The Vikings are one of the most fascinating groups from our planet's history. The success of films like "How to Train Your Dragon" and the long-running Hagar the Horrible comic strip can attest to the continued allure of these ancient warriors. There is a great deal of misconceptions regarding the Vikings and how they comducted themselves. Having students complete various school projects about the Vikings can go a long way in educating them about historical facts and separating truth from fiction.
A true understanding of the Vikings would include a lot of violent explanations, so start simple with kindergartners. There are many books on Vikings for young children that explain the history with colourful drawings and easy-to-understand explanations. Reading a book like this to a group of kindergartners could help them to grasp the basic facts about the Vikings. After reading, have every child draw what they think a Viking or a part of Viking culture like ships or houses would look like. Compare their drawings to the historical drawings in the books and praise the kids on their similarities and ingnore any differences.
The ages of elementary school kids vary from around 6 to 12, and tastes and learning abilities develop and vary wildly throughout these ages. It is during these years that one of the more flexible and vast areas of Viking history could be explored: Norse Mythology. The Vikings had a rich pantheon and array of stories. Younger elementary schoolchildren could pick a specific god or creature and look at a prominent story about their character. They could write or draw a short synopsis of the tale and thus learn a great deal about a specific facet of Viking lore. Older children could expand on the lessons taught to their younger counterparts by looking at the ways Vikings worshipped or drew strength from their gods. Various Viking artefacts could be presented to the kids who would then be tasked with creating their own version of it either as a drawing or model. They could then explain its use in Viking society and what religious or ritualistic importance the Vikings placed on it.
Kids in middle school are tasked with trying to prepare for high school while still being freshly removed from the childlike atmosphere of elementary school. A mixing of the old and new will work well here. Task the young students with performing plenty of research on Vikings. Make sure they visit an actual library as well as performing cyberhunts for a variety of sources on Viking history. Dioramas or other types of small models could be assigned to the students. A possible topic could be "Viking Ships," so a student or small group of students could create paper models of Viking boats based on history and write a small report to accompany the project. This project could be presented to the class alongside their findings.
High school kids are probably less likely to respond well to craft-based projects like they did in their earlier years. High school students are more used to 500-750 word essays and visual aids like posterboards. An essay about Vikings is a perfect way to stimulate these maturing minds. Utilising the research skills they have hopefully been honing since middle school, they could write briefly on a variety of topics. Possible prompts could include "Viking Women" or "Real Vikings vs. Media Depictions." They could then present their topics using simple photo-based visuals such as a photo of a Viking character from a film compared to a depiction of an actual Viking while explaining the differences between fiction and history.
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