Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Pakistan

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Did you know that 70% of the world's soccer balls are handmade in Sialkot, Pakistan? Or that Pakistan holds the record for "World's Highest ATM" (on a mountain in the Khunjerab Pass)? For our last week of The Educational Summer Vacation, my kids chose to learn all about Pakistan, which is a much more interesting place than we thought.


The first thing we do when studying any country is find it on the world map hanging on the dining room wall and fill in a passport page about it.

You can click here to download the passport page printables for free. The kids searched the map to fill in their passport with the name of Pakistan plus its continent, capital, major cities, bordering countries and waters, and any physical features. I also added a little space where they can design a pretend Visa stamp for the country. 

I hole punched the corners and made a little cover with the seal of the U.S., but you can do it however you want.

While the kids were coloring the flag of Pakistan, I read P Is for Pakistan and Nadia and Nadir Visit Pakistan. Then they added it to the wall.

We used the Internet to learn a little bit of Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. This video showed us how to say "Hello, my name is _______. Nice to meet you." After practicing that a few times, we learned how to say thank you and count from 1 to 10

For dinner that night, we had nihari which is the national dish of Pakistan. I used this recipe (thickened with gluten-free flour because of my husband) and served it with naan. 

As you can see, the broth turned out a little suspicious-looking and the whole thing ended up flavorless (I went easy on the spices not wanting it to be too much for the kids but I went too easy) so it won't make it into our regular meal rotation. But the kids at least ate naan for dinner.


Today we touched on some of the history of Pakistan. Pakistan and its neighbor India have been fighting since the two gained independence after WWII, and the rivalry is actually celebrated with a nightly ceremony at the Wagah border. 

The full show lasts 45 minutes, but here was a good shorter video showing some of the highlights:

We then went way, way back into history and talked about an ancient Indus Valley civilization called Mohenjo Daro.

People always make such a big deal about how sophisticated the Romans were in 400 A.D. for having bathhouses and all that, but Mohenjo Daro had a citywide sewer system in 2500 B.C. including toilets and running water in individual houses!

We watched this video about Mohenjo Daro and then decided to do a little experiment of our own with moving water from one place to another. 

It usually drives me crazy how Phillip collects random PVC pipe, tubing, and other construction materials in his workshop, but today it came in handy. I sent the kids to pick out things that could transport water and met them in the backyard with a roll of duct tape.

Collecting the supplies.

There wasn't really an end goal, I just told them to build an interesting method of moving water across the yard from the garden hose using the materials they found. They started with something laid across the grass, but then decided to tape it to the deck instead.

Beginning the design process.

If you wanted to do something smaller-scale that doesn't involve getting your kids drenched or making a huge mess in the yard, here is another activity that might feel more manageable.


The life of women and girls in a lot of the Middle East is a difficult reality to talk about, but I believe you can still find age-appropriate ways to do it with your kids.

We read a picture book called Malala's Magic Pencil and I gave my middle-schooler the book Who Is Malala Yousafzai? from the What Is/Who Is series. Yousafzai is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize because she fought for girls' rights to an education even after being shot by the Taliban for her activism. Our kids learned about the Taliban while we did Afghanistan for The Educational Summer Vacation a few years ago, so they already knew these dudes were bad news, especially for women.

Because I'm an optimist, and also because I don't want the kids to go telling everyone they meet for the next month what an awful place Pakistan is, I wanted to temper today's learning with some good news. We finished by talking about the Edhi Foundation, a huge humanitarian organization that is famous all over Pakistan. 

 They have the largest volunteer ambulance fleet in the world, plus a lot of other humanitarian services including orphanages, animal shelters, refugee help, and even graveyard services for people who no one buries. It's a big deal in the entire country. Later this week, we met someone from Pakistan, and when we mentioned the Edhi Foundation he got really animated talking about it and you could tell he was proud of it.

For a bedtime story that night, we read the picture book Nadia's Hands by Karen English. The kids were like, "Ooh! Henna! I've gotten that before."


Everyone knows that Mount Everest in Nepal is the highest peak in the world, but do you know that the second highest is K2 in Pakistan? Even though it isn't the highest, climbers all agree that K2 is much more technically challenging and dangerous. It's becoming more popular (and therefore safer) to climb as time goes on, though.

After watching this YouTube video about K2, I read the first chapter out loud of Three Cups of Tea (the young reader's edition) by Greg Mortenson, which opens with Mortenson lost on K2. I relied on the fact that their natural curiosity with the cliffhanger ending would get them to pick up the book again on their own, which I think it did for at least a few of them.

Then we read This Truck has Got to Be Special by Anjum Rana. If you don't have the book, Google "truck art Pakistan" and take a look at the pictures that come up. People spend a lot of money decorating their trucks in Pakistan, and it's quite unlike any paint job you'll see on the road in the U.S.

Ahead of time, I'd purchased these unpainted wooden trucks on Amazon and we already had a bunch of acrylic paint ready to go, so each of kids who were interested got to paint a truck of their own.

Some of them looked at pictures online for inspiration, while others chose to follow their hearts. Either way, they had so much fun that my 9-year-old asked if I could get more, so I got this pack of 12 unpainted vehicles to keep them busy over Labor Day weekend. Who knew they would have so much fun?


As a Muslim country, Friday is a very holy day in Pakistan. My kids were already familiar with the concept of a Sabbath (ours is on Sunday) but we talked a little bit about the basics of Islam, including the importance of praying at five set times a day.

How pretty is this? I got it at the library, believe it or not.

The kids looked up pictures of a famous mosque called the Faisal Mosque in Pakistan, and then I told them I had a surprise for them. 

Earlier this year at the open house of a local mosque, I'd mentioned to someone on the board of directors how much I'd enjoyed being an observer for one of their daily prayers during the open house in 2017. I figured that they were no longer doing it because it was too distracting to have a bunch of infidels goggling at them while they prayed, but surprisingly he said "Oh, visitors are welcome anytime. Just let me know when you want to come!"

So today we did. We arrived early and the guy on the board of directors met us and told us all about the mosque, talked about some of the basics of Islam, and guess what happened while he was talking? He mentioned that he was from Pakistan. This was total educational serendipity, I had no idea. 

After watching the prayer, we talked with him some more about Islam and about Pakistan. (Of course when he asked my 9-year-old what she'd been learning about Pakistan she stared at him blankly like she'd never heard of it in her life. That's what kids are for, I think. To make us look good.) I think the whole thing was a great experience for all the kids, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Throughout the week, I also left out a few mid-grade novels for the kids to read, and I saw them making the rounds around the house so I think it was successful. The books were:
Thank you for reading along about our journey to Pakistan which wrapped up another year of The Educational Summer Vacation! The random facts we learn about different places in the world turn out to be useful at the most unexpected times, so I'm just waiting for someone to bring up K2, Mohenjo Daro, or truck art in front of the kids now.

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1 comment:

Tressa said...

Hi, I am Tressa from Jamil Ghar; sorry the nihari didn't work out for you! I make a lot of meals from different parts of the world (and I also have young kids), so as you work your way through the countries I would be happy to recommend recipes for you.