The cultures of Europe are diverse and beautiful. The continent has produced many ethnic and national groups with their own customs. From the sunny Mediterranean climate of Italy to the cold, northern climate of Russia, there are activities that can inform children about the crafts, history and people that have shaped European culture and art.
France: Bastille Flag
Bastille Day—or Fête Nationale (National Holiday) in France—is the French holiday of independence from monarchical rule, celebrated every July 14. The name "Bastille Day" came from the opening of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789, by crowds opposed to King Louis XVI's imprisonment of prisoners who had written and spoke against the monarchy.
Children can learn about Bastille Day by making a French flag. You will need heavy white paper, glue, a ruler, a pencil and beads of red, blue and white. Divide the heavy paper with the ruler and pencil into rectangular vertical and equal thirds. Have the children write blue in the first column, white on the second column, and red on the third column then paste the beads into the appropriate color column.
Italy: Tissue Paper Stained Glass
The early Romans in Italy excelled in making windows and small objects from colored glass. However, working with this material in the classroom could be hazardous if the glass breaks.
A more safe option is to use tissue paper and heavy, black construction paper. Cut the construction paper into desired shapes, such as a window frame. Cut the tissue paper so there is a border. Lay the tissue across the empty spaces and settle the edges on the frame. Carefully lay glue around the edges of the frame and put the tissue paper in place. Hang the frame so the edges of the glued paper do not show. Tape the crafts onto a window and enjoy the colors on a sunny day.
Romania: Waxed Eggs
Painted eggs are a traditional Easter craft in countries such as Romania and Russia. However, some painted eggs use nitric acid, according to the Romanian Tourist Office, and nitric acid can be dangerous.
This activity is safer but still requires adult participation. Ask the children to draw crayon patterns on hard-boiled eggs then dip the eggs in egg dye, preferably a dark color for contrast on the final pattern. Leave the eggs in the dye until desired shade is attained, then remove them with slotted spoons. Adults, place the eggs in a 200-degree oven for a few minutes until the wax is melted off the eggs. Let the eggs cool and wipe with paper towels. The children can dip the eggs in lighter-colored dyes to color the areas formerly covered by the wax, then polish the eggs with cooking oil and soft cloths.
Sápmi: Foot and Hands Reindeer
The Sámi people are erroneously called Laplanders and live in Sápmi, an area that encompasses parts of northern Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border between south and middle Sweden. Some Sámi are semi-nomadic and herd reindeer. They pursue this work independently or, if they live in Russian territory, under the auspices of the Sovkhoz (government-owned farms).
For this activity, ask the children to help each other trace one foot and both hands on pieces of brown construction paper then cut out the feet and hands. Glue the hand cutouts with the finger tips up behind the heel of each cutout foot. Glue googly eyes where the eyes would be on a reindeer.
Spain: Joan Miró Watercolor Painting
Joan Miró i Ferrà was a Spanish painter who lived from 1893 to 1983. He was part of the Surrealist art movement that was noted for its simple lines and bright colors.
You will need 9-by-12-inch watercolor paper, watercolors, pencils and black crayons. Ask the students to draw simple circles and lines with pencil in the shape of a stick figure person on the paper. Have the students fill the empty space around the initial shapes with more lines and circles. Trace over the lines and circles with black crayon, then fill in the circles and lines with watercolors. Use bold, primary shades for paint.
United Kingdom: Welsh Daffodil Badge
The daffodil is a symbol of Wales, which is part of the United Kingdom.
You can make a simple daffodil pin with egg cartons, orange tempera paint, safety pins, glue, yellow card paper and tape. Ask the children to cut out the compartments from paper egg cartons. Make sure the cups are clean. Next, have the children paint the egg compartments orange and set these aside to dry. Cut out flower shapes from the yellow card paper and glue the dry egg compartments to the card paper so the cups make the daffodils' trumpets. Let these dry and have the children tape safety pins on the back of the flower card papers so they can wear the badges.
Anne Cagle has been writing ever since she was a toddler who could scribble with crayons. Her first published article, at age 12, was in a teachers' newsletter. She was published in "Optical Prism" magazine and has worked as a reviewer for the Webby Awards. She holds a degree in English from the University of Oregon.