Learn about Other Countries through the 5 Senses

Often times, lessons to help kids learn about other countries are geared toward older children. This is a lesson plan to present a new country to kids as young as preschool- in a way that they will remember! They will explore and learn about other countries using their five senses: seeing, touching, listening, tasting, and smelling their way to discover a new place. I recently presented this lesson about Ethiopia in my son’s preschool class, and the kids loved it. It can be easily adapted to any country, with a bit of research.

Ethiopia Lesson Preschool- Kid World CitizenI began by showing the kids the country on the map, and talking about its location; I showed them Ethiopia and asked why the region was called the “Horn of Africa?” Within a minute of noticing the shape of Africa and its “horn,” and then passing around the globe, the kids were able to identify Ethiopia (though surely other countries will take longer:).

Learning about Other Countries 5 Senses Lesson Plan- Kid World CitizenLearning through “Touch”

We first explored some items I brought that the kids were allowed to touch. The kids felt the cold, metal cross, the cow horn spoons, the cotton weavings, the smooth cowrie shells on a leather belt, a straw basket, a wooden, carved figure, the inside and outside of a dried calabash, and a painting on dried leather. We used description words and talked about each item’s texture. What engages kids, and impresses onto their memory is being able to hold and interact with special objects. I wouldn’t pass around something ceramic with 3-4 year olds, unless it doesn’t matter if they break it, but choosing typical items that are durable allow the kids to experience them beyond just “seeing” them. I let the kids wrap themselves in the soft blanket, try on the belt, and sit on the wooden shepherd’s chair. Clothes items are fun for allowing dress-up, but remind them that not everyone wears traditional/national dress all the time: it may be reserved for special celebrations, or used only by certain people (such as rural or urban, married or unmarried, elderly or children).

Preschool Ethiopia Lesson Plan- Kid World CItizenLearning through “Sight”

For sight, I used pictures of people in Ethiopia, as well as scenes from modern cities and the rural countryside. I believe we should not perpetuate stereotypes, and by showing kids a diverse range of scenes, we don’t limit them to a single story. I had a display of pictures, but also passed around photos so the kids could point and notice the details. You can gather your pictures from on-line if you haven’t yet visited the country, from travel magazines, or old National Geographics. Here are some great photos of Ethiopia I’m happy to share.

Spices from Ethiopia- Kid World CitizenLearning through “Smell”

Ethiopian Coffee Lesson- Kid World CitizenThere are so many different scents in Ethiopia, I head a hard time choosing! I finally chose: freshly roasted coffee (of course), popcorn, garlic, berbere (spicy chiles), and tumeric.

I simply put the different scents into empty spice bottles, so the kids could pass them around, smell through the holes, and not spill (too much). These could be left out on the science table for kids to smell throughout the day. At one school, we laid out a green and a red paper and the kids would smell the containers and decide if they like it or not, by placing their “vote” on the papers.

Ethiopian Traditional Instrument- Kid World CitizenLearning through “Hearing”

We listened to some religious chants, heard a bit of a song by pop star Teddy Afro, and also listened to some children singing a traditional kids song from the Sidama region (that someone had given to me on a CD). I think with older children you could also do the National Anthem of the country you’re studying, or discuss other famous musicians and genres. We passed around a drum and a traditional instrument called a krar, and kids were able to beat the drum and pluck the strings.

Learning through “Taste”

The possibilities of taste are endless! In our case, the school would only allow food that was store bought (or else I would have made some delicious Ethiopian food!). I asked my son what he wanted me to bring in, and he chose injera (of course mommy!) and some dabo (bread). Carbs (and sweets) are always a hit with kids:).

Other items to consider that help kids learn about other countries through the 5 senses:

  • touching weavings, fabric, and textiles
  • running their fingers over wooden or metal carvings trying on jewelry, clothing
  • seeing pictures (include modern cities and rural scenes, animals, people)
  • watching a colorful video montage with scenes from the country
  • listening to music either from a CD or by trying out instruments
  • smelling spices, coffee, tea, or flowers
  • tasting a new flavor such as goat milk, seaweed snacks, or a new fruit like rambutans or star fruit.

What other ideas could you use in a sensory adventure? If you decide to use this method, share which objects you chose!

9 Responses to Learn about Other Countries through the 5 Senses

  1. Love this Becky! I’ve been thinking about adding some geography to our homeschool and I love your five senses approach.

  2. What a fantastic approach, esp for little ones, who are often left out.

  3. Thanks Jody and Leanna! I think that this works perfectly for younger students because it is so hands on. If you don’t have actual objects from the country for the touch portion, you could still be creative and use a cotton blanket to show cotton weaving, something of silk to represent China, or other substitutes to symbolize items. :)

  4. These are all great ideas. And definitely appropriate for older children as well since all kids do better with learning when it is “hands on”. Since I work in a Waldorf school and we don’t use any electronic media in the classroom (including cds), as a teacher I would listen to the cd of Ethiopian songs myself and pick one to learn and teach to the children.

    • kidworldcitizen

      In addition to instruments, What about learning a few words in the language? :) Maybe the kids could learn “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Friend.” Another option is to learn what animals are endemic to the area, and make the animal sounds. For example, in Ethiopia the lion has a lot of symbolism..

  5. This is a great article! It have me some excellent ideas about how I could share my experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer and about how I’ll share the world with my daughter. Thank you so much!!! Well done!!

  6. What an exciting lesson! I love how you approached teaching about another country and culture. Thank you so much for sharing at the After School Link Up.

  7. I enjoyed learning about this country. At first, I found it very hard to teach to a younger audience, but after I view your lesson, I couldn’t wait to get started on “Traveling Passport. I think that it will be fun. Thank you!!

    Leisa

What do you think? I love to hear from my readers:).