I'm not sure if I've mentioned how much I love, love, love our homeschool co-op. I've loved how the children have been engaged about the countries we've visited thus far. I've loved how the activity for the week has been played out by my kids once we've arrived back home, sometimes for days on end. I've loved the challenge of learning about different places and weaving together aspects of history, culture, geography, and craft into a tiny 45 minute block.
Today our group learned some more about Kenya. Last week, the children learned what the life of a typical Kenyan child might be like and finished their day by preparing and sharing a simple meal. This week, we looked into symbolism that weaves its way into both fine art and utilitarian artifacts - how the shapes and colours used by a culture have special significance and learning about that significance so we could appreciate the story an artifact tells.
I started our discussion by showing a picture of the Kenyan flag. We noticed the different colours and the shield and spear design in the middle. We wondered why the country picked the colours it did. Then, I shared the shortest history lesson I possibly could that explained the explorers, tradesmen, soldiers and settlers who migrated to the country at various times throughout its history and their influence and effect on the native Kenyan tribes. The flag is directly linked to the country's history - you can see the flag and learn more about it here.
Then we talked about symbols in our own culture - what shapes, colours and animals might mean to us in North America. The ages I was working with ranged from 4 to 10, so I picked pretty simple symbols - a heart, a dove, a dollar sign, a lion. We compared this to what shapes, colours and animals might represent to one of the tribes that call Kenya home...the Maasai. I found a wealth of information about the meaning of colours here. Finally, before moving on to our craft, we looked at some pictures of Maasai artifacts and people (Living Tribes has some amazing photographs of tribes from all over the world) and took note of the colours and shapes used in the items.
The children then dove into the craft of their choice...making a replica of a Maasai shield, mask or bead necklace. Each of these projects required the same materials...cardboard and paint, and the design was up to them. I made the pictures we looked at earlier available to the children to look at, and I shared copies of what the colours symbolized. The children were free, though, to use the colours, shapes and symbols that meant something significant to them. Instructions for the Maasai necklace were found in Super Simple African Art.
Another great day at homeschool co-op!