Category Archives: School Events

The Land Down Under – a World Studies party

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The Land Down Under – a World Studies party

7th– 8th Grade Unit Study on Australian Culture

Well, y’all, today was a privilege of privileges!  I got to throw another school party for my grand’s World Studies class.  We seriously had sooooooo much fun! Praise the Lord for His graciousness.  I love sharing these class parties with you all in the hopes that you will find something inspiring, or useful, that you can do with your kiddos.  I can barely organize my thoughts to tell you about it all.  I’m blogging about it with a full heart that truly did not want the time with them to end.  It was a case of having too many things that I wanted for the kids to experience (story of my life), and having much too small of time for us to actually accomplish it all with quality.  We managed to squeeze everything in, but we sure could have used another couple of hours.

Their teacher very capably led their studies through the chapter on Australia and Polynesia in their World Studies book, and then generously and graciously allowed me to step in for a brief moment at the end of the chapter, to share the things I’ve collected from all over the world, which this time included a few things from the Land Down Under.  The Lord has graciously provided over the years for me to get to have these things, and not only that, but also to allow me the opportunity to utilize the deeply compelling, God-given passion that’s in my heart, which is to research, and plan, and cook, and decorate, and bring the cultures of other peoples to life.

This party was all about Australia, from the indigenous peoples to the settlers.  We learned about Digeridoos, Dancing Sticks, Boomerangs, and Bull-roarers.  We ate Aussie Meat Pies “with sauce” – the national food of Australia, Tim-Tams, Pavlova, and some varieties of licorice “lollies.” We were able to experience a sniff of Vegemite (the kids were too chicken to taste it – although I had snuck some into the meat pies when I made them, so they actually had tasted it and didn’t know it – Ha!  And we all got to taste a glassful of Bundaberg Ginger Beer.  So delicious!!!!  We also listened to some Australian music, both of the indigenous peoples and some more modern.

Side note: Ask me how glad I am to have a Cost Plus World Market fairly close-by.  Unfortunately, they have discontinued carrying ANZAC Biscuits and didn’t have any Lamingtons. The even more sad thing was that I was too pressed for time to be able to make very many of the things at home that I wanted to this go around – but I have included all the recipes below for you (and myself), in case you (or I) ever want to try this party (again) at home for a Birthday, or dinner party, or family get-together, or for your school, or Homeschool World Studies unit, or for a church function (perhaps you have some displaced Aussies in the congregation who are maybe feeling homesick, or missionaries to the Outback whom you could honor), or whatever the occasion!!!  Perhaps you just want to try some of the lovely foods from down under?


Okay, I’ll start with

Music and Decorations…

I had ordered this tablecloth (above) on Amazon, but it never came. ☹ 

Fortunately, I found this one on eBay and it arrived just in the nick of time. 😊

The food on the table also served as decoration (more on that below), but I also tossed around a few stuffed animals, some real boomerangs, and some Aussie flags and road signs to lend atmosphere.  One of the student’s fathers had a real digeridoo, which he allowed his son to bring to the party.  It was really heavy, made from a real tree, and decorated with real tribal designs.  It was very cool.  I also contributed to the party decoration by wearing a t-shirt that said “G’day Mate!” on the front of it.  It made me happy all day just wearing it. And I had made some little road signs and Aussie flags to scatter around on the table. I have a friend who lives in Geelong and is a huge “footy” fan, the Cats in particular. She sent me some souvenirs of the 2009 Premiers, because of course the Cats were champs that year!!!!! I wished I could have found stuffed animals of all the Aussie animals, instead I ended up getting a t-shirt, which featured at least 10 of them.

This is the music I had playing when the kids entered the classroom, so they could hear what digeridoo sounds like, but I was careful not to play it for long, or loudly, or to meditate on the sounds too closely, since the indigenous people call it dream music. I don’t know, but it may open a portal to the spirit world, and I had no desire to do that.

And this is the CD that I played after we had made our dancing sticks.  I found a used original online for $6 – a find of the century as it is out of print.  It has all the favorites on it.  “Down Under” by Men at Work, Waltzing Matilda by The Outback Singers, and an audio passage from The Man from Snowy River by Fred Hollows.  Absolutely perfect!!!!


Crafts

Digeridoos

So, I wanted the kids to have an opportunity to try playing a digeridoo, but I didn’t want them passing around my real digeridoo and spreading germs during cold and flu season.  So, we made one per kid using gift wrap tubes (which I had asked parents to provide, while they were massively available during the holiday season). The kids then used paint to decorate their digeridoos with various tribal designs. 

How to make a Digeridoo out of wrapping paper rolls:  https://www.koolkidscrafts.com/make-a-didgeridoo.html

How a real Digeridoo is made, by David Hudson:  https://youtu.be/2lBZ6yPW9WU

How to play a Digeridoo, by David Hudson:  https://youtu.be/0XlEkeot7HM

And then we all tried to play them.  It definitely takes some skills. I didn’t manage to get a photo of the kids playing them, but I did nab this photo of some decorated ones that the boys had done.


Bullroarers

The first thing was to show the kids the video clip of Crocodile Dundee demonstrating his Bullroarer skills in a scene from the second movie: 

Normally Bullroarers are heavy pieces of carved wood threaded with a strong thick string or thin leather strap, but I found a kid’s craft version that worked like a snap:

How to make a kid’s Bullroarer:

https://www.schooloftoy.com/freeprojects/

Click on the link above and then scroll down to the bottom of the webpage until you see this video, pictured below:

I premeasured lengths of thin paracord and stuffed them in baggies, and I also predrilled holes in the jumbo craft sticks (tongue depressors). It made it super easy to pass out the elements. All the kids needed to do was thread the string through the hole and they were ready to use.  I had the kids decorate their sticks with Sharpie markers, and then we all went out into the great room to give them a whirl, (literally)!  This was probably the most fun experience of the whole party.


Boomerangs

The same man (David Hudson) who did the video on digeridoo playing also did one on how to make a cardboard boomerang, which he called a “Roomerang.”  The kids watched the video, and then I passed out the strips of cardboard that I had precut.  I marked the center to help the kids be able to attach the two pieces properly, and we fastened them with glue dots, which worked like a charm.  I had made a few as examples, and also so that I could test them to see if they really worked.  They did, but, not as well as his did in the video, but maybe with practice. I found that they worked best when held between thumb and pointer finger right at the base and flicked vertically, and sort of towards your right (if you are right-handed). It takes a little practice.

 

How to make a kids’ Carded Boomerang (“Roomerang”) with David Hudson:

   https://triballink.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/How-to-Make-a-Roomerang.webm

In this video (link above) he also talks about the designs, which are special to the Gubbi Gubbi/ Kabi Kabi people. These were my examples:


Dancing Sticks

And finally, our last activity was to make the dancing sticks.  The same David Hudson as did the Roomerangs, and Digeridoo has a teaching video on how to make the dancing sticks, I basically followed his instructions, except instead of using the clear shipping tape that he uses, and then wrapping it with string, I used a decorative Duct tape to save a step.  I also used Bamboo because I have it growing in abundance in my yard and am always looking for useful opportunities to get rid of it. 

       

How to make Dancing Sticks, video featuring David Hudson:   https://youtu.be/u-6yEYPiYsE


Food

What Australian party would be complete without food? Top of the list has to be the national dish of Australia – the Aussie Meat Pies, and then Tim-Tams, Vegemite, and Pavlova!  I really had ambitious plans for this party, and although I didn’t have time to make everything I wanted to, I’m including the recipes for everything I wanted to.  That way, if you (or I) ever want to make these lovely morsels, we’ll know where to find all the recipes.

First things first, Americans need to know how to eat a Vegemite Sandwich, because most of us try it and do it all wrong, and end up spitting the nasty gack substance out into the garbage can with a majorly disgusted look on our faces.  So, I thought it fitting to let Hugh Jackman give us a proper demonstration:

Hugh Jackman on Jimmy Fallon: https://youtu.be/P_sUhTWtvG4

I found Vegemite at Cost Plus World Market, but unfortunately the parent who was supposed to bring the white bread and butter for the party, ooops forgot.  Meh! It happens. 😦   So, I wasn’t able to make a Vegemite Sandwich for the kids, nor was I able to make Fairy Bread for the kids either.  I was disappointed, but we had lots of other stuff to eat and do, so I eventually got over it. LOL


This is Fairy Bread:

All you do to make the Fairy Bread is toast and butter some soft white bread (just like you do for the Vegemite Sandwich) and then cover the topside with sprinkles.  They can’t be just any sprinkles though; to be truly OZ-thentic they need to be the tiny round sprinkles you see in the photo.


Aussie Meat Pies

I made a batch of these before the party just to see what they tasted like, and I think they are quite similar to a sloppy joe in a pie crust.   I did them exactly the way Aussie Girl Can Cook does in her video, but to be authentic the bottoms of the pie are supposed to be a “short crust,” which, in America, is just a regular pie crust, and only the tops of the Aussie pies are supposed to be puff pastry. I made mine in a muffin pan. And I didn’t have enough puff pastry to do the tops properly, so I used the little bits of corners that I had snipped from the squares to make them round. Didn’t have to cut a vent hole that way.

So, because I was extremely pressed for time, this is how I made mine for the party:

Mrs H’s Aussie Meat Pies

3  12-oz. packages (8-count each) of Texas Pie Company Pastry Shells, sold exclusively at HEB

1  17.3 oz. package Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets

2 pounds ground beef

1 onion finely chopped

1  24-oz. can Hunt’s Manwich Sauce

Enough chicken stock to make a little gravy

1 tsp. Vegemite

I started my process 2 days before the party by cooking the beef filling first and then placing it in the fridge.  Cook the ground beef until browned, add onion and cook until slightly softened.  Pour in the Manwich sauce and stir.  Let simmer on stovetop for about 10 minutes.  Add enough chicken stock to make the gravy and let it cook down to thicken. Stir in the Vegemite and remove from heat.  Let cool slightly and transfer to a food storage container. Place in fridge overnight.

The next day take the frozen Puff Pastry out of the freeze and set on counter top to thaw.  Take the Pastry Shells out of the freezer also and arrange on a cookie sheet.  Flatten the edges of each shell to remove the decorative ridge, then put the shells in a 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes (as directed on the package).  Pull the shells out of the oven and immediately begin filling each with about a small ice cream scoop full of the chilled meat mixture. 

On a slightly floured work surface, unwrap and gently unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Use a drinking glass or biscuit cutter (that is roughly the size of the tops of each pie), cut circles in the pastry.  If you run out of dough, the bits can be collected and gently kneaded on a floured surface and then rolled out with a rolling pin.  Let rest a few minutes and then cut more circles.  One package should cover 24 little pies, if you are frugal.  Take a circle of puff pastry and hold it in one hand, dip a finger of your other hand in a cup of water and moisten the pastry all the way around the edge on one side.  Lay the moistened side down on top of a meat pie, stretching if needed, and then press it against the pastry below with your thumbs.  Use a fork to seal the edge all the way around.  Continue with the next pie, and the next, until you have finished covering all your pies. 

Beat an egg or two in a small bowl and then using a pastry brush, brush the egg over the top of each puff pastry top.  A little milk can be added to the egg if you need to stretch it to have enough for all the pies. Use a knife to cut a little vent hole in the center of each pie.

Place the pies in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top crusts are shiny and golden brown.  I think mine might have baked longer than 30 minutes, but my oven has been weird lately. Just keep an eye on them to get that beautiful golden-brown color.  Remove from oven.  Let them cool slightly and then remove them from the pie tins. They can be served hot at this point, plain, or with sauce (ketchup).

If you want to serve them the next day, just let the little pies cool completely on a baking rack (removed from the tins) for about 10 or 15 minutes. Place the cooled pies in a single layer in a large zip-loc bag and then pop them into the refrigerator for overnight storage, or they can be individually wrapped, tightly, in plastic, and then placed into a zip-loc bag and into the freezer for longer storage. 

The next day place the pies on a cookie sheet and pop them into a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.  If they are frozen they can be removed from their wrapper and baked in the same temp oven, but may take a little longer to reach a safe 165 degree internal temperature.  We also tried reheating them in the microwave for about 3 minutes and that worked also.  Serve plain or with sauce.  (My hubby likes salsa on his – he likes salsa on everything. Ha!).


Outback Barbie (what we States-side would just call a BBQ

Once a good fire is established in the firepit, put on some shrimp (what we call prawns), snags (sausages – kind of look like fat hot dogs), and Barramundi (a type of fish).  There’s also many things that are and have been cooked up over fire in the wild, and that’s what Australians call Bush Tucker (Bush Food).

NOTE: many of the foods in Australia are like the foods we have in America.  They harken back to both of our British roots.  In Great Britain the meat pies are often served as a pie floater, which means they are perched in a pool of mushy peas. 

Other common foods are beef stews, chicken and dumplings, pot roast, meatloaf, baked chicken, and that sort of stuff.  There is a large Malaysian, Polynesian, and southern Asian influence also, just as there is Chinese food, Italian, French, Cajun, etc. foods here in the U.S.  There are also animals, berries, fruits, and herbs (and even bugs) that are native to Australia, like Wattleseed and Lemon Myrtle, that are used in Australian cooking.  I enjoy watching Marion Grasby’s You Tube channel.  She makes lots of Asian infused Australian foods.


Tim Tams

Tim-Tams can be purchased in the U.S.  Amazon has them, and they are at World Market.  They are kind of like a chocolate wafer/biscuit sandwich with cream filling, and then coated in chocolate.


ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuits were a type of eggless oatmeal cookie that were sent to the soldiers who were off fighting in war.  They are made of oatmeal and coconut, and to make them properly you must use Lyles Golden Syrup.  Australia celebrates a national holiday called ANZAC Day every April which gives the whole country a public holiday from work.  It is a day for Aussies and New Zealanders to honor those who fought and lost their lives at war and also to honor those who serve in the military for the freedom of their country. 

Australian Women’s Weekly published this “Best ANZAC Biscuit Recipe of All Time.”  I say we give it a try!

Ingredients

4oz butter, chopped

2 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle (see tips)

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

2 tablespoons boiling water

1 cup rolled oats (see tips)

1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup desiccated coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two large 9 X 13” baking pans; line with baking paper.

Stir butter and syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Stir in combined soda and the water, then remaining ingredients.

Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls; place 2 inches apart on lined trays, then flatten slightly.

Bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool biscuits on trays.

Notes

Spray your measuring spoon with a little cooking oil spray before scooping up the golden syrup; this will help prevent the syrup from sticking to the spoon. Make sure you use rolled oats rather than quick-cooking oats as they will produce a different result. Store biscuits in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Lamingtons

These can be purchased, but are not difficult to make. They are basically a sponge cake cut into blocks, dipped in chocolate icing, and then rolled in finely chopped desiccated coconut.  Martha Stewart has a lovely recipe; click on this link (Martha Stewart’s Lamingtons) and you should end up there, unless they have moved it since this post was created. In that case here is a print out:

Lollies

I found a variety of licorice at World Market. It’s a little bit different from the licorice we’re used to. Sooooo yummy!!!


Pavlova

The utter queen of desserts.  It is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.  It is said to resemble her flowing layered ballerina skirts.   It is crisp on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside, and topped with whipped cream and various fruits.  There are vanilla Pavlovas, and chocolate Pavlovas, and I even saw a lemon Pavlova – which would be a perfect way to use all the egg yokes (lemon curd) and help counter balance all the sweetness.

I decided to try using a carton of liquid egg whites to see if it would work, rather than have several egg yokes to have to deal with.  It didn’t work quite as well as it probably would have with freshly cracked egg whites, but it did work, and got raves from all of those who sampled it at the party for the first time ever in their lives.

1 cup cage-free 100% liquid egg whites + 1 freshly cracked egg white (save the yoke to brush on meat pies)

2 cups of regular white sugar

½ teaspoon of pure Vanilla

1/8th teaspoon of Cream of Tartar (or may substitute 2 tsp of lemon/lime juice or white/apple cider vinegar)

2 teaspoons Corn starch

You will also need parchment paper, a large cookie sheet, a 340 degree preheated oven, a pan with water, and a rubber spatula, and then some fresh sweetened whipped cream, and an assortment of fresh fruits.

I decided to do the Swiss Meringue technique, which is to dissolve the sugar in the egg whites in a double-boiler before whipping.  I placed about 2 inches of water in a saucepan and turned it on to boil.  While I waited for that, I measured my egg whites and sugar into a stainless steal bowl that I could perch on top the pot of water.  As soon as the water boiled, I turned off the heat and let the water cool for a few minutes.  Then I set my bowl of egg whites and sugar on top and used a whisk to stir, stir, stir, lifting the bowl from the pan of water occasionally, just to make sure I didn’t cook the eggs at all.  I reached in and mushed the mixture between my fingers a couple of times to see if it was still gritty, and once it felt not gritty I took it off the water completely and started mixing it with the mixer. 

I only have a hand-held Kitchen-Aide mixer, and wasn’t sure if it was powerful enough to do the job.  It seemed like it took forever for the eggs to start turning a glossy white.  Finally, after 10 minutes or so I began to see a soft white mixture, and that is when I added all the other ingredients (vanilla, Cream of Tartar, and Corn Starch, and I also added a splash of lemon juice in case my cream of tartar wasn’t up to snuff – it’s not something I use very often).  I scraped down the sides of the bowl and went back to mixing.  It took a really long time, maybe 20 minutes or so, but it finally started getting the stiffer peaks.  The videos I watched said you can’t over whip it, so I just kept whipping, and whipping, hoping to achieve stiff peaks I saw in videos.  When I thought I had achieved it finally, I stopped whipping.  My poor little mixer was getting warm.

I got a large cookie sheet, put a dab of meringue in each corner, and placed a sheet of parchment paper to cover the pan (the dabs of meringue keep the parchment from moving around.  Then I dumped the meringue in the middle of the pan.  I didn’t fuss with trying to shape it.  I just sort of made a depression in the center and called it good.  Mine didn’t set up tall and hold its shape like the ones in the videos, which is when I realized I probably gave up beating it too soon.  Oh well.  I guess we’ll see.

I placed the meringue into the oven and immediately turned the temperature down to 190 degrees F, and set the timer for 65 minutes.  After the 65 minutes I turned the oven off, but did NOT OPEN THE DOOR.  I left the meringue in the oven overnight.  I did peek through the window though and it looked to be the same size and shape as when I put it into the oven (hallelujah), only it had a slight baked tint to it, and only had a couple of hairline cracks on the side. Praise the Lord – so happy!!!!!!  Hoping for the best.

While the Pavlova was in the oven, I made my whipped cream.  I put about 2/3 of a pint size carton of heavy whipping cream into a cold bowl.  I added about 2 slightly heaped Tablespoons of powdered sugar, and ½ a teaspoon of pure vanilla.  I started the whipping process slowly to incorporate the sugar, and then as the mixture started to thicken a little, I increased the speed.  It was messy and there was spatter, but as soon as firm peaks appeared, I whipped a smidge more and then stopped beating (fearing I’d end up with butter).  I immediately transferred my whipped cream to a covered container and into the fridge to be used on my meringue first thing in the morning.

I decided on the following fruits:  Strawberries, bananas, canned mango drained, blueberries, and kiwi.  I waited until right before serving to top and decorate my Pavlova.  I started by removing the meringue from the oven and carefully and gently peeling away the paper.  I placed my meringue in the center of a large platter, and then dumped my whipped cream on top and spread it out a little.  Then I started decoratively piling on the sliced fruits and blueberries (Uh Oh, what happened to my banana? Okay, minus the banana, I must have dropped it on the sidewalk somewhere between my car and the school).  

OMGosh, it looked amazing!!!!  The kids thought it was fantastic, and the teacher and other staff who sneaked in to try it said it was to die for.  No one had ever eaten Pavlova before – which is probably my saving grace.

This is a photo of my attempt:


And what to drink? …

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In conclusion, if we want to sound like Aussies for a day here are some Australian Vocabulary Words:

G’day Mate = hello

No worries = not a big deal

Sanga = sandwich

Lollies = sweets/candies

Bush Tucker = Outback Food (that’s native to Australia, and grows in the wild)

Aussie (pronounced Ozzie) and is why Australia is sometimes called Oz

The land down under = Australia

Wallabys = kangaroo (aka ROOs)

Joey = baby kangaroo

Billabong = a pond in a dry river bed

Dingo = a wild dog native to Australia

Footy = What Aussies call football

Kookaburra = a type of bird native to Australia

Walk-a-bout = a hike or vacation (traveling)

To “Captain Cook” something = is to Take a Look at something

To “John Dory” = is to tell the story

Dunny = Toilet

Bloke = male

Sheila = female

Crickey = WOW!

Snag = a sausage


• Other Links:

David Hudson website: https://www.davidhudson.com.au/

(Bullroarer, You Tube video)  https://youtu.be/Gy05kWu88u0

2nd Digeridoo playing instruction:  https://youtu.be/F1hnDwjuLGM

• Movies featuring the Land Down Under:

The Man from Snowy River

Quigley Down Under

Crocodile Dundee

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! It’s a Junior High Renaissance Escape Room & Feast, Come One, Come All

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Hear Ye! Hear Ye! It’s a Junior High Renaissance Escape Room & Feast, Come One, Come All

That’s the way our little affair got started. Let me tell you the tale of a Renaissance Escape Room that happened recently, one very foggy mid-autum’s day. The Jr. High students of our quaint little school had been looking forward to this day for weeks. They picked out costumes from the Drama Department’s costume closet and daydreamed through chapel just waiting for the chance to crowd into their classroom and see what awaited them there. Their laughter and excitement filled the room, but in just a moment it was all abrutly interupted by aTown Crier with news! She shouted out to them in a booming voice, and that is when they discovered their mission.

She then exited stage left and our dear “Mrs. Hollingsworth” appeared (which just so happens to be a real English renaissance family name from my own family’s history – how about that for a little historical fiction to go with our turkey legs). She was dressed as the rest, but in a red velvet costume, and when she cleared her throat a faux English accent came out. She addressed the students thustly:

Hello, I am Mrs. Hollingsworth.  I’ve come to help you.  We are going to have to be sneaky and very quiet so as not to draw attention to ourselves.  We’re going to need to split up.  Here, I’ve put some slips of paper in this black sock.  Each of you must draw a slip out and then sort yourselves into your teams. 

White team, your area of the room is over there. [she pointed]

Red team, yours is over there. [she pointed]

And Green, yours is there.  [she pointed]

You must stay in your area until you have completed your tasks.  I’ve put together an envelope for each team.  You will find them once you enter your area.  Read the outside of the envelope and follow its instructions.

Your knowledge of the Renaissance is all that will save you now.  Okay, be off!!!!!  And good luck.

The room was divided into 4 areas, using long classroom tables. Each area was clearly labeled, Red, White, and Green. The kids were divvied up into their 3 groups and sent away to their respective areas to begin their escape. It started with reading the outside of the envelope and then dumping out the contents. They had the choice of solving a puzzle that would tell them where to look for their 8 questions, or they could just look for them if they were feeling lucky. Most decided “just looking” sounded good. They found questions stuffed in bottles, and questions stuffed in boxes, others stashed in books , and books made out of boxes. They were high up and low down, on top of things, and underneath.

Let’s start with the Envelopes, please…

(In the interest of full disclosure, the images on the envelopes for the questions and puzzles were taken from a purchase of materials at Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ll tell you more about that a little later in this post. But I used their template for the question cards,although I made many of my own questions using our school’s World Studies Textbook, along with information found in various other books, such as these, and some online sources).

I organized all the Level One questions to be about Famous Artists & Architects of the Renaissance. Level Two questions were about Famous Explorers & Navigators of the Renaissance. Level 3 questions were about Famous Inventors & Humanists of the Renaissance. Level 4 questions were about Famous Thinkers & Philosophers of the Renaissance. Level Five questions were about Famous Writers & Composers of the Renaissance. And, Level Six questions were about Famous Mathematicians & Influencers of the Renaissance.

I made a cheat sheet for each team, printed on both sides. I wanted them to be able to check their answers, but also, since I had included some information that wasn’t in their textbook, I wanted them to be able to find the correct answer for the things they didn’t know about. Here are the CHEAT SHEETS, and QUESTIONS, and MASTER LOCK CODE SHEETS for each team…

Level One Questions Cheat Sheet.  Did you know that the Renaissance was a “rebirth” of art and architecture, deliberately anti-Gothic/Medieval? Because of the wealth of citizens, and the church, many works of art were commissioned (that means the artist was hired and paid a certain amount of money for his creation). During the Renaissance the wealthiest and most influential members of Italian society were called Patricians.  Before the Renaissance, only royalty, religious leaders, and the very wealthy could afford to have their portraits made. The Renaissance produced a booming economy, and ordinary people could then afford such things. There was a humanist (human virtue) interest in art, and a renewed interest in mythology as subject matter for art. The Medici family, the richest and most prominent family in Florence, used their wealth to sponsor new artists and help fund the humanist movement.  The Medici family became wealthy from banking, mining, and trade. The Medici family paid Brunelleschi to build a massive domed cathedral in Florence.  Brunelleschi studied ancient Roman ruins to help create his unique architecture.  Architecture during the Renaissance combined perfect mathematical proportions, domes, and classic columns. Religious works, portraits, and landscapes were mostly displayed in public; while mythologies and nudes were generally displayed in private homes.  Some of the greatest artists and architects of this period are listed below. 

Famous Artists and Architects of the Renaissance:

• Filippo Brunelleschi – famous for the dome of the Cathedral of Florence

• Ghiberti – famous for the doors of the Baptistry of Florence

• Sandro Botticelli – famous for his Adoration of the Magi, Primavera, and The Birth of Venus

• Titian – famous for The Assumption of the Virgin, Pesaro Madonna, Bacchus and Ariandne, and Venus of Urbino

• Leonardo da Vinci – often referred to as a Renaissance man, was a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and writer.  He created the most famous painting in the world, The Mona Lisa. Her portrait demonstrated his mastery of 2 new painting techniques, Sfumato (blends colors to create a smoky effect) and Chiaroscuro (uses light and dark to create depth and texture).  Some other paintings include Adoration of the Magi, The Virgin of the Rocks, and The Last Supper.  His sketch books contained drawing of various machines, some that could be used as military weapons, and others that were beneficial to the advancement of medicine. The final drawing in his sketchbooks was the Vitruvian man inside of a square and a circle. The term Renaissance Man refers to a person that was talented in may areas.

• Raphael – was a painter and architect born in Italy.  He painted his greatest work called The School of Athens.  He also did an oil painting called The Sistine Madonna.  It features two cherubim (angels) at the bottom.  These angels have been featured on stamps and t-shirts, and many other memorabilia of modern day.

• Donatello – famous for his Bronze David and his later stone David sculptures, as well as many Biblical figures, his innovation of shallow bas-reliefs, and his larger architectural reliefs.

• Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, otherwise known by his first name.  He created a statue of David which features realistic muscles, joints, and veins.  His works also include the sculptures of Bacchus and Pietà, and painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which was commissioned by Pope Julius II.  He also designed the dome on top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

• Giotto di Bondone – was the first Renaissance painter in Florence, Italy.  He broke away from the typical Byzantine style.  He painted people and objects that looked natural, not abstract.  His paint style became knows as realistic painting. 

Level Two Questions Cheat Sheet.  Did you know that the Renaissance was a “great re-awakening” of exploration and navigation? During this period, there was a great renewal of interest in the ideas of ancient Rome and Greece. Many of the leaders of the Renaissance, who were born in the different city-states of Italy, found inspiration in these ancient writings and wanted to know more by studying art, architecture, and culture. Some brilliant minds pursued knowledge through the study of math, geography, and science.  All of this expansion of knowledge contributed to the exploration of the world, which was both good and bad. The famous Silk Road, a once-prosperous trading route, had become very dangerous with tribal groups reclaiming land and charging fees for passage, or taxes on goods. Europe was desperate to find a route to China and India (where their most treasured exotic goods came from), that would avoid these dangerous middlemen. Many explorers and financiers of the age were also unfortunately desperate for fame and fortune and conquest. Part of the reason explorers were able to travel farther from home had to do with advances in navigation and shipbuilding techniques.  Not only did Europeans hope to find direct routes to places with exotic goods, some European kings and queens were inspired to send expeditions out for religious reasons as well. 

Famous Explorers & Navigators of the Renaissance

Niccolò De Conti – was a self-funded explorer, mostly by land, and one of the first Europeans to reach Indonesia and Burma. He shared many exciting stories about people, spices, animals, and geography. His travels helped to improve maps of Asia, such as the Genoese, and his experiences also helped to create a map of the world.

Christopher Columbus – made 4 legendary voyages. His maiden voyage was funded by Ferdinand and Isabella (King and Queen of Spain) in April, 1492.  That voyage included three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and his flagship, the Santa Maria. He named the first island where he landed San Salvador, in hopes that the natives would find “salvation in Christ.”  He is credited with discovering the “New World.”

Vasco de Balboa – is best known for the discovery of the Pacific Ocean. Balboa started a European settlement in Antigua del Darien, on the east coast of Panama.  Hearing that there was a sea on the south side, he journeyed across the Isthmus of Panama and sighted the Pacific Ocean while standing on a peak. The Spaniards called the Pacific the Mar del Sur (South Sea). The expedition descended the mountain and become the first Europeans to navigate the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the New World.

Hernán Cortés – is famous for a legend where off the coast of Veracruz, he burned his ships in a do-or-die effort to conquer the land.  He warred against the Aztecs and their leader Montezuma II, and lost all of his treasure and most of his men in The Sad Night. 

Amerigo Vespucci – a great navigator, explorer, cartographer, and cosmographer and is where the continents of the Americas got their name.

Ferdinand Magellan – was a Portuguese explorer and navigator who led the first successful circumnavigation around the word. Unfortunately, he did not finish the journey, but his surviving crew members managed to complete this history-making voyage. He was the first observer of a previously unknown species of penguins, discovered galaxies, and was the first European to cross the great Pacific Ocean.  He discovered a shortcut through Chile in South America, which became known as the Strait of Magellan. Besides the strait, Ferdinand Magellan also has a rail car (Ferdinand Magellan Railcar), lunar craters (Magelhaens and Magelhaens A), and even a penguin species (Magellanic penguin) named after him. His expeditions showed clearly that all the world’s oceans were connected.

Marco Polo – though born very early in the Renaissance period, probably inspired some of the enthusiasm for exploration through his book, “The Travels of Marco Polo.” Young Marco became a trader, traveler, adventurer and storyteller. His life inspired a children’s game that is still played today.

Juan Ponce de Leon – was rumored to have been looking for the “fountain of youth.” Served as the first governor of Puerto Rico.

Sir Francis Drake – Accompanied John Hawkins in a voyage of the slave trade. Became a privateer who attacked and plundered other ships.  Was considered a pirate by the Spanish, but a hero by the English. Was given a fleet of 5 ships by Queen Elizabeth I and his expedition was only the second in history to sail around the world. He brought back lots of treasure for the queen. The queen knighted him and he was known as Sir Francis Drake thereafter.

John Cabot – was an Italian explorer sent by King Henry VII of England to the New World. It is believed that he landed in what is now called Newfoundland, in Canada, and was the first explorer to find that part of the world since the Vikings who had traveled there many centuries before.  On his second voyage his ships were lost at sea and the fate of John Cabot is uncertain.

Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, and Pêro Da Covilhã are a few other famous explorers, but there’s not enough room to talk about them.

And these were the questions that were hidden all over the room (inside of books, and boxes, and bottles, etc.)

This was their code sheet:

Level Three Questions Cheat Sheet.  The Renaissance began in Florence, Italy somewhere in the 14th century (1301 to 1400) and lasted until sometime in the 17th century (1601-1700).  Humanism played a big role during the Renaissance?  Humanism was a cultural movement, and idea that everyone should seek to be educated in arts, science, and literature.  It was a time when human emotions were expressed in the form of art.  It made the people think about their own lives and less on spiritual ideas. This new idea about education and emotional art quickly spread to Venice, Rome, and Milan, Italy.  Eventually, new ideas spread throughout Europe.  The start of the Renaissance brought an end to the Middle Ages.  The fall of Rome brought the beginning of the Middle Ages.  People were more consumed with survival during the Middle Ages.  They didn’t have money or time to learn or to study.  They were mostly poor farmers/peasants serving the royal class.  Advances and progress in science, art, and government were lost during the Middle Ages.  This part of the Middle Ages was referred to as The Dark Ages.  The Renaissance was a time to “come out of the dark.” Renaissance means “rebirth.” The Black Death delayed economic grown in northern Europe. Many believe the Renaissance began with the invention of the printing press.  The printing press made books and written materials more easily available, and because of the rise of the middle class and new found wealth, people were eager to learn and prosper. People began to feel better about themselves and optimistic about life.   

Famous Inventors & Humanists of the Renaissance

Erasmus of Rotterdam – was one of the most highly regarded and influential scholars of the Renaissance.  He mastered Latin and Greek.  He was the first to publish a Greek New Testament, which was an essential tool for the Reformation.

Leon Battista Alberti – a humanist author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, and cryptographer.

Thomas More – was a close friend of Erasmus and served in the court of King Henry VIII of England.  His work, Utopia (which means “nowhere”) is a story about an imaginary country based on Christian principles, and the philosophy of Plato.  In this work More presented his view of an ideal state.  More supported the supremacy of the Pope and rejected the Reformation.

Johannes Gutenberg – inventor of the printing press

Leonardo da Vinci – inventor of many, many, many types of machines.

Galileo Galilei – was

Niccolò Machiavelli – created a new branch of political science based on humanist principals, where human interests were the priority.

Francesco Petrarch – was known as the “Father of Humanism.”  He studied Ancient Rome’s poets and philosophers.  His poetry became inspirational to other writers. 

Level Four Questions Cheat Sheet.  During the Renaissance, people loved learning about new ideas and having their old ideas challenged and changed.  They were thirsty for knowledge about art, biology, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, literature – everything!  The printing press made it possible to mass produce books.  As books became readily available, more people learned to read, and new ideas spread faster than ever.  During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church played an enormous role in European life, but during the Renaissance people began to have different religious views. The first book to be printed on a printing press was the Gutenberg Bible.  During the Renaissance, people (called humanists) were more interested in finding and studying the original versions of texts.  They began to interpret writings in different ways, and to ask questions.  Universities across Europe played extraordinarily significant roles in the Renaissance and the Reformation.  They hosted innovative research in many fields and changed forever European religion and society.  Universities and their professors may have had greater influence on society in the Renaissance and Reformation than in any era before or since.  That influence endures to this day.   

Famous Thinkers & Philosophers of the Renaissance

Francis Bacon – argued for an approach to scientific research based on observation and reason.

Desiderius Erasmus (of Rotterdam) – was a Dutch philosopher and Catholic theologian.  Among the humanists he was given the nickname “Prince of the Humanists,” and has been called the “crowning glory of the Christian humanists.” He wanted to introduce humanistic enlightenment into the Catholic Church without breaking with Rome.  He mastered Latin and Greek.  He was the scholar behind what is now known as the Textus Receptus, when the only Bible available at the time was the Latin Vulgate.  His versions were used by Martin Luther for his German translation, and William Tyndale for the first English New Testament, and also contributed to the Robert Stephanus edition of the Geneva Bible and the Authorized (KJV) Bible.

Thomas More – a close friend of Erasmus, served as lord chancellor in the court of King Henry VIII.  His work, Utopia (which means “nowhere”) was a book of social and political satire which presented his views of an ideal state. 

Filippo Brunelleschi – was at first a goldsmith, and made a living making jewelry. He competed for the commission of the Baptistry doors, but bowed out when they wanted to team him with another artist and went to Rome.  While there, he studied ancient Roman ruins, and in the process of making detailed drawings of them, rediscovered a lost artistic technique known as linear perspective.  He also solved major problems in architecture and was able to construct the largest dome ever built without wood supports. Because Brunelleschi never wrote down his designs, historians have struggled for centuries to unravel the secrets of his success.  It is still not fully understood how he accomplished what no one else has ever been able to do.

Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian philosopher, created a new branch of political science based on humanist principals, which emphasized human interests over religious views.  He wrote groundbreaking books about politics. One small “mirror book” called The Prince, which has been translated into dozens of languages and read by millions. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin kept a copy of it on their nightstands.  His last name became a euphemism for everything bad in politics.  Lying, cheating, scheming, backstabbing, killing—are all qualities associated with Machiavellianism.

Nicolaus Copernicus – worked out accurate measurements of the earth in relation to the sun.

Garardus Mercator – outlined an approach to scientific inquiry that changed several branches of science.  Queen Elizabeth gave him the nickname, “Little Lord Keeper.” He was the first English writer to use an “Essay” format.

And this was their code sheet:

Level Five Questions Cheat Sheet.  Thomas a Kempis authored the book, The Imitation of Christ, which is still in print today.  The Canterbury Tales is a collection of twenty-four stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer and can also still be purchased today.  Did you know that the Elizabethan Era is famous for the works of William Shakespeare?  It was the Tudor period of England’s history, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  This “golden age” represented the apogee (which means the peak or highest point) of the English Renaissance. The era is most famous for it’s theatre, but it was also an age of exploration and expansion abroad.  The circumnavigation of Francis Drake brought wealth to England. 

Famous Writers & Composers of the Renaissance

William Shakespeare – was an English playwright, poet, and actor.  He is credited as having written 39 plays, 154 sonnets, 3 long narrative poems, and a few other verses.  His most notable works are “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Anthony and Cleopatra,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “Othello,” “The Comedy of Errors,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” and many more.

Petrarch – was a scholar and poet of early Renaissance Italy. One of the earliest Humanists.  His rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited as initiating the Renaissance.  His notable works include odes and sonnets to Laura, the idealized subject of his chaste love, Triumphs, Canzoniere, Secretum Meum.

Dante Alighieri – wrote his narrative poem/book, the Divine Comedy in 1308.  The first part of this epic poem is Inferno, often referred to as Dante’s Inferno.  It describes Dante’s spiritual journey through hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil.  It includes nine concentric circles of torment located within the earth. Inferno (hell) is followed by Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Paradise/heaven).  His book is considered the greatest piece of literature written in Italian.   Iconographic images from Donte’s Divine Comedy have been painted inside the dome of the Cathedral of Florence, the brainchild of Brunelleschi.

Nicolaus Copernicus – was an astronomer and one of a handful who believed that the sun was at the center of the universe and that the earth and planets revolved around it. He proved in his book, On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, that the heliocentric model was correct, backing up his theory with mathematical equations.  It was Johannes Kepler that later proved Copernicus right. Also, Galileo, developed telescopes powerful enough for astronomers to see for themselves that Copernicus’s heliocentric model was accurate.

Machiavelli – is famous for his little book, The Prince, which was a how-to or guidebook for rulers.  He was called a lot of bad things, including “devil” and “monster,” but nothing indicates that he was ever terribly “Machiavellian.”  He was influential, but never sought power for power’s sake. And every devious strategy he described in the book was based on the actions of others.

Erasmus of Rotterdam – was known as the “Prince of the humanists.”  Was a friend of Thomas More and was staying at his home when he composed what is considered one of the most important works of the Renaissance, “In Praise of Folly.”  In this work, Erasmus took a humorous approach to old superstitions and corruption in the Catholic Church.  He dedicated the essay to More.

Sir Thomas More – was famous for his book, Utopia, which was his idea of the ideal society.  He was very religious and served as lord chancellor to King Henry VIII.

Castiglione wrote a book on manners and etiquette (social behavior). His book was titled, The Courtier.

Level Six Questions Cheat Sheet.  Did you know the Renaissance began in Florence, Italy somewhere between 1350 and 1400 and lasted until the mid 1600s. The Hundred Years War took place between 1337 and 1453 and ended in a French victory. During the Hundred Years War, a peasant girl from France named Joan of Arc believed she was being led by God to drive out the English.  The French defeated the English under her leadership, but the English later captured her and burned her at the stake.  The Black Death may have started in China and by 1347 had spread to. It claimed the lives of an estimated twenty-five million Europeans. The Renaissance (which means “rebirth”) was a period of great awakening of classical arts, culture, science, medicine, education, literature, art and music. It was a time to “come out of the dark.”  The Renaissance began as more and more people were able to afford to learn to read and write, the printing press made printed materials more available, and the Italian seaports traded goods as well as new ideas.  

Famous Mathematicians & Influencers of the Renaissance

Nicolaus Copernicus – was the mathematician and astronomer who formulated the model that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the other way around.

Galileo Galilei – was an Italian mathematician credited with creating the first modern telescopes, which supported Copernicus’s idea that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Johannes Kepler – was a German astronomer, mathematician, astrologer, natural philosopher, and writer of music.  He is best known for his laws of planetary motion, as well as his books Astronomia Nova, Harmonice Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae. He was a contemporary of Galileo Galilei.

Johannes Gutenberg – was a German inventor, printer, publisher, and goldsmith who introduced printing to Europe with his mechanical movable-type printing press.

Henry VIII – was king of England from 1509 to 1547.  He is credited with initiating the English Reformation by separating the Church of England from papal authority.  He appointed himself Supreme Head of the Church of England.  He also invested heavily in the navy.  He made radical changes to the English Constitution.

John Calvin – was a French theologian, pastor, and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He developed a system of doctrine known as Calvinism.

Elizabeth I – was Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to her death in 1603.  She was the daughter of Henry VIII.

Pope Julius II – was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1503 to his death in 1513.  He was nicknamed “the fearsome Pope.” He chose his name in emulation of Julius Caesar.  He was one of the most powerful and influential Popes.  He established the Vatican Museums and initiated the rebuilding of the St. Peter’s Basilica.  He invited Raphael to decorate some rooms in the Vatican. The Catholic Church – used their wealth to make extravagant cathedrals, ornately decorated inside with architecture, paintings, sculptures, expensive doors, and domes.

Martin Luther – was a German priest, author, and hymnwriter Catholic friar responsible for starting the Protestant Reformation.

Lorenzo de Medici – was a poet, known as Il Magnifico (“The Magnificent”), the wealthiest and most powerful man in Florence.  He was a supporter of humanist thinkers and a great patron of the arts.

And this was their code sheet:

The Question cards were hidden individually all over the room, but each team needed 2 puzzle cards and those were hidden together in a locked box for each team. The students had to find and answer all their questions correctly (8 per team), plus find the key for their locked boxes (which I hid in books and in a soup can), and also the locked boxes themselves. Once they figured out the codes for each of the the Questions. Those codes would then be used for finding the FINAL MASTER CODE that would unlock the final “Escape Door.”

These were the puzzle cards I used, and I got them from a kit I purchased of a Renaissance Escape Room. This is where you can get your kit: Escape Room EDU @ Teachers Pay Teachers. It is very well done and very inexpensive. They actually designed it to be used in connection with the internet, but it works easily without it. Since there is nothing on the website or in the printed materials to forbid me sharing these images with you I included them here. Please, though, go visit that website and download your own complete kit. Please support the hard working people that put these awesome things together. It is only a few dollars and very well worth it. I altered the Level 6 card.

Once some of the students had finished this first part, they needed to wait for all the teams to finish in order to go on to the next part as one big group. So this is when they were invited to feast. And what a feast it was!!!!! Bread and wine (okay, grape juice), grapes and pears and apples, cheese curds, jello – did you know that gelatin was invented (discovered?) in the Renaissance?, carved meats and roasted turkey legs, pies and tarts., beer and ale (okay Root beer, and Ginger ale). The kids sat at a table fit for King Henry VIII.

After about 10 minutes, since no one had noticed a certain incognito item that was crucial to the success of the mission, I asked if anyone had seen the tag thing that was hanging from Da Vinci’s the LAST SUPPER painting, which was hanging on the wall by the table of food. Of course the kids made a bee-line over there to check it out.

The tag was attached with a string to a note that was taped to the back of the painting. It said:

“What is missing from DaVinci’s Last Supper Table, that is always part of our Communion Table?” 

They searched and searched…

…and someone blurted out, “THE CHALICE!”

Under the CHALICE was a note tucked inside of a little blue envelope that said:

“Look under the drawbridge!”

…and so they did!

Under the drawbridge was this TAP CODE/Polybius Cipher puzzle which needed to be solved. It required all teams to come together with their Master Lock Code Sheets, plus the box that had the 3 colored blocks in it (which hadn’t served a purpose yet), and a cipher key.

This was the cipher key to the TAP CODE/Polybius Cipher:

If you’ve never done one of these before, each letter of a word is represented by two numbers. It helps if the first thing you do is draw a slash between each pair of numbers in the puzzle. Then tackle the first pair, which in our case is 55. First go 5 spaces across the top, and then 5 spaces down. So 55 equals W. 32 is 3 spaces over and 2 spaces down and is an H. 43 is 4 spaces over and 3 spaces down, which is O. So, the first word is WHO. To make the puzzle more challenging, remove a few letters in this key.

After solving the puzzle, the question is asked, “Who found the blocks in the box?” One of the kids remembered and ran and grabbed the box. There were three blocks in the box. One block was Green, one was White, and one was Red. The Green block had a code written on it: “Level 3/Q2/Digit2” (or something like that). The White one and Red one also had a similar written code. Each number of the escape code came from a different team’s code sheet.

The kids were sure they had figured it out. They jumped up and ran to the door. They twisted the numbers on the wheels of the luggage combination lock to enter the code: [?] [?] [?] and voila, SUCCESS!!!!!!!!! The lock popped open and the kids escaped, exactly 30 seconds before the end of the class period.  YAY!!!! They got to keep their heads.

Inside the locked pouch I had placed bookmarks, one for each student, with their names on them, and an exclamation that said, “I Escaped the Renaissance!”  The kids got to keep their drink goblets and the bookmarks as souvenirs. And they seemed to have had a really fun time. Half of them had to hurry off to their next class, but the other half stayed and helped me clean up, and haul all my decorations and food service out to my car. What a great group of kids.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.” — “Hamlet”

“All the world’s a stage …” — “As You Like It”

“O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” — “Romeo & Juliet”

“Is this a dagger which I see before me…” — “Macbeth”

“Be not afraid of greatness…” — “Twelfth Night”

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” — “The Merchant of Venice”

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” — “Sonnet 18”

Teacher Appreciation Lox Bagel Breakfast

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Teacher Appreciation Lox Bagel Breakfast

For Teacher Appreciation Week this year, my gift was to coordinate parents to bring breakfast and lunch for the staff each day of the week. After everyone had grabbed their day/meal there was one slot left to fill. I ended up with breakfast on the last day. The parents really spoiled the teachers and staff with lots and lots of goodies, and since I had the luxury of knowing what everyone had brought, I decided they might all appreciate something that wasn’t sweet and unhealthy. My neighbor is a farmsteader and has a farmstand every other week. She bakes the most wonderful bagels. So I grabbed up a couple dozen of those and a dozen of her farm fresh eggs, along with a package of her farm grown sprouts, and herbs out of my own garden. Most of the rest of the ingredients were store bought organic. I was surprised by how many of the staff had never heard of Lox Bagels. Well, they are all big fans now as I was after the first time I had one! 🙂

Lox Bagels

  • Smoked Salmon
  • Hard Boiled Eggs, sliced
  • Cucumbers, sliced thin
  • Tomatoes, sliced thin
  • Red Onion, sliced thin
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Lemons, cut into wedges
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Chives, minced
  • Capers, whole or minced
  • Dill Weed, minced
  • Everything Bagels (1 to 2 dozen), sliced in half

Arrange Lox ingredients decoratively on a platter or charcuterie board, cover with plastic, and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  When ready to serve set out on a buffet table with little appetizer forks and spreading knives.  Place chives, capers, and dill weed in small bowls and keep chilled until ready to serve.  When ready to serve nestle them in with Lox ingredients on platter.  Place whipped Cream Cheese in a bowl and keep chilled until ready to serve.  When ready, set next to Lox platter.  Keep Bagels in a plastic bag until ready to serve.  Fresh bakery bagels can be purchased ahead of time, wrapped and frozen, to keep them fresh.  Remove from freezer the day before and let thaw in the refrigerator.  Slice room temperature bagels in half with a bread knife and stack pairs in a kitchen towel lined bread basket and cover with another tea towel.  Set the buffet table near an outlet so those who wish to toast their bagels may do so. Set a toaster near the basket of bagels.

Cream Cheese Spread:

  • 2  8-oz blocks Cream Cheese, softened
  • ½ cup Sour Cream (may substitute heavy cream – add more if a creamier spread is desired)
  • 2 Lemons, juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons Dill Weed, chopped
  • ¼ cup Red Onion, minced

Place all ingredients for the cream cheese spread in a large bowl and mix with a mixer on medium speed until blended, then increase speed to high and whip cream cheese until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  If made the night before the flavors will have time to meld.

Mimosas

  • Various fruit juices, chilled
  • Sparkling cider/grape juice (non-alcoholic Champagne), chilled
  • Strawberries, orange wedges, fresh mint sprigs, etc. for garnish
  • Champagne Flutes

Arrange garnishes on a platter.  Fill a tub with ice.  Nestle the juices into the ice. Set the fake champagne (or wine, if appropriate) either in the ice also, or next to champagne flutes. Place the garnishes in front for easy access. Set out a small set of tongs for self-serving of the garnishes.  Let guests assemble their own beverages.

Cold Brew Coffee

  • 3 bottles of your favorite brand Cold Brew, or make homemade (recipe here)
  • Flavored syrups (Hazelnut, caramel Macchiato, etc.)
  • 1 or 2 quarts Half-and-Half
  • Ice
  • Clear plastic Solo Cups (with lids, optional)
  • Stir sticks
  • Straws

Fill a tub with ice.  Set the cold brew bottles (you may want to have both regular and de-caf) into the ice.  Nestle the Half-and-Half into the ice also.  Set a bucket of ice near the cups, with a serving scoop, and arrange the syrups, stir sticks, and straws so they are accessible.  Let guests serve themselves.

Want to know which cold brew brands are the best? https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/best-cold-brew-taste-test/

“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.”

1 Corinthians 12:27-28

Mr. Popper's Penguins, Classroom Book Party

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Mr. Popper's Penguins, Classroom Book Party

I just so happen to know a classroom of 2nd Graders, who are about to finish their book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and a teacher who is generous to allow an ol’ gray-headed granny to workout her party animal muscle on an excited group of fun-seeking little readers.

Like most classroom book parties, this one features decorations, games, snacks, and a movie. I did some research here in order to gather ideas, since I have not read this book.

I thought the kids might like dressing up like little penguins (large white t-shirts with long black jackets, and puffy yellow penguin-feet slippers) and then putting on some of the same acts from the book, that Captain Cook, Greta, and their adroable waddling mini-mes did, for their teacher and classmates. I’ll divide the classroom into three groups. They won’t know why until I take the first group outside in the hallway where they’ll put on their costumes and then hear my instructions for putting on a silly show. The first group will come out on stage and do some marching – which may involve the passing off of a penguin egg or baby penguin (stuffed animal), and I’m hoping they will really get into character to make the show entertaining for their audience. That group will then exit the stage, take off their costumes, and take their places back at their desks. The next group will enter the hallway, don their penguin apparrel, take their turn on stage, and have a silly boxing match with oversize boxing gloves and some silly fancy footwork. Finally, the last group will take the stage, climb up on bean bags and slide back down, to the whoots and cheers of their adoring classmates.

I’ll put up a map of the United States on one of the classroom walls, and during the movie, pause to let the kids move penguin stickers across all the places where the penguins put on their shows.

The kids will get to watch the movie and at the same time nibble on some fun snacks, which I’ll serve on penguin paper plates, with penguin paper cups and napkins.

SNACKS:

undefined Penguin Rice Crispy Treats

— OR — a more healthy alternative

undefined Penguin Banana Snacks

Goldfish crackers undefined

undefined Snowcones in a cup – our little school happens to have a snowcone machine – hurray!!!!

undefined

Easy Sonic Ocean Water Recipe

5 min·Yield: 3

You have to try this Sonic Ocean Water Recipe. Make your favorite Sonic Ocean water at home.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp Water
  • 3 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Coconut Extract
  • 4 drops Blue Food Coloring
  • 24 oz Sprite ((can be 3 cans or from a 2-liter that you can get for cheap))

Soooooo, now you know my plans. I’ll head back to this post in a few weeks and add pictures, just as soon as my little munchkin-hearts get to have their epic-antarctic party!!!! I’m so looking forward to it. ❤

The Sign of the Beaver, Book Party

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The Sign of the Beaver, Book Party

I was recently blessed with the task of throwing a book party for my granddaughter’s classroom, to celebrate their finishing reading the book, The Sign of the Beaver. It was a “Dinner and a Movie” party, in which I was asked to provide the food and decorations. The party took place over their lunch hour. I set the food up as a buffet, and arranged a few minimal decorations while the kids were in PE, which mostly consisted of stuffed animals and a river. After a brief explanation of all the foods, the kids were allowed to help themselves and eat while they watched the movie. And when the movie was over the teacher did a little activity with them to compare the movie to the book. The kids were so excited, and not only did they eat everything, they asked to take all the leftovers home with them. All that was left was a little bit of stew in the bottom of the crock pot, so I would say it was a success! What a great group of kids, always so grateful and always a ton of fun to spoil.

This has become, honestly, one of my very favorite volunteer activities in the whole wide world to do, even though it is a ton of work. It is a labor of love! In order to prepare, I read the book and made a list of all the foods mentioned, as well as took notes of some decorating ideas that I hoped would kind of bring the book to life for the kids. I had never read this book before, and shame on me, because it is a terrific little book. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and children’s novels are just my speed. I’m not much of a reader, for a plethora of reasons, but when it only takes about three hours to knock a book out, that’s in my wheelhouse. So, after reading it I set out doing some research to find authentic northeastern tribal recipes for the foods mentioned in the book. It couldn’t have been more perfect for this party to come during Thanksgiving/hunting season, and during the last harvests of our gardens. And for a beverage I brought two jugs of “Penobscot River water” and let the kids sweeten it with a bit of maple sugar.

I decided to center the party around the idea of the Bear Feast that was celebrated in Attean’s village after Attean and Matt encountered and killed a bear in self-defense while they were out retrieving a rabbit from one of the snares they’d set up. I also wanted to incorporate some of the wild game, the maple sugar Attean gave to Matt, and some of the fruits and berries and native foods that would have been eaten back then.

DECORATIONS: The book’s setting is in the late summer into early wintertime of the year, early/mid 1700’s Maine, and in the vicinity of the Penobscot River, where Matt and his dad cleared a tract of land, built a cabin, and planted a garden. Attean and his Indian tribe lived nearby. It was a wooded area teaming with wildlife, maple trees, and wild berry bushes. So for decorations I decided to gather up all the stuffed animals we had that would represent the animals in the forest: a bear rug/blanket, bunny rabbit, fox, deer, squirrel, fish, turtle, beaver, and Attean’s useless dog. I also gathered up a blue bedsheet that I used to make a river with the first time I threw this party (I used bulletin board paper the second time), a pile of sticks on one end to make a beaver dam, some rocks to line the river (and the second party I used the rocks to hold the tree upright), and because we’re in Texas, I used a Buc-ees Beaver the first time I threw this party to sit on top of the beaver’s sticks. I used some gorgeous, colorful, fall paper maple leaves to scatter around beside the river. I drug my little tree to the school to set beside the river and I used a Drimmel Tool to carve a beaver design into a tree stump, which I used as a decoration. The Teepee shown in the photo below was an afterthought, I wish I would have remembered to bring it to the party, but considering the northeastern Indians actually lived in wigwams, rather than teepees, t’was no biggy I guess.

In case you’re thinking of throwing this party and would like a great big bear rug to spread on the floor for your party, don’t go spend a fortune at an Outdoor store before you check your local thrift stores. I frequently find a giant teddy bear at Goodwill for $6, which would work marvelously as a rug with all the stuffin’s pulled out. I already had a bear blanket at home that I thought would work just dandy. BTW: Goodwill is a great budget friendly place to bargain shop for theme parties!

FOOD: Some of the foods mentioned in the book consisted of Johnny Cakes, which Matt’s dad made the last morning for breakfast, before he left his 12/13 year old son in Maine to care for the cabin and garden alone, while he went back to Massachusetts to retrieve Matt’s pregnant mother and sister. He left Matt with his good rifle to hunt with, and for self defense. Some of the animals they hunted were deer, rabbits, and fish with one precious fish hook.

I made deer jerky out of a couple packages of deer cutlets gifted to me by one of the parents. My sister has the absolute best jerky recipe on the planet and so I used it, and only modified it slightly, so it wouldn’t be too spicy for the kids. This is my adaptation:

Sister Geraldeen’s Beef (or venison) Jerky

1  3-lb roast, fresh, raw (it is easiest to slice if placed in the freezer for about an hour)

16 oz. Soy Sauce

2.5 oz. liquid smoke

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp Salt Lick dry rub, with garlic (equal parts cayenne powder, black pepper, and garlic powder)

Stir together in a large oblong glass baking dish until sugar is dissolved.

Using a sharp knife, slice lean meat into thin strips (1/4 to 1/8” thick and 1/2  to 1” wide).  Slice across the grain for a tenderer product.  Lay the slices down into the marinade until the meat takes up most of it.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down on top of the meat so the marinade covers the meat completely.  Place in refrigerator overnight. 

In the morning, drain off and discard all of the marinade.  Then mix together these dry ingredients in a separate small bowl:

1 Tablespoon cracked Pepper

1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper flakes

1 teaspoons of Chili powder

Sprinkle over drained meat strips and toss with hands to coat evenly (I use latex gloves).  Preheat food dehydrator.  Lay strips of meat on each rack leaving small spaces in between the pieces for good air circulation.  Stack the racks in the dehydrator, cover, and allow to dehydrate undisturbed for about 8 hours.  Check the meat for doneness, and let it dehydrate more if still wet or bendy when cooled.  Depending upon your dehydrator, it could take up to 24 hours or more for the meat to fully dry.  Meat is done when a piece removed and cooled will break in half easily and not bend or fold at all without breaking.

If you don’t have a dehydrator you can buy a package of disposable Aluminum Grill Liners (I use KT’s Clean BBQ brand available from Home Depot) or online, and completely cover the racks in your oven with them, then lay the strips of meat on those. Also lay a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of your oven to catch the drips. Adjust the racks to that they are placed in the center of your oven, and then set the oven temp to its lowest setting. Mine will only go as low as 170 degrees F. Prop the oven door open a little bit with a wooden spoon so the moisture can vent out as the meat dries. It won’t take as long to jerk your meat in the oven at that temp as it will in the dehydrator, so check it after about 4 hours, and then every half hour or so after that until the meat is dried as described above.

Place finished jerky in clean, sterilized mason jars, and use a Food Saver to remove all the air from the jars.  Place jars in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks.  For longer storage, place in refrigerator and eat within a month.

Johnny Cakes

I ran out of time to make these for the the first party (poor time management the morning of the party), but I did make them for the second party, and the kids loved them, especially with real butter and pure maple syrup on top. YUM!

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup cornmeal

2 eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Butter or oil for frying

Instructions

1. In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, water, egg, vanilla and melted butter. Thoroughly mix until pancake mixture is smooth.

2. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the batter onto the pan.

3. Fry each Johnny cake until brown and crisp; turn with a spatula, and then brown the other side.

4. Remove and serve immediately with syrup and/or butter. These can be eaten hot for breakfast, or cold as a snack later in the day.

Three Sisters Harvest Stew  (a.k.a. Bear Stew)

INGREDIENTS

1 pound beef stew meat

1 teaspoon ground cumin

 Kosher salt, as needed

 Black pepper, as needed

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups turkey, chicken, or beef stock, or combo (low sodium bone broth),

1 rib of celery

1 large carrot

8 small red or yellow potatoes, cut in half

1 medium yellow squash, diced

1/4 cabbage, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained

2 cups fresh or frozen cut green beans

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 (4-ounce) can roasted green chilies (1/2 cup)

Add 1 jalapeno, unless using spicy green chilies

½ bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

PREPARATION  (YIELD: 8 servings – TIME: 1 hour 40 minutes)

Season beef with cumin, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add beef, in batches if necessary, and cook, turning as needed, until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl and set aside.

Add onion to pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Return beef to pan, along with stock and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium simmer and cook meat until almost tender.  Add carrots, celery, potatoes, and bring to a boil.  Cook 20 minutes, then lower heat to medium.

Add beans, tomatoes, corn, chilies and squash, and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until stew has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

COOKING NOTES

Three sisters is so-called because Native Americans inter-planted corn, beans and squash in the same mound. The 3 thrive together because corn provides a natural pole for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and the squash leaves shade the ground to prevent the growth of weeds, and also helps to hold soil moisture.

Recipe adapted from: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016956-three-sisters-stew

Grandmother’s Indian Cornbread (Broadswords)

The Iroquois Indians made a wonderful boiled corn bread. They made flour by pounding corn into corn flour. To make bread, they mixed water with the corn flour. Sometimes cooked beans were added, or berries or nuts. The bread was kneaded and formed into small loaves. The loaves were dropped into boiling water and cooked until the bread floated. Boiled corn bread was served both hot and cold. They also used the same bread mix to bake bread by putting it on clay tablets in the fire. They used sunflower oil to fry bread. Below is a recipe for steamed corn bread with beans, wrapped in corn husks. It is remarkably similar to tamales. This was the kids’ FAVORITE food of the party. I would have bet against that. Good thing I made a big batch!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups masa harina (corn flour used for tamales)
  • ½ cup rendered bacon fat (many traditional Native American recipes use fat as a flavor element and source of vital nutrients)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup cooked beans (really any type of bean will work but small brown beans are traditional. I used great northern beans)
  • 2 cups hot cooking liquid from beans
  • Dried corn husks

Directions

  1. Set up a steamer on your stove top using a steamer basket fitted over a pot with plenty of gently simmering water.
  2. Thoroughly rinse about 25 corn husks. Place corn husks in a large pan of boiling water. Place another smaller plate or bowl on top of the corn husks to keep them submerged. Set husks on low heat to soften while you prepare the dough.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina and bacon fat. Using your fingertips (I used latex gloves), work the lard into the flour until it is evenly distributed. Add salt, baking powder, beans, and the hot cooking liquid from the beans. Use a spoon to stir mixture until a thick, sticky dough comes together, it will be about the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough.
  4. Use your hands to scoop ¼ cup-sized portions of dough, working quickly as dough will still be hot from the bean cooking liquid. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten slightly into a 1-inch thick oval, which is your “broadsword.” Wrap the broadsword in a corn husk, folding the husk around the dough on all sides to completely enclose it. Tear off small strips of corn husks to use as ties around the broadswords to hold them closed. Place the wrapped broadswords vertically in the steamer basket as you go. When all broadswords have been added to basket, lower it over boiling water, cover the steamer basket with a tight fitting lid, and allow broadswords to steam covered for 1 hour or more.
  5. After 1 hour, check the bean bread- if the corn husk pulls away easily, the broadswords are done cooking.
  6. Broadswords may be eaten hot, or stored in refrigerator to be eaten cold or rewarmed in oven or microwave.

Roasted Pumpkin

Members of the Chippewa tribe near Lake Superior have been enjoying this sweet and savory side dish for generations.

Ingredients:

1 small sugar pumpkin

1/4 cup maple syrup or maple sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Instructions:

Cut the cap off of pumpkin and stab it about 4 times with a sharp knife.  Scoop out membranes and seeds.  (Wash seeds in a colander and discard all membranes. Place seeds in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon sea salt, toss and allow them to soak a bit while you prepare the pumpkin, then spread seeds on a very lightly oiled, or parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with some extra salt. Place seeds in oven with pumpkin, but check and remove seeds once they have roasted – about 15 minutes or until you hear one or two pop. Check by removing a seed, let it cool, and then eat it. If it is crispy it is done). Add butter and syrup/sugar to the pumpkin.  Replace cap on pumpkin and place whole in a large ovenproof bowl .  Place pumpkin in a 350 °F oven for about 1 hr. and check for tenderness. Depending upon size, and variances with ovens, it may take up to 90 minutes for pumpkin to cook fully. You know it is getting close when the pumpkin looks like it has a tan and the sides are soft to the touch. Check tenderness by piercing side of pumpkin with a fork.  If the fork punctures through the skin and into the flesh easily, it is done.

Dried Fruit & Nut Cake

I’m not much of a fruitcake person, but I think it is because I don’t care for the usual candied fruits that come in fruitcake, such as pineapple and green cherries, etc. Using dried fruits is so much better.

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup Molasses

1 ½ sticks of Butter (3/4 cup), softened

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup each rough chopped dried: apricots, plums, figs, pears, dates, golden raisins, blueberries

1 cup each: walnut halves, pecans, almonds, pistachios

Instructions

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 320°F (150°C). Spray the loaf pans (either two 9-by-5-inch 8-cup loaf pans or 8 mini loaf pans) with vegetable oil spray and then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix the first eight ingredients together using a mixer on low speed.  Increase speed to medium and beat until batter is smooth, scraping the bowl often with a rubber spatula.  Stir in the dried fruit and the nuts and mix thoroughly, with your fingers if necessary. Set aside.

3. Use an ice cream scoop or scrape batter into the prepared pans.

4. Bake until the top is deep golden brown and the batter clinging to the fruit seems set, about 30 minutes for smaller loaves, 10 to 15 minutes longer for a large loaf. Insert toothpick to check for doneness. Toothpick should come out clean. Don’t let cake overbake or it will be dry. Tent loosely with foil if the cake appears to be browning too much. Cool completely in the pans on a rack.

5. When completely cool, remove the cake from the pans. The cake keeps, wrapped airtight in foil or plastic wrap, for several weeks at room temperature or at least 3 months in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for at least 6 months.

6. To serve, cut into thin slices with a sharp heavy knife.

Dried Fruit and Nut Cake Recipe adapted from © 2007 Alice Medrich. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission. Alice used dates, dried Angelino plums, and dried pears.

Fire Roasted Fish

I didn’t make the fish for the first party, although I was given some trout for the party and had a wild daydream about having the kids following me outside to the park just a block from the school, where my husband could be tending a fire next the creek that runs through it, and on the way having them mark their trail just like Attean showed Matt to do in the book, so they could find their way back to class, but reality check – there really wasn’t enough time for that kind of shenanigans, and besides that, the only way to eat trout is freshly caught and properly cleaned, otherwise I think it would have been a waste of time to try and fix it for the kids. I’m sure they would all have turned up their noses and shied away from having even one tiny bite of the stinky fish, plus the teacher was surely not going to appreciate her room smelling of stinky fish for days either. For the second party I cracked open a can of Herring fillets, and to my surprise the kids ate the whole can.

This however, is an outstanding recipe for any fish. Give it a try with walleye, snapper, perch, bass, cod, redfish, tilapia, etc. If using fillets, lay all the ingredients on the fish and wrap with bacon rather than placing the bacon inside.

Ingredients

Salt and Pepper

1 Big Fish (Salmon, Trout, Perch)

Butter

Lemon Slices

Onion slices

Green Bell Pepper slices (or Jalapeno strips)

Several strips of thin sliced precooked (but not crispy) bacon

Directions

  1. Set up an outdoor kitchen: a hot fire with glowing coals surrounded by large flat rocks; a big jug of fresh clean water for rinsing the fish, plus the knife, and your hands.
  2. Carefully kill, gut and scale each fish immediately upon catching it, and rinse well in clean water.
  3. Sprinkle inside of fish with salt and pepper.  Place pats of butter, lemon, onion, and bell pepper slices inside the fish and lay a strip of precooked bacon down on top of them in the cavity of the fish. Tie wet string around the fish to hold the stuffings in and to hold it together while it grills.
  4. Or, rub fish with butter on both sides and wrap tightly in a big piece of tinfoil and crimp the edges closed.  Wrap again in a second piece of tinfoil.
  5. Bake on a smooth flat rock really close to the fire (but not in it!), or if you have a grate, lay the fish on the grate above the fire. Or, fry in butter in a heavy cast iron pan over the fire.
  6. Use a long handled spatula to carefully turn the fish about half way through cooking and also to remove it from the fire.
  7. Note: The amount of time it takes to cook varies depending on the size of fish and how close it is to the fire. Just keep checking it, it will be done when the flesh flakes easily with a fork.  May take from 15 to 20 minutes if on a grate over the fire, or to up to an hour if laying on a hot rock next to the fire.

Recipe adapted from one found by Lauren McArdle …who learned this from her Mohawk Grandmother in Saskatchewan.

“Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, the tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed…” Psalm 74:2

Our Big Fat End-of-the-school-year Classical Academy Toga Party

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Our Big Fat End-of-the-school-year Classical Academy Toga Party

Costumes

  • Togas  (made from white sheets and king-size pillowcases), with golden rope for belts
  • Laurel wreath head garlands – given as prizes for Olympics  (made from green posterboard and spray painted with gold glitter paint)
  • Sandals  (made from cardboard and ribbon)

Decorations

  • Classroom door:  Pillars on each side, sheer white curtains draped over the top, and a “Phi-Beta-Kappa (ΦΒΚ) TOGA PARTY HERE” sign hanging crooked on the doorknob.  *P.S. Phi Beta Kappa means “Love of wisdom is the guide of life” or “Philosophy is the governor of one’s life.” (*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phi_Beta_Kappa)
  • Food table (in center of the room):  Push all the desks together to make a table and cover it with layers of colorful tablecloths and draped tulle.  Make a centerpiece of tall candlesticks and metal vases with flowers.  Set finger foods around on the table like a buffet.  Set out fixings for Gyros.  Set out platters of cheese curds or cubes, almonds, and varieties of olives; figs, dates, pomegranates, artichokes, and pedestal-bowls heaped with green, red, and purple grapes spilling over the sides.
  • Chase lounge chairs covered in sheets or cushions:  poolside or lawn lounge chairs are what I had in mind.
  • Music CD:  Animal House Soundtrack (some of it is fun and useful), and if you have a computer, or even better, a Roku and TV available there are some marvelous Greek instrumental music (You Tube) videos (some up to 2½ hours long) out there that offer both music and a slide show of Grecian landscapes that are awesome for ambience. 
  • Photo Booth props with backdrop:  Amazon.com

Food

  • Greek “grazing” table (grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates, artichokes, almonds, gyro ingredients: flat bread, Tzatziki, roasted chickpeas or grilled chicken pieces, grape tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers, Fava dip, *cheese curds, white or purple grape juice in wine bottles, and Baklava for dessert
  • Wine goblets with handles on both sides (like sugar bowls w/o lids), which you can later use to explain an ancient Greek men’s game of throwing out the dregs.

Activities/Games

Foot & Hand Washing

I provided a tub of clean water on a mat beside the classroom entrance, and paper towels, for the kids to wash their own feet and hands.  As soon as they entered the room – with their correct “first” foot, I asked them to remove their shoes and then explained the custom of foot washing.  And then, since food was often eaten with hands, the Greeks also had a custom of hand washing before meals.

Symposium

I introduced several Table Talk discussion topics while the kids were sitting around in the recliners eating (I have a Box of Table Talk cards that I use for dinner table discussions – Food for Talk by Julienne Smith, which the teacher said she also has, that her mother sent to her. It must be a grandma thing! 😉 Too funny!).

Indoor games

I introduced Marbles, Dice, and KnuckleBones (which are available on Amazon: “Gogo Jacks, Rainbow Jacks, Osselets – New Vintage Game of Jacks Full Set of 5 with Instructions.” by On The Go) to the kids, explaining how each is played, and also…

Guess Who? (Family Box game, but replace caricatures that come in the game with my Greek versions – Greek teachers, philosophers, historians, artists, poets, playwrights, etc.  I made sheets of these which you can download and print for free).

I broke the class into 4 groups of 2 or 3 kids.  Each group started at one of the four games.  I gave them about 10 minutes to play their game and then signaled them to stand-up and move clockwise to the next game.

Crafts

I was prepared for two craft projects:  Making sandals, and Making earrings, but we ran out of time to do these.  (They were honestly a back-up plan for inclement weather anyway). 

Olympic games (Outdoors), End-of-the-school-year theme

  • Lunch box discus throw – I filled a lunch bag with dried beans to give it some weight
  • Pencil javelin throw – I used an old broom handle, painted it, and sanded a tip on one end
  • Long jump –  I used full plastic water-bottles for the weights, the larger the better
  • Alarm clock shot-put – I painted a clock face on a rock
  • Reading/Writing/Arithmetic Foot Race Relay – stack books up as obstacles on the track
  • Chariot/horse racing – I made stick horses, but wrap-around cardboard chariots where my other plan  “I have finished the race…”
  • Thumb or Arm Wrestling  (after a popsicle break, the kids can pair up at the picnic tables)

Alternative Outdoor games

  • Medusa Freeze Tag

Story Time

  • Gracee read to the kids for the last 15 minutes out of Aesop’s Fables (FYI: Aesop was born in Greece).

These are some wonderful books that offer tons of ideas, games and crafts a few of which are featured in this post ( I purchased my copies used from online booksellers):

RULES TO GAMES

  • Knucklebones:

The game of knucklebones, also known as astragaloi in Greek and tali in Latin, can be played in several different ways. The simplest and perhaps most common form of this game, played by children, is comparable to the modern-day game of jackstones: all five small pieces are simultaneously tossed into the air, the goal being to catch as many as possible on the back of one hand. Another variation of the game involved players throwing one or more of the pieces into a small dirt hole in the ground or into the opening of a small vessel. He or she with the best aim would win.

  • Marbles

Marbles is a fun game that has been enjoyed for thousands of years.

Setting up the Game

Use yarn to make a circle on the carpet about 3 ft in diameter.

Place 5 of each players (usually three players) small marbles inside the circle, near the center, and arrange them in an X pattern.  The one big marble in your set of marbles is your “shooter” marble.

To determine who goes first have each player sit about 10 feet from a wall and shoot or roll their shooter marble to see who can get the closest. The closest player goes first. Next closest goes second, etc.

Taking a Turn

To take a turn the player kneels outside the ring and then To shoot your marble correctly, tuck your thumb, pinkie, and ring finger into your palm. Wrap your pointer finger around the marble, holding it against your thumb knuckle. Then, with your “knuckles down” on the ground, use your thumb to flick the marble from your finger towards the group of marbles in the center of the circle.

The first shot must be taken from the edge of the circle, but the next shot can be taken from the spot where the shooter landed.

Pick up all the marbles you knocked out of the circle and place them beside you, then have another turn. If no marble is knocked out of the circle, the other player then gets a turn.

Winning in Marbles

When the ring is empty of marbles the game is over.  The player with the most marbles at the end of the game is the winner.

Marble terminology

Taw – shooter marble. It’s usually a heavier marble than the ones in the center so it can knock them out of the circle.  Other names for the shooter marble include Aggie, boulder, Steele, king, and middleman.

Mibs or Kimmies – the marbles in the center of the circle.

Lagging – shooting or rolling the marble to a line to determine who gets to go first.

Mibster – marble player

If you and your friends have sets of collectable or keepsake marbles and you are pretty good players, you may choose to play for “Keepsies.” Most of the time Marbles are played “for fair,” which means that every player keeps their marbles, but sometimes players keep the special marbles they win. One of the first things you want to decide is if you are playing “keepsies” or “for fair” before you begin a game.

  • Yoyo

Here’s a great website for learning Yoyo tricks: https://yoyotricks.com/yoyo-tricks/beginner-tricks/

I picked up the cheap yoyo’s from the toy section at Walmart and they were kind of frustrating for the kids to use. The string wasn’t tied tight around the center of the yoyo, so it made it hard for them to get it wound back up again once the string came unwound. Grrrr. Maybe you can figure out a solution for this?

  • Guess Who? – Greek version

I made cards to replace the cards that came with the game. 

Click HERE for the FREE PRINTABLES I made, so you can make your own Greek Guess Who game.

How to Play Guess Who?

To play this game, first choose your game board and then flip all your frames upright by tipping the game boards.  Players sit facing each other so they can’t see the other player’s frames.  Shuffle the MYSTERY cards and place them face down where each player can reach them.  Each player chooses one MYSTERY card and places it in the slot in the front of their game board.

Notice the differences in each of your 24 faces.  Some are girls, some are boys, some have a red, or black, or yellow background, some are wearing hats, some have beards/mustaches, some are wearing clothes, some are looking to your right, etc. 

The youngest player ALWAYS goes first.  On your turn you may ask ONE yes or no question. Example: Does your person have a gray background?  Your opponent must then answer either “yes” or “no.” If they answer “yes” you may flip down all the faces on your board that do not have a gray background.  After you ask your ONE question, and flip down any faces you can, your turn is over. 

If you are an expert on famous Greek people in history, here are some questions you may want to ask for this special GREEK VERSION of the game:

Is your person a…

Sculptor…doctor…poet…politician…artist…philosopher…mathmetician…author… historian…playwright…astronomer?  

When it is your turn again, and you think you have figured out who the MYSTERY person is, you may guess.  Example: Is your person Archimedes?  But don’t guess until you are sure, otherwise if your guess is wrong you will lose the game.  If your guess is right you win the game.  When you win you may slide your game counter over one point for each game you win.  Begin a new game by flipping all your faces back up, and drawing a new MYSTERY card.   The first player to win five games is the champion.

Recipes

Roasted Chicken or Chickpea Gyros 

from LiveEatLearn.com

Simple and delicious Mediterranean inspired vegetarian Roasted Chickpea Gyros with refreshing tzatziki sauce.

 Prep Time 10 minutes

 Cook Time 20 minutes

 Total Time 30 minutes

 Servings 4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas or 1 ½ cup soaked chickpeas if starting from dry, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp paprika*
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned, skin removed, and chicken cut into bite size chunks
  • 6 pita flatbreads
  • 1 cup tzatziki  (see below)  **This can be purchased ready-made.  Look for it in the deli section at Walmart (they carry it at mine, so it is likely at yours as well)**
  • 1/4 red onion cut into strips
  • 2 lettuce leaves roughly chopped – I used baby spinach
  • 1 tomato sliced – I used grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • I sliced and chopped additional cucumber as a gyro topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prep: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat dry chickpeas with paper towel, removing any skins that may come off. Gently toss chickpeas with oil, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. – I poured olive oil over the chickpeas in a zip bag, and then I mixed the spices together and sprinkled over the oiled chickpeas and tossed them in the zip bag to coat.  This method worked very well!!!
  2. Roast: I oiled my baking sheet and let it get hot in the oven BEFORE I spread the chickpeas on it.  Spread chickpeas onto greased rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned but not hard.  I tested, tasted, tossed, and let my chickpeas bake for about another 10 minutes.
  3. Assemble: Spread some tzatziki onto one side of the pita, then sprinkle in ¼ of the chickpeas and add veggies. Fold in half and enjoy!

NOTES

  • *If you don’t like spicy foods, halve the amount of paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Taste a chickpea before baking and adjust flavors as needed. The yogurt does mellow the spiciness of the chickpeas.
  • If your pita breads crack when you fold them, cover them with a moist paper towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Assemble your sandwich immediately after microwaving.

World’s Best Tzatziki Recipe  

from LiveEatLearn.com

This is the best tzatziki recipe! Refreshing cucumber, creamy Greek yogurt, and zingy lemon make it the perfect condiment for just about everything.

 Prep Time 5 minutes

 Total Time 5 minutes

 Servings 3 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, can use dairy-free
  • 1 cup shredded or diced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Thicken yogurt: Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth or paper towel for 30 minutes to 3 hours to remove excess moisture (can skip this step if you’re in a hurry).
  2. Prep cucumber: Meanwhile, sprinkle a pinch of salt onto shredded or diced cucumber and spoon into cheesecloth or paper towels. Let sit for a few minutes then wring it out to draw out moisture.
  3. Mix: Mix together yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

NOTES

  • Add a touch of extra-virgin olive oil for flavor and shine.
  • Serve with pita, veggies, on Roasted Chickpea Gyros, or really anything!
  • The flavors become less tangy as you let them sit, so your tzatziki might just be best the next day.

Fava Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. Place the split peas in a large saucepan with 5 cups of warm water. Set the burner to high heat and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Skim any foam that forms on the surface of the liquid, then add the red onion, scallion, and garlic. Return the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Once the peas are tender, turn off the heat and add the olive oil and salt. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture (or process in batches in a tabletop blender). Taste and add more salt as needed.

3. The fava will thicken as it cools. Serve topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika; provide crusty bread and/or sliced vegetables for dipping.

Baklava 

from fifteenspatulas.com

This heavenly baklava combines honey-soaked layers of flaky phyllo pastry with spiced walnuts. It’s a great make-ahead dessert!

Ingredients

For the Baklava:

  • 16 oz walnuts
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (plus a pinch of ground cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 boxes phyllo dough* thawed
  • 1 cup butter melted

For the Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup good quality honey**
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 strip orange peel
  • 1 strip lemon peel

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pulse the walnuts in a food processor with the cinnamon, cardamom, and salt until well chopped.
  3. To assemble the baklava, place 8 layers of phyllo dough one-by-one on the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, brushing each lightly with butter.
  4. Spread 1/5 of the walnut mixture evenly on top (about 2/3 cup).
  5. Add another 5 layers of phyllo one-by-one, brushing each with butter, then add another layer of nuts. The total sequence should be phyllo layers of 8,5,5,5,5,8, with nuts in between those layers. 
  6. Carefully cut the Baklava into squares or triangles with a buttered knife.
  7. Bake the baklava for 50 minutes, until golden on the edges and tops.
  8. In the meantime, bring all the syrup ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the citrus peels and cinnamon stick, and pour the hot syrup evenly over the hot baklava. 
  10. Let the baklava cool completely at room temperature for 8 hours (uncovered, to prevent sogginess). Then it’s ready to enjoy!
  11. Can be served with chocolate syrup drizzled over the top of each slice.

Notes

*Note fifteenspatualas said: “My 1-lb box of phyllo said it had 18 13×18″ layers, so I cut them in half, and had 36 sheets total for my 9×13 pan.” but I (mrshlovesjesus) had a 10½” X 15½” pan and I used 1 1/2 boxes of Phyllo.

**I cannot overstate how important it is to use a good honey here. If it comes in a bear shape bottle, probably steer clear. Ideally look for raw honey.

Print the following schedule and have it handy to review as you conduct your party

Party Schedule

11am               Set-up and decorate classroom (food table), lawn loungers, put CD in boom box, set Olympic games stuff by back door  (Remember to bring CAMERA and take pictures)

11:45am          When children arrive have them take off their shoes at the door and “wash” their feet and hands with wet paper towels.  Give them each a TOGA to put on and then let them pose and take Photo Booth pictures – serious faces and silly faces.

12:15pm          Symposium (let the kids help themselves to gyros, fruits, nuts, and “wine,” and while they are eating introduce a few discussion starters that we can all talk about from my box of Table Talk cards.  After the kids have eaten lunch let them get dessert – Baklava.

12:45pm          Indoor games (Yoyos, Marbles, Knucklebones, Guess Who?  Explain how each toy or game is played.  Divide the group into sets of 2 or 3 kids.  Give each group a toy/game to play with.  After 5 or 10 minutes have each group rotate to the next toy)

1:30pm            Crafts (make sandals & earrings) followed by Dancing to LouieLouie, and Twistin the Night Away.  At the end of that give the youngest kid in the group the Olympic torch and let him/her lead us all to the playground for the games.

2:00pm            Outdoor Olympic Games:

  • Lunch box discus throw
  • Pencil javelin throw
  • Water-bottle weights long jump
  • Alarm clock shot-put
  • Foot Race (books stacked as hurdles) -or- Horse/chariot Race (stick horses)
  • Thumb or Arm Wrestling

Demonstrate how each event is done and give each child a chance to practice a few times before competing. 

Give the kids a Popsicle break after they’ve completed the series of events, and then after that we will conduct a Pentathlon where each kid will do the whole series of events by themselves to see who can complete it in the fastest time. 

All competitors will be given a laurel wreath head garland in an awards ceremony.

3:15pm            Kids will return to classroom and prepare for dismissal, while Gracee reads to them a few Aesop’s Fables.

PARTY TIPS: I don’t know about you, but I am usually so forgetful about taking pictures.  I just get so busy keeping the party moving that I don’t think to stop and take pictures.  I also often forget to eat and get to the end of the party so famished that all I want to do is collapse in exhaustion!  So, if you are like me and want to have printed memories of your party, prearrange for someone to take pictures of everything from the table to the party itself – EVERYTHING, and also, make sure you eat something that will stick to your ribs BEFORE the party starts!!!!!  So you have energy to be your best, joyous self.

“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (KJV)

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Snowflake Craft for kids

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Snowflake Craft for kids

Supplies needed: 

  • Toilet paper or paper towel rolls (empty)
  • Pipecleaners 
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch

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INSTRUCTIONS

Instructions

 

glitter spray

 

Blog Photo

I did this as a Christmas craft with the students at my granddaughter’s school (pre-K through 8th grade).  We had all just recently experienced snow in our town, a RARE and exciting event in south Texas, so this craft commemorated that very memorable event with a little keepsake.  I also wrote a poem to go with our keepsake craft, so they could be kept forever in a memory book, if anyone wanted. 

Print Poem

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You might like to do this craft with your kids during the Christmas break from school.  Here is an idea of something you could do with the snowflakes (besides just hang them in your tree).

snowflake-mobile

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“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower
and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” 

Isaiah 55:10-11

End-of-the-school-year OLYMPIC GAMES

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End-of-the-school-year OLYMPIC GAMES

Are you looking for a clever way to close out the school year for your little group of elementary students?  Are you on a tight budget, or have very few amusement options available in your town.  NO WORRIES.  Us too!!!  Hopefully your town at least has a city park that’s kept nice, mowed and watered, or a nice, large, grassy area with lots of shade trees?  That’s all that’s needed for this shindig.

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There goes the school year!!!!

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I was thinking it would be fun to do some olympic type games that gave a nod to things the kids could toss out of their lives for the next few months… like pitching their alarm clocks, tossing their lunchboxes (aren’t gonna need those for a while), and flinging their crayons at a new target –  grass, lazy days, and sunshine, because they’ve leaped over their studies, and run their water bottle relays with rewarded success!

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I sketched out my party plan in a notebook…

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…and then went to work making the signs for the games:

 

….and TORCHES for each of the kids to wear (as medals)…

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I printed out sheets of the torches, wrote the kids’ names on them, had them laminated, and then punched a hole at the top to string a ribbon through.  On the back I printed the list of events so I could mark winners with a red sharpie, or completed with a blue sharpie.

The kids began their afternoon of fun by first having lunch delivered to them at the school (from Wendy’s, courtesy of one of the awesome parents), and after each of them had used the bathroom, they “began carrying their torches” on their little journey from the school to the park (about a 3 block walk with their teacher).  When they arrived at the entrance to the park, this is the first thing they saw:

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They presented their TORCHES, and then positioned behind the sign to pose for pictures.  We were blessed that a very talented member of the school staff, also teacher, also photographer, and also composer of the school’s yearbook, was there to take some wonderful pictures, which she made into a full two pages of the yearbook.  And one day I will scan and post them here, if she gives me permission.

 

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BANG!   Let the games begin!

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The first game in our line up was the…

Lunchbox “Hammer” Throw

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(The kids aren’t gonna need a lunchbox for a few months.  Hip hip hooray, let’s toss it away!)

First I demonstrated to the kids what they would be doing in this game.  I grabbed the lunchbox by the handles, put my left arm straight out, twirled in a counter-clockwise circle a couple of times, and then when I was facing the field, let go of the lunchbox and let it fly as far away as it would go.  After the demo I handed the first kid the lunchbox and let them try.  The kids lined up behind the starting line and took turns twirling and tossing the soft-sided lunchbox out into the field.  (P.S. I had placed a small bag of pinto beans inside to give it some weight).  The child with the farthest distance after three tosses was declared the winner!

Supplies needed: Sign, lunchbox, a couple of orange cones, a jump rope, and something to mark the farthest distance.

 

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The next game was…

Crayola Archery

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After I attempted to demonstrate this game, we decided to turn it into a Crayola Javelin Throw, since our cheapo “dollar store” bow kept breaking.  The darn string kept popping out of its slot (Update: wind a rubber band tightly around the tip ends of the bow to keep the string in place. This works like a charm).  Anyway, after a bit of frustration from the darn bow popping apart every time we used it, we just decided to throw the crayon like a javelin.  The kids each got a turn to stand behind the line (I used a downed limb from one of the trees as the marker for this) and then take a turn hurling their javelins at the three hula hoop targets laid out in the distance.  (You can barely see them in the photo below, but look close.)

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This is what the arrows/javelins looked like up close.  I used fat crayons and inserted them into big straws (the ones used for smoothies).  They were a perfect fit, and stayed snuggly attached to each other for the whole event.  At least something stayed to together!

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(This is the dumb bow we used.  Um, scratch that.  Didn’t use!!!!)

The student with the most targets bullseyed after three tries was declared the winner!

Supplies needed: One dollar-store bow and arrow set, 1 pkg big crayons, the sign to identify the event, and three hula hoops.  Oh, and something to mark the starting line.

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The next game was…

Homework Fencing

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You are looking at the fencing arena.  Ours was marked by 4 trees as boundaries.  After demonstrating to the students what they would be doing, the students lined up behind the sign and two pairs at a time faced off using the pool noodles as their fencing swords.  (I got the fatest noodles I could find, to make it harder for little hands to hold onto).  With one arm behind their backs they each swung their noodles at their opponent’s noodle, trying to knock it out of their hands, because homework is now out of their hands.  Any body contact or face contact, or stepping outside the boundaries was considered a scratch and the offender was disqualified.  Winners of each duo were collected to the side to compete in round two.  Eventually a final winner was declared.

Supplies needed:  The sign, four pool noodles

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The next game was…

Alarm Clock Shot Put Throw

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(Hey kids, say goodbye to the alarm clock for a few months!!!!  In fact, let’s pitch that obnoxious contraption as far as we can throw it!)

First I demonstrated to the students how this game was played, similar to the hammer throw, and then the students were lined up behind the starting line, and took turns holding the alarm clock under their chins, twirling, and then heaving it as far as they could out into the field.  (Note: I used a cheapy plastic clock from the dollar store.  It broke on the first throw and left kind of a sharp edge that I cautioned the kids to be careful with.  Then the glass also broke.  Fail!  The better choice would have been something made 100% out of non shatterable plastic and no glass).

The child who launched it the farthest distance after all of them had been given three tries was declared the winner.

Supplies needed: Sign, cones and jump rope to mark the starting line, an alarm clock, and something to mark distance.

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The next game was…

Three R’s Shooting Competition

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The three R’s stood for Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic, which were featured on the three targets placed at a distance from the starting line.  (Way to target your subjects this year kids)!  The students lined up behind the starting line. They were instructed that one kid at a time would approach the starting line, grab a squirty bottle, aim at the first target, and begin squirting at it, moving in closer until the stream of water touched the first target, then they could move to the next target, and then the last target and do the same. Their time started when the teacher said, “GO” and they began squirting and stopped when they hit the last target.   Each child took their turn.  The kid with the fastest time (after three rounds) was declared the winner.

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Supplies needed:  A sign, three targets, and a squirty bottle filled with water.

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The next game was…

Water Bottle Relay with Hurdles

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(Hey kids, you’re not gonna need those water bottles for a while, AND we can celebrate that you all got over your hurdles of – Language, Art/Music/P.E., and Science this year.  Way to go kids!  You are all champions!!!!)

The kids lined up in two groups behind the starting line.  After demonstrating to the kids how to run the course, I handed each first person in line a water bottle. At the sound of my whistle the two kids with water bottles ran down the course, leaping over the hurdles and down around the cone at the far end of the course, and returning to hand off their water bottle to their next teammate.  The first team to complete the course was declared the winner.

Supplies needed: A sign, three hurdles with words attached that represent school subjects, two water bottles, a start line, an orange cone, and a whistle.

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This concluded the structured games.  At this point the kids were given a break to get a drink and snack and rest for a bit. Several of the parents brought coolers full of drinks (bottled water, juice, Gatorade, etc.) and snacks (Cuties oranges, goGurts, popsicles, cookies, carrots, etc.) for the kids to  munch on and stay hydrated with, and they served their treats “Tailgate style” out of the back of their vehicles, parked alongside the park.

For the remainder of the afternoon  the kids participated in free play.  I had set up a Badminton net and blew up a giant beach ball for them to either toss over the net to each other volleyball style, or just kick around the park in a giant game of “keep away.”

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In addition I brought a giant soft-sided Frisbee, bottles of bubbles for everyone, a soccer ball, the hula hoops, and gave each child a squirty bottle full of water to also play with.  In addition, one of our awesome parents brought a huge cooler full of water balloons for a hot potato game.

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The parents and I chilled out on blankets spread-out under the shade of a grand old oak tree, and visited with each other while the kids tear-butted around having the time of their lives.  I think the kids all had as much fun, if not more, with free play as they did with the games, hey, but a theme is a theme, right?  What a great afternoon and terrific group of kiddos!!!!  I hardly noticed that it was 95 degrees and 50% humidity.  HA!

After a couple of hours of playtime, the parents went around and gathered up the signs and parts of each game and helped pack everything up.  The kids picked up all the trash and bits of broken balloons and then gathered with their teacher to walk back to school.  Before they dismissed to go home each was presented a gift bag, which contained a movie theater pass (that they could use to go see Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, which just released in theaters the week before), a pass to the local indoor inflatables park, and a gift certificate to Dairy Queen, plus a Nerf ball (which gave me the inspiration for the theme of the bags), so they could all… “Have a BALL this Summer!”  🙂

gift bags

 

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Yay kids…you finished your race well!  Happy summer to you all!!!!!

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“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   Hebrews 12:1-2  NKJV

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High School Musical Cast Party

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High School Musical Cast Party

So I know you’re asking – how did a reluctant hostess get herself into this one?  It’s pretty simple, really.  I’m a mom!  One who enjoyed soooo much being part of my daughters’ lives.  It was my super social and outgoing oldest one who actually had faith in me, included me in the activities of her high school life, and allowed me to live vicariously through her that helped to bring me out of my shell.  She wasn’t embarrassed of me and because of her trust it was such an honor to support her activities.  So when she said the drama teacher was having a meeting for any parents that wanted to help with the upcoming play and backstage stuff, I jumped on the bandwagon with Tigger (that’s T … I … double guh … er) SpRiNgS.  If she thought I could do it, well, I’d suck up my insecurities and give it a whirl, because I sure didn’t want to let her down.

It was the worst winter night outside, blustery cold with arctic winds, roads covered in ice, and the sky aglow with snow-filled clouds.  I think all us parents had places we’d rather been that night, then the parent meeting.  Instead, we left behind crock pot dinners, sinks full of dirty dinner dishes, our favorite TV programs, and our cozy, toasty homes, and drove, cautiously, on ice-covered roads to the school for that can’t-miss meeting.

The very punctual drama teacher started right on the dot at 7PM.  He passed out papers and then took his place front and center.  Clearing his throat and grasping the mic, he began. <screech…tap, tap, tap> “Hello!  I’m Mr. Stedillie.  Thank you for coming out tonight.  I’ll get right to it. I need… (he went down the list, but I’ll skip to) …someone who would like to be in charge of the cast party following the final performance?  Anyone?  Anyone?  And dast it happened that I raised my hand.  Oh thank you Mrs. Hoffman, I’ll write you down.”

Like a natural idiot my hand went up and up and up.  I volunteered for everything that came down the pike — backstage parent –check; costumes –check; props –check; cast party –check.  I don’t know, as I said before, I guess I just wanted to impress my daughter, but there must have also been something in the quaint mustiness of that room.  Perhaps the props, or the scripts piled willy-nilly on the book shelf, or possibly something in the eclectic assortment of costumes hanging on racks emitted an intoxicating stimulant? Perchance it was the nostalgic posters hanging on the walls, or the personalized wall bricks autographed by student actors from all the plays gone by that wooed me?

Maybe it was the theatrical passion with which Mr. Stedillie’s delivered his speech that moved me?  Awe shucks, I’m really not sure; all I know is I got all caught up in the song and dance of the situation.  One thing is for sure, that guy is persuasive.  He really knows how to get parents involved.  He probably has some swamp land in Arizona I’d be interested in too.

I went home, got a good night’s sleep, woke the next morning, and was nibbling my corn flakes when it hit me…a full-fledged PANIC ATTACK!!!  What the <colorful expliative> have I done?  I swallowed hard, took a few deep breaths and began hyperventilating.  I think my legs gave out first.  My head started spinning.  My fingers tingled.  “OMGosh,” I muttered, in a fading and puny voice, as everything went black and my body smashed to the floor with a THUD!

An imaginary Police-Line-Do-Not-Cross ribbon fluttered in the breeze as my fainting corpse whizzed past it.  The dust from the chalk outline around my lifeless carcass flew up and settled back down by the concussion.

Okay, arrest the silliness.  Suffice it to say, I was outside of my comfort zone on this one for sure, but that’s par for the course for me.  I’m pretty much always outside my comfort zone.  It was time to pull on my big girl panties and git’r done.  Stop with this mamby-pamby cry baby stuff and get busy.

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Cast Party #1

Bye Bye Birdie

Food:

Hollywood Cake (a sheet cake with the Hollywood Hills letters on it)

Sparkling Cider (or 7-Up or Ginger Ale) in champagne flutes

Forks, napkins, and plates (star plates would be extra neat)

Decorations:

Walk of Fame stars for each of the cast members, placed in a large square around the perimeter of the room, & later used as the spaces for the trivia game

Red carpet (for entrance) (use red paper that is used for bulletin boards)

Silver, Gold, and Black Balloon Bouquets

White balloons (with slips of paper with” forfeits” written on them hidden inside)

Black construction paper Oscar, Tony, and Emmy cut-outs

Movie posters (check with video rental stores and the movie theaters for freebies)

Disposable flash cameras (for a Paparazzi feel as the cast arrives)

CD of Hollywood Blockbuster theme music (for atmosphere)

Celebrity Magazines (Us, People, etc.) to put on each table

Games:

Elvis game is done Gong Show style:  Contestants with the best “routines” get to pick from the prize box, and those with the worst win a balloon with a forfeit inside that the loser must perform)

Slips of paper inside a balloon will tell them what they win (prize), or what they have to do next as a loser (forfeit).  Winning & loosing cast members must help each other break a balloon by pressing the balloon between their bodies until it breaks – no hands allowed).

Prizes:

Plastic metallic star sunglasses

Autograph book

Tickets to a movie

Coupons for local fast food selections

Forfeits:

Finish your drink in five seconds

Kiss someone on the cheek

Do an impersonation

Make an Academy Award’s speech

Tell 5 best features about yourself, or a friend

Tell 5 worst features about yourself, or a friend

Run the next game

Dance a ballet

Act out a charade until someone guesses it

Hum a tune until someone guesses it

Help clean-up after the party

Elvis Impersonation Contest

The impersonator has to put on the outfit and step up to the karaoke microphone.  They can pick whatever “Elvis routine” they want. They need to do their best to sound like him, move like him, and say something Elvis would say (Thank you, thankyouverymuch), move like Elvis would move, or sing an Elvis song.  Audience votes on the best and worst routines with clapping and shouting or boo’s.  A majority of boo’s gets a GONG!

Can-I-Have-Your-Autograph Game

Each kid is fitted with a large, rectangular piece of stiff cardboard, attached to his or her writing hand with duct tape, like a shield.  They each get a sharpie marker to be used with their other (non-writing hand).  When the leader says, “go,” they scurry around collecting autographs from as many people as they can, also giving their autographs, before time is up.  Everyone has to try to write his or her name legibly.  These cards are souvenirs of the party.  Whoever collected the most legible signatures wins.

Name That Musical and Trivia Game

This game is done exactly like Trivial Pursuit, except in giant size.  The Cafeteria floor becomes the game board, the Walk of Fame Stars will be the spaces on the game board, and the kids themselves are the pawns that move on the game board.

Make a large die out of a square box.  (Fill the box completely full with wadded newspaper to give it strength. Tape it securely shut all the way around.  Paint it white, and when that has dried, paint on the black spots.)  Put a pylon every 10 stars or so all around the Walk of Fame, nine pylons all together.  Mark each pylon with the name of a musical; there’ll be three of each.   Group the pylons with the same musical together, in other words, three pylons in a row will be for one musical, then the next three going around the circle will be another musical, and the next three will be the last musical.  This way the kids have to navigate the entire circle to try to earn tokens.

Have everyone take their place on the stars, with socky feet only, so the stars don’t get damaged.  The leader of the game rolls the big dice and all the cast members move that many spaces (stars) going clockwise.  Whoever is standing next to a pylon is asked a trivia question (a different question for each person with the same musical).  If they get the answer right they earn a token.  There are three tokens: Blue, Red, and White (poker chips), one for each musical category.  The leader rolls the dice again.  Players move.  Anyone standing next to a pylon gets asked a trivia question.  Once again, if they get it right they get a token, BUT, they only earn a token if it is a category they haven’t earned a token for already. Continue until someone has one of each token.  Winner gets a prize and the game starts all over again from there.

Use a CD with top musical songs and find lists of trivia questions for Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss Me Kate, and Grease – the last three musicals that the school has done.

Karaoke

(rent a machine and music library)

Telephone 

Make a list of “gossip stories” ahead of time.  Try to dig up a little bit of “dirt” ahead of time on several of the kids in the play if you can, but nothing venomous.  If you have a lot of parents helping they will be able to come up with something on their own kid and his friends.  Or leave it impromptu by allowing someone to tell a “yarn” about someone in the group.  If you are concerned about appropriateness, have the story teller first tell to one of the adults who will make sure it is suitable, and then the adult will pass it on to the next kid.  Have the kids sit in a large circle wherever there is space in the room.  They in turn whisper the story into the next person’s ear beside them.  This continues around the circle for 60 seconds.  When TIME is called, whomever the gossip reached has to say out loud the story that they heard.  Then the original story is retold to compare accuracy.

We, the parents, left the evening fairly open to spontaneity as the kids were completely content to snack on the foods, sign each other’s programs from the play for souvenirs, and ham it up behind the Karaoke microphone for most of evening — very much self entertaining.  But we were armed to the teeth with activities if at any time it got slow and boring.  The party lasted until about 3 o’clock in the morning, at which time the parents and school staff began picking up and clearing the cafeteria.

Cast members got to take home their STARS and an Oscar look-a-like (small inexpensive trophies ordered from Oriental Trading Co.).

This was the cast party that broke me in.

.

AND THEN CAME…

 

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Cast Party #2

Oklahoma!

I’m telling you…..  I had so much fun last year – don’t ya know – that I turned right around and signed up again the next year.  This time, my daughter had a lead role so I felt a sort of obligation to step up to a lead role also.  If she somehow found the courage, I felt I needed to as well.  This time I volunteered to be the head-chick-in charge of the party.  Yes, that’s right, the CHAIRPERSON!  Aren’t you proud of me?

Well, reserve your applause.  If not for some serious transforming work on the part of the Almighty I would not have had the gumption to speak up and volunteer or have the outrageous joy in my heart to motivate me through the long days and nights.  It was also the realization that this was the last opportunity I may ever have for such a thing, with my “drama queen” girl graduating and all.  Plus, I was a step ahead of the game on this one… I already had some experience under my belt with the last one, and a great awakening that these high school kids aren’t as intimidating as one would first imagine.  They’re a hoot, a lot of hoots in fact, and if you don’t show fear they won’t notice any, ’cause they are sort of self-absorbed themselves.  🙂

My plan (Schedule) for Oklahoma Cast Party:

After last curtain: Kids enter Cafeteria on a Paparazzi lined red carpet (Hollywood music playing large on a boom box or sound system), cameras flashing, and a guest book waiting to be signed by each cast member.

Walk of Fame stars leading the way from the Red Carpet to the food tables and around the room.

Food tables (heaped with delivery Pizza and all the backstage leftover’s, along with cake, and champagne flutes filled with sparkling cider)

Mock Academy Awards show – with trophies awarded

Autographs (everybody mingling and signing each other’s programs)

Karaoke

Party games set at various tables

Square Dancing Lesson and Contest (optional)

Trivia Game (just like I created for Bye, Bye, Birdie) (optional)

To do list:

Get a list of the Cast families from the drama teacher (need for party supplies purchases, etc.)

*Call for volunteers for party needs

Order the cake

Get a list of the Cast members from the director (need for the Walk-of-Fame Stars)

Get red paper (for the red carpet) from school office

Get 100 sheets of pink construction paper from school office (for the Walk-of-Fame Stars)

Get 100 sheets of black construction paper from school office (for Stars)

Check at school district office A/V Department to see if they have Oscar cut-outs – black construction paper – need 75, and if they will laminate the stars

Make Stars for the Walk of Fame – need stone spray paint, metallic markers

Get trivia questions for Bye Bye Birdie, Grease, Kiss Me Kate, and Oklahoma!  (These are available on the Internet website: Funtrivia.com.  Questions are only available online.  No printout.  So you’ll have to write down the questions as you take the quizzes yourself, and then write down the answers when you click to see how you did.

Follow up with volunteers on their purchases and promises to help

The morning before the final performance, count ballots and stuff Awards envelopes, and get gold, silver & black balloons and movies posters from video stores

The afternoon before the final performance pick up the cake; decorate the cafeteria, set up food tables, set up karaoke, bring a boom box, etc.

The night after the final performance help chaperone the CAST PARTY

*Call for volunteers for the following party needs:

_________      Make/buy the cake (75 servings) “Hollywood” sheet cake

_________      Bring four 2-litre bottles of 7-Up, or 5 bottles sparkling cider

_________      Bring four 2-litre bottles of 7-Up, or 5 bottles sparkling cider

_________      Bring four 2-litre bottles of 7-Up, or 5 bottles sparkling cider

_________      Bring four 2-litre bottles of 7-Up, or 5 bottles sparkling cider

_________      Buy 20 disposable champagne glasses

_________      Buy 20 disposable champagne glasses

_________      Buy 20 disposable champagne glasses

_________      Buy 20 disposable champagne glasses, plus a pkg. of 100 napkins

_________      Buy 40 disposable dessert plates (star shape preferred), & 75 forks

_________      Buy 40 disposable dessert plates (star shape preferred) & 10 markers

_________      Buy Latex balloons (1 dz. ea gold/silver/& black)

_________      Help set up and decorate the cafeteria Saturday afternoon

_________      Help tape down stars for the Walk of Fame Saturday morning

_________      Find and be in charge of the Karaoke machine

_________      Help manage the party, take pictures, serve cake, etc.

_________      Help manage the party, take pictures, serve champagne

_________      Buy 6 disposable cameras and come take pictures at party

_________      Help clean-up after the party

_________     Check with Wal-Mart, Party America, Dollar store, Party Animals, and other local businesses to see if they would be willing to donate supplies for our party

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GETTING IT DONE

Okay, so in the days and weeks while the kids rehearsed for the performance I tended to all the little jobs that needed to be done.

I picked up the construction paper and got to work on making ninety-five Walk-of-Fame stars.  These were going to look just like the real ones which decorate the sidewalks of Hollywood.  Black squares, pink stars, flecks of white and gray and black spattered on each.  The stars outlined with metallic gold marker and the squares outlined with metallic silver – the names in block letters centered in the stars.  A logo below each name so that people could tell by a glance if that person was an actor, an orchestra member, a stage hand, or a teacher.  When they were all put together I laminated them, and cut them apart.

I asked at every grocery store if they would be willing to donate sparkling cider.  I asked at the party store if they would donate champagne glasses, plates, and forks.

I asked at the bakery if they would donate a cake.

I went online and found some inexpensive star trophies and the drama teacher cut a check for them out of the ticket sales funds.

I contacted the parents that signed up to help me, and delegated jobs to all who were willing.  I put an agenda in the mail to each of them.

I sat in on dozens of rehearsals.

I made big dice cubes for one of the games.  I made the ballot box.  I picked up a Fact or Crap game.  I got the red paper for the red carpet.

Little by little I whittled away at the chores until opening night.  That was my night to work backstage.  And OMGosh, how much fun was that for me?  The luckiest ol’ gal on the block I was, for sure!!!

At the final curtain of opening night I passed out ballots to all the performers for the Awards show that would take place at the cast party.

The next night I collected them.  My husband and I came to watch the musical on Friday night where we sat beaming, pure enchantment chiseled across our faces.  It was the cast’s best performance of the weekend.  Encore, encore!

The day of the party I met with my committee to decorate the cafeteria.  I met with the kids in the cast to discuss the Mock Award Show and how that would go.  I tallied the votes.  I made a separate sheet for each category that showed who the presenters would be and attached the winner envelopes to them.  I showed up a few hours early to set up my background music in the cafeteria, be on site for the pizza delivery, and set up the food on the tables.  I brought out the chilled cider and starting pouring it into glasses.  As parents arrived I put cameras in their hands and sent them to play the part of the paparazzi as the kids entered the cafeteria from the auditorium.

The cast and crew entered the cafeteria to a Hollywood Blockbusters soundtrack playing larger than life on the boom box, down a red carpet lined with black, silver, and gold balloons, and signed their names in the guest book.

They wandered around and looked for their Walk of Fame stars, then headed over to the food tables to see what was offered there.  Most of them grabbed a glass of champagne and some cake and found somewhere to sit.  Once all the cast was crowded in, my “Academy Awards” actors took the stage and began acting out their routine.  Mr. Hill acted out his best Billy Crystal impersonation as the host and mostly insulted the audience with his sarcasm.  They all enjoyed it.  Two by two the stars came to the podium and announced each category and then asked for the envelope, please.  And Trophies were handed out.

The rest of the party played out just like it was supposed to, except I never was able to find a dance instructor so we ditched the square dancing idea.  We also ran out of time for the trivia game, well at least for it to be played like I had planned.  I did sit on the stage with the microphone and cards and posed questions to the last group of stragglers who were in it to the end.  And we giggled until the janitor booted us all out.

Those kids were an absolute blast.  I had the best time hanging out with them.  Mr. Stedillie, Gino – the janitor, and I were there until about 3:00 A.M. cleaning up.  Amazingly I wasn’t even tired.  All I could think about was how much fun I’d had, and all the compliments that I’d gotten from the kids and parents.  It was a very rewarding experience.

NOTE:  If you are contemplating volunteering to help with a High School Musical Cast Party and you are thinking my plan is way too much work.  Don’t worry.  You don’t have to go to a ton of effort making a theme out of it as I have done.  The kids are actually happy to just hang out, eat, sing karaoke, and play some party games.  Give it a try!

5. Cast Party OK Cast and Crew6. Cast Party OK Cast and Crew 2

 

BTW…some fun choices for party games (at that time) were:

Apples to Apples by Out-of-the-Box Publishing, Inc.

Curses by Play All Day Games, designer Brian Tinsman

Smarty Party by R& R Games, Inc.

Settlers of Catan by Mayfair Games, designer Klaus Teuber

Quelf by Wiggity Bang Games

Pit Deluxe by Winning Moves US

Time’s Up by R & R Games, Inc.

Ultimate Outburst Hersch & Company

Snorta! by Out-of-the-Box Publishing, Inc.

 

 

“…the morning STARS sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy!”  Job 38:7