We started our Norse History Unit Study with mythology. Once we were well into reading the D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths, we got started on a long term project. We’ve had a huge 4′ X 3′ piece of super thick corrugated cardboard sitting around for months waiting just for this. We’ve been talking about building Yggdrasil, the Norse tree of life, for a long time. My big was excited to get started. She had a vision of a tree with platforms (I think based upon drawings in Thunder Girls books, which she’s already read multiple times, so she comes into this unit study with some background knowledge), and so she drew what she wanted on the cardboard. It was so thick that I cut the cardboard with a jigsaw – she didn’t want to try, but did cut some hand over hand with me. We had a sturdy cardboard tube too, cut ourselves extra braces, and used my kids’ favorite adhesive – the glue gun! Cut up brown paper bags were glued on to look like the tree trunk.
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A few days later we pulled out some modeling clay. My youngest chose to make the eagle who sits at the top of Yggdrasil while my oldest chose to make Ratatosk, the naughty squirrel who runs up and down Yggdrasil passing insults between the eagle and NIdhogg, a dragon. We printed a dragon and the girls dug out little dolls to act as the three Norns at the base of the tree. We also created the pond and swans at the base of the tree.
The following week our work cycle felt unsettled. I suggested that the girls get out paints and paper, and cover sheets of paper with colors or patterns inspired by the 9 Norse worlds. They decided to use salt on watercolors to create an interesting marbled look. We didn’t have a plan, but it sure turned our morning around! The next afternoon we discussed how to use their paintings. We ended up creating little open boxes and, with their favorite glue gun, gluing them to cut up toilet roll tubes and gluing to the tree.
Over discussion, the girls and I came up with the idea of a travel guide through the nine worlds as a written companion to this project. At this point I asked them to begin writing about Yggdrasil. I scribed as they told me what they knew about the tree and it’s inhabitants. My older daughter was sent off to describe Yddgrasil and introduce her readers to her tour. My little dictated three descriptive sentences to me, and I helped to remember her words as she wrote them down.
The next time we worked on our tree we used green tissue paper to stuff between the worlds to represent the leaves. My oldest found rainbow striped paper to create Bifrost, the bridge that connects Asgard to Midgard.
During our next work session the girls divvied up the realms and started filling in the scenes. They raided their toy boxes for figurines of various sizes and created accessories as needed. My little chose to create a scene from the story of Sif’s Golden Hair, where two sets of elves are pitched against each other creating new hair for Sif, and gifts for Odin, Thor, and Tyr. I love her arm ring in the forge! Houses created from the Usborne Make This Viking Settlement book decorated Midgard and Vanaheim. The girls decided to progress through their tour of the nine worlds from the bottom up, so I scribed notes about Muspelheim and again my older one went off to write her tour guide to Muspelheim while my little one verbalized sentences and I helped by dictating them back to her as she wrote.
We came back for about two more scene making and tissue paper tweaking sessions before we decided our Yggdrasil was complete. She’s a beauty! Each decorating session ended with the same process – me scribing notes about a world, and the girls writing. Sometimes I held the sentences for my little, sometimes she referred to the notes and wrote her sentences all by herself.