The Raven: A Mini Unit for Middle School

I have been fascinated with ravens since I was a child. I recall my mother reading aloud Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven at Halloween. Poe was one of her favorite authors and she delighted in reading this glorious poem in narrative voice.

Ravens Mini Unit @EvaVarga.netNew research has found that ravens remember prior interactions with people and even communicate these interactions with others of their kind. I’ve read stories of ravens leaving trinkets and gifts for those who have shown them kindness. My father has a pair of ravens that visit him regularly and when we visit, they can always be seen perched nearby keeping an eye on things.

Raven Mini Unit

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an Audubon post, How to Tell a Raven From a Crow on Facebook and the wheels in my head immediately started spinning. Would not this make a wonderful Halloween themed mini unit? Yes! I must put something together …

Science

The Audubon link I shared above is the perfect place to begin. While ravens and crows may look similar in some ways, there are several distinctive traits that help set them apart.

You probably know that ravens are larger, the size of a red-tailed hawk. Ravens often travel in pairs, while crows are seen in larger groups. Also, watch the bird’s tail as it flies overhead. The crow’s tail feathers are basically the same length, so when the bird spreads its tail, it opens like a fan. Ravens, however, have longer middle feathers in their tails, so their tail appears wedge-shaped when open.

Go outside and watch them. Bring along your nature journal and record your observations. How many do you see? How do they interact? What are they eating? Do they scratch at the soil with their feet? What sounds do they make?

Consider adding several quick sketches in your journal or taking photographs. When you return indoors, take more time to illustrate the birds you observed. Feel free to use a field guide or photograph to help you.

Literature

Ravens are perhaps the most common bird symbol in the mythologies and religions of ancient cultures. They assume a variety of roles, ranging from messengers of deities and sages to oracles and tricksters. They play a central part in many creation myths and are typically associated with the supernatural realms lying beyond the ordinary experience.

The Raven: Mini Unit for Middle School @EvaVarga.netThe history of ravens as mythical birds can be traced as far as the 1000-year-old Norse mythology. Odin, the chief god in Norse mythology, had a pair ravens called Hugin and Munin perching on his shoulders. Each morning they were sent out into the world to observe what was happening and question everybody. They would come back by sunrise and whisper to Odin what they had learned. Sometimes Odin himself would turn into a raven.

Hugin and Munin
Fly every day
Over all the world;
I worry for Hugin
That he might not return,
But I worry more for Munin.

Huginn ok Muninn
fljúga hverjan dag
Jörmungrund yfir;
óumk ek of Hugin,
at hann aftr né komi-t,
þó sjámk meir of Munin.

I encourage you to research the symbolism of ravens in a culture of your choice. Here are two of my favorites:

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

How Raven Stole the Sun (Native American Myth)

Art

Ravens have appeared in the mythology of many ancient people. It is no surprise, therefore, that ravens are also popular subjects in art.

I have often been inspired by children’s books. My kids and I will periodically try to recreate the illustrations we enjoy in picture books. I am not alone.

Ravens Mini Unit @EvaVarga.netOn the website, Native American Art Projects and Lesson Plans, I found two lesson plans centered around children’s books featuring ravens:

A Man Called Raven (Oil Pastel)

How the Raven Stole the Sun (Crayon Batik)

 

5 Signs You Might Be Norwegian

Sons of Norway lodges are found throughout the United States, Canada, and Norway. Together, we work tirelessly to promote Norwegian traditions and fraternal fellowship through cultural activities and social opportunities. These activities include language camps and classes, scholarships, handicrafts, cooking and heritage classes, heritage and sports programs, travel opportunities, Viking Magazine, and outreach programs sponsored by the Sons of Norway Foundation.

The mission of Sons of Norway is to promote and to preserve the heritage and culture of Norway, to celebrate our relationship with other Nordic Countries, and provide quality insurance and financial products to our members.

Each district hosts a heritage camp for the children and grandchildren of members (our heritage members). Ever since my kiddos were toddlers, we have talked about going to heritage camp. They have looked forward to the opportunity and been eager to meet other lodge heritage members. Due to one circumstance or another, this was the first year that they were able to attend.

In our district, heritage camp is a two week experience filled with reverie and cultural traditions. While they were a little nervous (especially my son who had not previously been away from us for more than two nights – and then he was staying at Grandma’s), they gave us a big bear hug before gingerly bounding down the steps to their tent sights to get settled into camp.

I have been wanting to write this most for weeks now and am delighted to finally share some of their experiences with you. I thought a little tongue-in-cheek would do well. 🙂

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5 Signs You Might Be Norwegian

You might be Norwegian if you are eager to throw a few belongings into a longboat and forge your own way across treacherous seas. Your adventurous spirit knows no bounds!

The fact that these kids spent two weeks away from home – without the trappings of modern devices they’ve become so fond of – is a testament to the their Nordic spirit of adventure!

They really connected with one another and forged strong bonds of friendship that will last a lifetime. Now that they are back home, they have connected on Instagram and write letters to one another. They are already talking about next year’s camp and have pledged to go every year.

My kids even connected with one another – seeing their sibling as a partner and ally, rather than a thorn in their side. Upon their return from camp, they argue less and play together more often.

Their experience at camp not only built relationships but also built character.

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You might be Norwegian if you have no qualms about dressing up in heavy woolen bunads and thick woolen sweaters in the incessant heat of summer. The bunad is a traditional Norwegian costume worn by both men and women.

Today the bunad is worn for celebrations and special occasions.  During the wedding season (May-June), you often see Norwegians dressed in their bunads on Saturdays walking to and from Churches.  Baptisms and Confirmations, Balls and Norwegian Constitution Day are typically bunad wearing days.

At camp, the kids were fortunate to have access to bunads in a multitude of sizes. They donned the traditional costume proudly (see the photo above) and recognized the importance of honoring traditions.

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You might be Norwegian if you believe in Trolls, Huldra, Nisse, and numerous other mythological creatures.  The Vikings were not only raiders and warriors, but also skilled navigators, craftsmen, traders and storytellers.

At camp, the kids enjoyed learning about Norse mythology. One of the stories they shared was that of the Huldra or Skogsrå (forest wife/woman), a dangerous seductress who lives in the forest and lures men down into an endless cave  or into the forest in order to secure her freedom. She has a long cow’s tail that she ties under her skirt in order to hide it from men. If she can manage to get married in a church, her tail falls off and she becomes human.

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You might be Norwegian if you are eager to earn knots. While the Vikings have earned their place in history as a seafaring warrior culture with strong ties to the sea, the knots to which I refer are not sailor’s knots.

In the month before their final exams, graduating high school revellers in Norway are known as russ, an abbreviation for the Latin phrase cornua depositurus, which translates as ‘take off the horns’. The russ are easily recognizable in April and May, when russefeiring (russ celebration) is under way. They wear brightly colored, baggy trousers with big pockets, and a matching hat or cap with a long string at the end.

While the kids at heritage camp didn’t dress in jumpers, they did take part in a variety of skits and pranks that could compare to the russ tradition of competing for russeknuter, or knots – badges of honour which have to be earned in a variety of bizarre ways.

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Finally, you might be Norwegian if you enjoy Lutefisk and Fiskebøller. At camp the kids had the opportunity to try numerous traditional Norwegian dishes.  As heritage members, many of the dishes were familiar but there were a few that were new to some of the kids.

Lutefisk (dried cod treated with lye) must surely be the strangest culinary effort credited to the Norwegians, but what a treat when prepared properly. Everyone of course is not a devotee of lutefisk, but those who are defend it vehemently. Others go to the opposite extreme and claim it’s a national disgrace.

Fiskebøller are white balls made up of ground white fish and served in a rather “naked” state only with a bechamel sauce, boiled potatoes, coleslaw or broccoli and asparagus.

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Heritage camp was a huge success! Attending camp meant that the kids missed the opportunity to compete in the long course Junior Olympics swim meet. While this was initially difficult, they made the decision partially because this year they would both be competing at the bottom of their age groups.

When we picked them up on the final day of camp, they were loudly proclaiming, “Camp was awesome! We want to go again every year!” knowing full well they would have to miss out on the Junior Olympics yet again.

The fact that their heritage is important to them made me very, very proud.

Many thanks to these kind blog hop hostesses: