We studied Russia in our co-op in 2004 as part of our ‘home’-school curriculum. I happened to be the mom that taught that class, so I got to put my craftiness in to play when we did these lovely Matryoshka ornaments. A Matryoshka doll is the obvious choice for a Russian craft. I chose ornaments because it would have been too intricate with fourteen 7-9 year olds to paint an actual set of nesting dolls.
This project is really easier than it looks. You only need to buy pre-made paper bell ornaments at your local craft store (usually around 75 cents each or so). They come with gold hanging loops already, so all you have to do is paint and seal. I had an idea of what I wanted them to look like before we started, and to make the craft go quicker, I painted their bodies red with metallic acrylic paint (aside from a circle for the face). I painted a white (or creamy colored) face on the dolls in a circle also (before the kids began working on them). I drew a large face of a doll on the blackboard in front of the class to show them what I wanted them to paint: pink cheeks, green or blue eyes, a letter on the front (either in Cyrillic or Latin alphabets), and dots along the edge of the bell on the bottom.
After we took the bells up from the kids, they were still not finished. I went in and added the scarves, and all of the black outlining. I added a few dots and head-dressing, and put a white “sparkle” in the eyes. I also added lips and a black line for the mouth that went between the pink cheeks that the kids had painted on. If you work with older children, you can just let them look at a finished doll and demonstrate the steps for them while they do ALL of the painting for themselves. This is a very fun project to paint… and a really wonderful Christmas treasure to keep for years to come. Be sure and remember to paint your child’s name and the year on the bottom of the bell. After the paint is completely dry, paint a layer or two of Mod Podge sealant (high-gloss) over the bells and let it dry completely. Store ornaments in cloth (not tissue) and in a humidity-free environment or the sealant will ruin or stick to other papers or ornaments – we learned this the hard way!
Above is a photo of my son with two of his classmates in Russian head-gear. One of the girls is holding a Matryoshka doll that she brought for show-and-tell. These hats were given to our family pastor when he went on a mission trip overseas. He was gracious enough to share them with the class for a few hours. He said that when he went to Russia and visited with some of the people, if he commented about something in their home being pretty (out of politeness), they would take it off the wall and GIVE IT TO HIM. They are so generous and kind (the common folk there). The military hat came from a man who had nothing to give my pastor, yet he would not let my pastor leave his house without something of cherished value – his own uniform that would have been passed down as an heirloom (since he was retired).
As an early Christmas present to you, I will share with you a few ideas from my Russia unit study (when I can afford to buy Adobe Acrobat Professional, I’ll upload the actual worksheets…$tips anyone?$):
RUSSIAN UNIT STUDY LESSON PLANS:
1. Have you been to Russia? What do you think of when you think of Russia? Show kids pictures of Russia in library books (make sure to show them St. Basil’s Cathedral). Discuss Russian Ballet and Ice Skaters, the movie Anastasia… and Nesting Dolls.
2. Where is Russia on a map? Discuss how Russia is the largest country and has more land than any other country (show kids where it is on a globe). Discuss Eastern vs. Western Hemisphere and how it is day here while it is night there. Discuss how Russia is split into two parts (Europe and Asia) and how the capitol city is Moscow. Make a map as you go along and place a star sticker on it and label Moscow. Glue a printed graphic of St. Basil’s Cathedral on the map.
3. Discuss Siberia and the climate and living conditions (how criminals were sent there as punishment, the diamond and gold mines, and the average life expectancy).
4. Label the oceans and seas surrounding Russia (color them on the map). Discuss the North Pole and see how close it is to the tip of Russia. Talk briefly about the types of animals that live there. Glue a printed image of an Arctic Fox (or other arctic animal of your choice) on the tip of your maps. Discuss bordering countries (label if you wish).
5. Discuss current events in Russia (at the time we did this study, the Beslan terrorist attack had just happened and we prayed for the children and their families there). I showed them appropriate photos of mourners and children who were praying for those hurt (so they could see what Russian children looked like and associate with them). We talked about the similarities between the Russian terrorism and the NY attacks. We talked about how it is important to pray for others in need – even if they are around the world from us. We read Isaiah 56:7 (“my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”). We put a sticker for Beslan on the maps in the shape of a heart to remind us to pray for them.
6. We compared the Russian Federation flag to the US flag (both are ‘red, white & blue’). We looked at a book which had a Russian family photo and discussed how many of them look just like Americans. We glued a small Russian flag to our map. We talked about how they also have been in rockets and outer-space, and about Yuri – the first person to go into outer space. We talked about some of the crops they grow.
7. We listened to a Russian tape from the library (language). We talked about their alphabet and looked at a chart. We sounded out the letters to show that even if they look like ours, they don’t always make the same sounds. We glued the word Russia in Cyrillic on the map. I gave them an assignment to go home and have their moms help them write their name in Cyrillic for extra credit.
8. We discussed the history of Russia in a nut shell (how it used to be the capitol of Christendom, the Czars, the Revolution, the Romanovs, Stalin, the decline of the church and communism… etc, etc.)
9. We defined the word “history” and talked about what we benefit from learning it. We reviewed the quick history we had learned the previous week with a few new details added in to keep it interesting.
10. We read the book Babushka and the Three Kings and discussed the Christmas story in Russia as compared to the way we celebrate Christmas. (This was an EXCELLENT part of the lesson plan – I highly recommend that book… there is a sermon in there just waiting to be written!)
11. We discussed my pastor’s mission work in Russia and some of the stories behind his visits and showed all of his hats and souvenirs. I let the kids try on the hats before they left the class.
11. We discussed a brief history of Matryoshka dolls and how they are made. We looked at show and tell Matryoshka dolls from Russia and a Russian Barbie doll in traditional clothing (hand made). We discussed how they would need to wear lots of fur because the winters were so harsh and I showed them many photos of Matryoshka dolls.
12. We did our Matryoshka craft and the kids sent them home with me for finishing touches and to be sealed.
Russian Links of Interest:
- Library of Congress Russian Photo Exhibit
- Russian Gifts (to browse through)
- Cyrillic Alphabet Chart (with option to click and hear)
- Matryoshka Doll Link
- Russian Embassy
- Dover Publications – Russian Products
- The Wolfhound by Kristine L. Franklin – another really great Russian book
- At Home in Russia – a Homeschool Blog
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