Friday, June 9, 2017

Egyptian Feast and Treasure Hunt

This celebration was so much fun. While planning it, I found so many awesome ideas that I DIDN'T want to do (complicated/expensive/time-consuming)—elaborate parties like this—but I had a lot of fun browsing around anyway. And luckily, I was able to compile enough fairly simple things from those resources, that we were able to have a great time! You can find a lot of the ideas we didn't use on my Pinterest Board.
The children dressed up in Egyptian costumes and wore all their jewelry (well…the girls did, anyway). And here was our menu (complete with totally inauthentic "hieroglyphs" and lame "Papyrus" font):
We love hummus and I make it fairly often, but anytime I run out of tahini, it takes me a long time to get again since I often don't see it at the regular grocery store. So, I was happy to find this recipe for hummus without tahini. I think I just needed…permission, or approval, or something, to do this. Because it's perfectly fine without tahini! Really good, in fact! I put in some sesame oil to see if I could get some of that sesame taste back, and I think a little peanut butter might also be good…or even sesame seeds!

The "yogurt Thoth" is just a joke for the older boys because they always joked that the god Thoth sounded like someone trying to say "sauce" with a lisp. Really it was labneh (sort of like a really thick yogurt cheese?), which we love almost as much as hummus with our pita bread. Or naan. Yum!

And Pie of Horus! My own invention! Not the pie, just the name. I had been wanting to make a pink lemonade ice cream pie and this celebration night seemed just the time. I was very pleased with myself for calling it Pie of Horus, as it seemed to strike just the right note. Ha ha.
It really was a most lavish feast! And I even got gold plastic plates for the occasion. So fancy!

But the very BEST thing I did for this party was have Abraham (my 14-year-old) be in charge of a treasure hunt. I knew we should have some sort of hunting-for-ancient-treasure activity, and Abe is so great with that sort of thing! He made it so fun, with coded hieroglyphs and riddles in the clues, and the younger kids LOVED it.
Hunting for treasure!
Totally clueless. But thrilled.
Abe hid the treasure-filled sarcophagi in the shed.
Inside, I had wrapped up stuffed animals like mummies, in toilet paper. (This was quite fun to do. You have to be really gentle with your wrapping or it will tear, but I found it strangely satisfying.) I drew faces on the front of them, like you'd find on a sarcophagus.
Each person's favorite animal! Oh…you can't tell what they are? Ha ha. I should have had Sam draw them. Penguin, elephant, monkey, bear, pig, owl.
I had used a gold-foil tablecloth to wrap up these "sarcophagi" made from cardboard boxes, with appropriately dire warnings for those who disturbed the treasure. If you can't do this during your Ancient Egypt Unit, when CAN you do it? One of the boxes was also filled with gold chocolate coins, and other candy "jewels." The children thought it was all so exciting and fun!

And then we watched "Prince of Egypt" while we ate our pie. It was a great end to our Ancient Egypt Unit!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Making Egyptian jewelry

There are many, many good ideas out there for making Ancient Egypt-style jewelry! And we tried several of them. I never thought I would voluntarily have my children do an art project involving spray-painted macaroni, for example, but we found these cool-looking snake-y cuffs to make…and then the variant looked so pretty here…that I swallowed my objections! Anything is better with gold spray-paint, it seems. (And we went through a couple cans of it during this unit!)
Here's a page showing how to make Egyptian collars. A variation is here. We used lids to some take-out containers we had, since they were a little flatter than paper plates, but either would work. You can just use anything you have on hand to decorate them (if you balk at macaroni…ha ha) and we have a huge box of these jewel-y sort of things, so that's mostly what we used.

Maybe my favorite thing we made were these circlets with the royal serpent sign. (This same site shows a pretty variation on the armlets/cuffs.) They are just so simple and elegant, I think. The girls could not WAIT to wear them for our Egyptian celebration!
The boys liked wearing theirs too. But real Pharaohs don't smile, of course.
Here is my very favorite collar—the one Sebastian made. It looks geometric and cool, but upon closer examination you can see it is a road- and sign-themed piece of jewelry. Sebastian, as you may remember, really loves roads and road signs, so…naturally…he would make his Ancient Egyptian jewelry reflect this interest. You can see he has included: stop signs and yield signs, flashing "caution" lights, lane lines, bridges, and an impressive array of every type of common traffic light including the "left turn on arrow only" versions.

Oh, Sebastian. How I love that boy.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Making Egyptian Amulets

We saw this idea about how to make an Egyptian amulet (hint: you just use air-dry clay, ha ha) and knew it would be a fun project. We had just been listening to a P.G. Wodehouse audiobook (this one, to be precise) which featured, quite prominently, a stolen Egyptian scarab (of the 4th Dynasty), so the children were all quite pleased to be able to make our OWN scarabs.

The air-dry clay isn't the MOST sturdy of media to work with, but it was at least easy to mold, and we all liked our finished amulets. Malachi may have liked his lucky owl most of all. He wore it around for several weeks and said it brought him great power and good fortune.
Sebby's monkey amulet (or "monkulet")
Junie's bunny
Some ankhs and a scarab.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Making and using papyrus

One thing I remember pretty clearly from my grade-school years is the time I made my own "papyrus" for a school project. I don't remember it all THAT clearly, I guess, but I do remember that I used iris leaves, and it took a lot of experimentation to get them soft enough—seems like maybe I ended up using the blender? And then baking the sheets in the oven?—and it never really turned into great paper. But it was fun, I remember that! For this unit, though, I wasn't really planning on trying to make paper because we had done it recently when learning about Japan.

But…while we were gathering the reeds for our reed boats, we found some of these nice wide-leaved water plants which seemed like they might be kind of like papyrus…because they had white pulpy stuff inside, and seemed buoyant. So, we decided just to experiment a bit.
With real papyrus, you'd scoop out the pulp and just use that for your paper, I think. But we just wove the whole reeds into a kind of mat and then pounded it with a mallet. Seb quite enjoyed that part.
It got all pulpy and you could see the fibers sort of fuse together as it dried.
And once it was fully dry, it was possible to write on our "papyrus"…though not really easy. Still, it was fun to visualize the process a little better by doing this activity.
I also ordered some actual papyrus so the children could see and feel what it was like. Much nicer than our "homemade" version, of course! And it was fun to write on it with brushes. We attempted to write our names using hieroglyphs, though the more we learned about that written language, the more we realized how complicated it was and how we didn't really "get" it with our letter-for-letter Western view of things! Still…fun to try it.

Here's an overview of the Egyptian numbering system we used, too.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ancient Egypt activities for children

There are lots and lots of teaching resources for Ancient Egypt, so I didn't really have to come up with many activities on my own. One thing that was a big hit was ordering this Egyptian game, Senet. I think scholars admit that we don't really know for sure how it was played in ancient times, but they have come up with rules for it and my kids really liked it. They like board games anyway, but this was one even the kindergartner could play! It's just a two-player game (as you might not be able to tell from the picture) but it's quite fun! 
One book suggested making dried apples and talking about how much of food preservation involved salting or drying back in those times, especially in hot dry Egypt! You just cut apple slices and put them in a 200-degree oven until they look dry and leathery. Or you can use a fruit dryer. My children have done lots of fruit drying with their grandma, so this wasn't new to them, but it was kind of fun anyway. It relates sort of to mummification also! :)
But to really talk about mummification, we did the ol' Apple Mummies activity. I feel you can't swing a cat on the internet without smacking a page about the Apple Mummies activity, so I won't recap it much here, except to say that it's not the very yuckiest option you can do, so that's good. You use salt to approximate the natron Ancient Egyptians used for their mummies. Here's an alternate version of this project.
Another fun thing to try is making Egyptian reed boats. We just picked some hollow-ish reeds from a stream nearby and held them together with twist ties while they dried. They do, indeed, float! And the children liked floating little toy soldiers on them in the bath.
A lot of pyramid-building play went on during this unit, which was fun to watch!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Making Egyptian Pharaoh Death Masks

This was one of the coolest crafts we have done, I think—I mean, the final result is just so…funny and weird and impressive all at once, don't you think? I got the idea for the masks here. Like the lady at that link, I just ordered paint-your-own masks from Oriental Trading Company (find them here) an the kids spray-painted them gold and then painted with acrylics on top of that.

I had just torn a couple of ligaments in my foot the day before we did this project, and I couldn't even walk or get out of bed at the time, so I literally sat in my bed and helped the younger kids cut the cardboard, and then left everything else up to them. (This picture was taken a few weeks later.) They did an awesome job.
Junie scared the daylights out of me by standing next to my bed in the morning and I woke up with THIS FACE starting down at me. Terrifying but also somehow…awesome? :)
If you don't want to do the masks, you could also do this craft that lets the child's face show through. They are cute too. As shown here,

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ancient Egypt Unit Study and Lesson Plan

click top or bottom section to enlarge
I wish we could have had my Aunt Kay here to be the guest teacher for this Ancient Egypt Unit. She's an Egyptophile who has read and studied so much about that ancient culture, and she's been there (to Egypt, I mean…not to Ancient Egypt…that I know of) and she has so many cool things in her house she could have showed us. But I did write and ask her for book recommendations, so that was helpful at least.

And…ahem…I too am a bit of an Egyptophile, ever since the Rameses II exhibit came to BYU when I was just a youngster, and my mom was a docent for the exhibit. I still remember how much I loved going into the old Monte Bean Museum (remodeled for the exhibit, and almost unrecognizable inside) and peering through the mysterious low-lit rooms to see mummy cases and jewelry and scarabs and (my favorite) a goat-handled drinking vessel. It was all so fascinating! I remember getting to write a cartouche of my name in hieroglyphs, too.

There is A LOT to learn about Ancient Egypt, and each period in that impossibly-long 3000-year (!!) civilization has its own characteristics, so, as always, I feared oversimplifying or leaving out essentials. But you have to start somewhere, I guess! And we loved what we did get to learn. (And I finally mastered how to spell "Pharaoh"! Man, that word is hard to spell. I've always struggled with it.) 

Here are some general Egypt links:


Egypt coloring pages here and here

Cool high-definition scans of sone of the Joseph Smith papers Egyptian Papyri

Ancient Egypt Timeline and list of dynastic periods

Another simple illustrated timeline


And another good article and background on Joseph Smith's collection of Egyptian papyri.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Gem Institute and Music Museum Field Trips

Since we were going to be in Carlsbad for the Flower Fields, we set up field trips at the Gem Institute and the Museum of Making Music while we were there. Both places take homeschool group tours, but you have to schedule in advance. At the Gem Institute you have to go past the guard booth and show your ID, which makes you feel kind of important. The tower on the front of the building has this beautiful sparkling crystal in the top.
It's not a huge museum, and none of my pictures are very good, but we loved seeing all the beautiful minerals and gems! This crystal pendant was hanging in the front window, and what you can't tell from the picture is that it's HUGE—probably as tall as Daisy. There are beautiful colored inclusions in the quartz, and when the sun comes through, it makes rainbow patterns on the walls and floor.
They did have some things the kids were allowed to touch. Hooray!
There were some interesting works of art made from gemstones—carved pieces like these, and others.
One of my favorite things was this display of orchestral instruments, all carved from precious stones.
I loved this. It's called Ametrine, and it's only found in one area of the world, where the minerals amethyst (the purple one) and citrine (the yellow one) occur naturally together. The sign said that at first, gemologists usually cut and faceted the stones with yellow on one side and purple on the other, but now they've found ways to cut them where the two colors join and blend, to give a more modern, free-form look. Aren't they all beautiful?
We always love malachite!
The display of opals was really beautiful. The museum had a birthstone exhibit that these were part of.
A rainbow of gemstones! I'll take one of each, please.

Our next stop, the Museum of Making Music, was great too. We had a whole tour and class, led by Mr. Bill (or Mr. Bob? or something like that) who was such a nice, friendly man. (He seemed greatly disappointed in us when none of the kids had heard of Elvis Presley, though.) First he had us sit in a drum circle and let the kids take turns conducting us. Adam LOVED that, as you can see.
So did Ben.
So did Daisy!
And at the end of the museum tour, there was a room with a whole bunch of different instruments the kids could try out! It was a little nerve-racking for Allison and me, keeping track of all ten of them and making sure no one dropped or broke anything, but the kids loved it!
Note Teddy in background, waving a zither or some such thing around
This was a great culmination of our Sound and Percussion Unit!
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