Sunday, 20 April 2014

Studying the Inuit (with a freebie)

I always find studying different cultures fascinating, and I find that the kids who I've taught become very engaged when we are learning about how people live in different parts of the world.  
One of my favourite Socials Studies units is The Inuit.  I often include it as part of a dual Science and Social Studies unit on The Arctic.  Usually we do it right after returning from Christmas break when there is still lots of snow around and we can go outside to simulate some Inuit activities.

There are loads of great videos on YouTube that fit well with this unit.  One of my favourites is Owl and Raven by the National Film Board of Canada.  It used to be on tape at our district resource center, but then it disappeared (probably due to old age), and I was so sad.  But this year, to my delight, I rediscovered it.  It is and Inuit legend about how the raven came to have black feathers.  It is very short, and one of the things I love best about it are the singsong voices of Raven and Owl as they go about painting each other.

Have a look.  I bet you'll love it too.  I give out an 8 page booklet and have the kids rewrite the story and illustrate it afterwards.

There are so many excellent kids' books to use with this unit, but the one I love best and lood forward to reading to the class every year is The Very Last First Time, by Jan Andrews, illustrated by Ian Wallace.

The story is about Eva, an Inuit girl from Ungava Bay, who is going to collect mussels under the sea ice on her own for the first time.  Who knew that when the tide goes out in the winter in the Arctic it is possible to go down under the ice and walk on the ocean floor??

As Eva gathers mussels she becomes distracted by the sights in her under-ice cavern.  She wanders off to explore and just as she realizes that she must find her way back to the opening in the ice, her candle blows out, leaving her in darkness.  Desperately Eva fights of her fear in order to relight her candle and make her escape from the incoming tide.

There is a short BBC video that shows just what a dangerous venture this can be.  Use this link to go to it.

Ian Wallace's amazing illustrations are a perfect partner for this wonderful and gripping story.  They capture the wonder of the sea bottom, the feeling of impending danger, and finally the relief of returning back to the world above the ice.  They are done in pointillism and are excellent for turning into an art project.  I've used cotton swabs to replicate the technique, but recently saw some that used the spiky plastic balls you can pick up at a Dollar Store.

Last time we studied this unit we made igloos from mini marshmallows and white glue.  I used a cardboard base painted white, and a small fruit cup container for a form (I cut a rounded door out before we started to put the marshmallows on.  The size is just right and if they start from the bottom they   will  build quite successfully (unlike if sugar cubes are used........).

Although this is essentially a story book the illustrations give a good idea of how Inuit people in far northern villages live.  I show portions of this video that shows an Inuit family on the move in the 1950's.  The kids can immediately see how life was much different back then.

Then we do this sheet that compares some of the differences between Inuit life today and in the past.

If you'd like a copy you can get one here at my TpT store.

I am joining Collaboration Cuties again this week for their terrific linky on mentor texts. I get so many good ideas from the contributors.  The topic this week is Social Studies. Thanks everyone!

Happy Easter!

Debbie K.


  1. Oooo I have never heard if this book! I love learning about different cultures as well! I'm going to have to check this out! Thanks for linking it up!!

  2. I've never seen this one! Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
    Creating Lifelong Learners