting.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
See, that wasn't so bad, was it?

As they colored I read to them from Exploring Countries: Madagascar and learned a lot. Something like 90% of Madagascar's plants and animals aren't found anywhere else in the world, so the kids ended up running and getting the iPad to look up pictures of all the unusual wildlife mentioned in the book.

And of course when the book mentioned zebu wrestling, well, my son was all over that.


It was harder than you might think to find online resources for learning Malagasy, the native language of Madagascar. I could only find one YouTube video on the numbers in Malagasy, and it was pretty useless to me since it had no sound and I didn't know how to pronounce everything.

Luckily, the book had a handful of phrases, so we learned "please" and "thank you." They were so hard to remember that it's all we could fit in our Western brains, anyway.

We watched a DVD on Madagascar from the Countries Around the World series. I've sung the praises of the series before, so I'll spare you this time. But they're great.

Tuesday


This was one of my favorite days. The bizarre-looking baobab tree is the national tree of Madagascar. People sometimes call it "the upside-down tree" because its branches look like roots.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Baobab tree, photo courtesy of Rob Waddington

We read all about it in Tree of Life: The World of the African Baobab by Barbara Bash and then I loosely used this lesson plan for an activity idea.

I asked my artist daughter to sketch me a baobab tree the night before, which might strike some people as a weird request but she was like "Sure!" and had it done in 10 minutes. I painted it gray and let it dry.

After reading the book, I showed the kids how to sponge paint black over it. At first my younger kids didn't get the concept so there was a gigantic black smear at the bottom of the trunk, but my older ones reasoned it could be a hole from an elephant eating the bark, so there you go.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

We dried the paint with a hairdryer and cut out the tree, then pasted it to another big piece of paper.

Most of the year, the baobab branches are empty, but they briefly get leaves and flowers so we put those on, too.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Tissue paper flowers: the kids already knew how to make these because they helped make a bunch in the spring for a church activity.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

There was only one door-slamming incident regarding the distribution of tissue paper flowers, and the finished product turned out nicely.

For dinner that night, I made romazava, which InternationalCuisine.com assures me is the national dish of Madagascar. I was fresh out of zebu meat, but they said that a combination of chicken, beef, and pork is an okay substitute.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

This meal was way more flavorful than I expected, probably because of the serrano chiles. I substituted kale for mustard greens because (1) I don't even know what mustard greens look like, and (2) when I asked the guy at the store he said they were all out.

Wednesday


Today was sort of crazytown because we were already stressing about leaving for a camping trip the next day, and for some reason, we also thought today would be a great day to move everything out of the attic so some guys could come and insulate it.

So we didn't get much done, despite my grand plans.

But I did send the kids downstairs to watch Jungle Rainforest from the Eyewitness DVD series I like. This wasn't on Madagascar in particular, but more about tropical rainforests in general.

Thursday through Friday


Our campsite was a few hours away from home, so I forced gave the kids the opportunity to read some books in the car that were about or set in Madagascar.

I loved how my daughter kept randomly reciting lemur facts to me throughout the day when she remembered them.

The books I brought in the car were:

Saturday



All I wanted to cover today was a random smattering of cultural tidbits about Madagascar and an IMAX DVD called Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. Which we did, but just barely. 

Our camping trip ended in utter disaster (which I'll tell you all about next week) and I was beyond exhausted. But when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. (Unless I don't, but that's another story for another time.)

We read a little bit on traditional Malagasy beliefs and mythology, and watched a YouTube video of some traditional Hira Gasy dancers. I still can't place the style, it's like 3 or 4 other things I know jumbled up together. 

And then... there's this:


Famadihana is a family celebration with a name that literally means "turning of the bones," and whatever you're thinking that might be, it's even more out there.

This was probably the most interesting thing I've ever learned about another country, ever. And I've learned some things.

We followed up with the videos here and here for a little more context or some different perspectives.

Also, throughout the week we listened to some contemporary singers from Madagascar Razia Said, Lala Njava, and Hanitra Lasa. I thought they were all really soothing. Basically just what I needed after today, when we have wet camping gear scattered all over the yard and a hundred boxes from the attic sitting all over the house still.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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5 comments:

  1. You found a lot of stuff considering there wasn't much. Good job! The tree looks really good!

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    Replies
    1. Oh, it was there, it was just buried under Penguins of Madagascar! They did love making the tree.

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  2. If you're interested, there's a language app for iPad called TALL Drill that has audio and flashcards in Malagasy (plus 50+ other languages). It's for LDS missionaries, but anyone with an LDS account can sign in and use it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so awesome to know! I'm looking into that tonight.

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  3. So cool! I love the way you immerse the family in the culture for the whole week.
    I'm too scared to even look at the Bone turning video. (I still have nightmares if I see Caspar the Friendly ghost on a cartoon.)

    ReplyDelete