Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

The Travels of Marco Polo (1271-1295) Part III: The Mongols

"They'd had no water since they'd left Ormuz and there was not a single home or village in sight. Finally, with great relief, the travelers reached a spring of cool water emerging from a deep cavern. Here they rested and drank deeply before continuing on their way." -Janis Herbert, Marco Polo for Kids

The next leg of the Polo's journey took them from the from the Persian deserts across mountains, through the high plains of Pamir, through more mountains until they reached Lop, the edge of the realm of Kublai Khan.

Here Polo learned about the Mongols, a nomadic people whose home was the Mongolian steppes. They traveled with the seasons, seeking grass for their livestock -horses, sheep, goats, camels and yaks. They lived in round tents called yurts or gers. Thee were made of cross-hatched willow branches covered with felt.

The structure can collapse small enough to fit on one draft animal and can be set up again in a half an hour.

These walls are formed by several individual sections of criss-crossed lattice work, much like baby gate.

We would like to have been able to make this lovely model of a Ger or Yurt but I haven't the fine motor skill and/or patience for it. In case you do, the tutorial on how to make it is at Imagine Childhood.
Several other designs can be found here at Yurt Building For Everyone, as well as at My Mommy Makes It.

We, however, wanted a flat design so that it could go in our book of Marco Polo's adventures, so we made these two-dimensional yurts instead. If you would like to make one, you will need a piece of paper for the background. We chose blue construction paper. You will also need some felt and some thin sticks or willow branches and some tape. First cut your felt into a rounded-top shape that will fit on your background. Trace it and put the felt aside for later.

If you want to have Mongols in your finished yurt, you should put them down now. We didn't think of it until we were finished and had to go back and tenderly peel off the tape to slip the picture of the people under it.  It would be easier just to put them in the center of your shape now instead. You can draw your own Mongols or you can print out one like we did. The picture we used (scroll down to the bottom) however, is a picture of the modern Mongols and not one of the time Marco Polo saw them.

We used willow branches since that is what they used. (Theirs, of course, were thicker branches.) The branches need to be stripped of leaves and cut into pieces that are appropriate for your size yurt. We used pieces about four inches long. You could also use thin twigs of any sort, if you do not have willow branches.

We found tape to be the easiest way to adhere the willow branch pieces and keep them in the criss-cross pattern. (See above.)

When you add your branches, don't forget to leave an opening for the door.

Now add your roof poles, which start at the tips of the lattice work and slant inward to meet in the middle, leaving a little hole in the top for smoke to leave the yurt.

 Now place your felt piece over your frame and cut a door in the felt where you placed your opening.  James chose not to put the people in the yurt, but to cut them out and have them as paper dolls to play with, going in and out of his yurt.

Tape the felt in place at the top. You can now open the door flap...

or you can lift the entire felt piece and look at the willow branch construction.

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  1. You always do the most interesting and fun lessons with your kids. Thank you for linking up this week.

  2. Brilliant! I love your yurt. Thanks for sharing the book title you are using. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Although I am reading Marco Polo for Kids to the boys, it does not have many of the things we are doing in it. These yurts, for example, are not in the book. Just didn't want you to be disappointed if you got the book.

  4. How fantastic! I love coming to your blog and seeing what you and the kiddos are up to. Such great project ideas!!

  5. Where do you get your ideas? Do you use any curriculum guides? You come up with the most interesting and fun projects! I love your version of the yuri! They remind me of the Navajo hogans.

  6. Although I do use some guides (listed on the left), we frequently take little detours into areas of interest. I either see something on a blog (like the Venice collages) that I really like and seem to go with what we are studying or I have something I want them to learn about (or they want to learn about) and I just try to figure out how to make it interesting to learn. I struggled over the yurts because it was such a 3-D concept and yet I wanted it 2-D. The yurts met our goals because it was fun for them and I believe they learned about their construction at the same time.

  7. What a cute project. Bet your boys will never forget Marco Polo.

  8. Okay. I'm totally gonna use your stuff when we get to Marco Polo again... remind me in case I forget will you? ;)

    oh and I voted for you... you are awesome!

    I love ya, I really do. :)

    amy in peru


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