Category Archives: World Culture

Purim Time!

In honor of Purim, we broke out the flour and butter, jam and chocolate to make a batch of Hamentashen… Cookies made in celebration of of this celebratory Jewish holiday. Check out the video below to learn about the story of Vashti, Esther, Mordechai, King Ahasuerus and of course, the villain – Haman. It was quite an event that took place in Persia so long ago. The cookies are delicious, good any time of year, but especially on the Spring Equinox!

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Happy New Year!

You must be thinking: “Wait a minute! The new year already happened – time can’t be moving that fast! But no ladies and gentlemen, it’s actually the Chinese New Year which is also known as the spring festival, which celebrates family, food and good fortune! Here at Water Street Academy, we love to celebrate other holidays from different backgrounds and in the past we’ve made fans, fortune cookies and even paper dragon puppets. But this year we decided to make some even cooler lanterns out of origami paper, staples or tape and lots of rhinestones! We’ll let most of the pictures do the talking but Mom and Olive’s turned out waaaay better than mine, but it was very fun anyway. (Check out the video down below, and maybe you can try it too!)

Happy New Year to all of you piggies out there, here are some lucky things you might like to know for the coming year: (;

lucky numbers: 2,5,8

lucky colors: yellow, gray, brown and gold

lucky flowers: hydrangea and daisy

lucky directions: southwest and east


Crankies…

As we continued our study of Motion and physics this past week we entered the world of Crankies! Ever heard of ’em? They used to be called Panoramas in the mid-19th century and they were the original moving picture, one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Europe and America.

They are usually made by winding a long paper with paintings, illustrations or paper cut outs on them, wound around 2 spools within a box with a window cut out for viewing. Often, live live music is played in conjunction (see the link below for an few awesome examples!) Some Crankies are large, others (like ours!) much smaller.

We like small here, so we used matchboxes to make ours, using both photo copies and hand illustrated backgrounds to tell the story. We created a spool Crankie and also tried another version using a worm drive (also known as a screw in the form of a simple machine). A bike race was inevitable! It’s a different version of a tiny theatre, but no less interesting!!

A great story using a Crankie starting at 1:21 in from the start!

So! Those are our Crankies – what do you think? :0)

A Persian Thanksgiving!

Happy belated Thanksgiving! At our home, we understand the history around this occasion and with this knowledge of violence and sadness and what happened to the Native American people and culture, we choose to use this time as a celebration of diversity and acceptance that different is good. A way for all of us to dip into another culture to better understand things we may be making assumptions about, or not even take the time to notice.

As a family, each year we choose a different country to learn about. We dive into their culture, history and food, and this year we chose Iran! We learned how to wear a hijab, niqab and burka and understood more deeply that it is an expression of modesty.

The people who live in Iran are predominately Persians and we started by learning about the country’s history which of course, included a lot of wars sf hostile take overs.  TRUE FACT: the Roman-Persian war lasted for over 694 years, between the years of 66 BC and 628 AD and it’s considered the longest human conflict in history.  DID YOU KNOW: 70% of Iran’s population is under 30… we thought that was very interesting and something that makes you think twice. ANOTHER INTERESTING FACT: Iran is the biggest supplier of turquoise, saffron, pistachios and caviar on the world. So cool!  There are obviously many more interesting facts but we thought we’d keep it light and just let the video down below work its magic share some history and knowledge with you – beware – the vlogger is a FAST talker and really packs in the information!

Another major part of our Thanksgiving celebration is the food! We try our best to make a traditional replica of the country’s native food which usually includes spices, dips, meat or veggies and something exotic we’ve never had. For our feast this year, we had rice with saffron, yogurt and eggs, kerchief flat breads with spices, a traditional persian salad made of cucumber and tomato and pomegranate molasses, carrot moraba (which is basically a chutney with cardamom infusions), the ever popular, Fesenjan and home-made fruit leather – It was quite a feast!

Our whole family’s favorite part is busting stereotypes and taking the time to learn about traditions, cultures and religions that make the world so awesome. Hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving however your family celebrates it. Three cheers for Thankfulness!

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Here’s our ultimate Thanksgiving feast!

Murals in the Market…

It’s hunting season here in Michigan and while we know a lot of people that are out in tree stands watching for deer, we headed to the urban outdoor spaces of downtown Detroit to hunt down Murals in the Eastern Market!

As stated on their website, “Murals in the Market  is more than an international mural festival, it’s a creative platform that inspires and encourages community engagement using public art as a vessel.”

Street after street we saw dozens of pictures which had intricate line work and many inspiring quotes – I’d never seen so many large paintings in one place! I was so impressed at how crisp they got those lines and how many different kinds there were, they all had a certain feel about them and I loved how no two were alike! The messages were about freedom, individuality and equality. Creativity is a given seeing as no 2 were anything alike! After taking roughly 100 pictures, I felt VERY inspired to do some artwork myself. In a city where places are often run-down and color is very limited, it was wonderful (and thought provoking) to see so much time, effort and bright colors put into a very urban place. I feel like it made that part of the city seem a lot more welcoming, peaceful and happy… looks like their plan worked!

If you’re ever Detroit, it is worth the stop, especially if you are there on a Saturday morning when they have the most remarkable and sprawling Farmers Market you’ve ever experienced!!

A very special shout out to Hannah Fine for taking us on an amazing adventure through the streets of Detroit neighborhoods. She is has a fantastic knowledge base of the city and things to do and experience! Thank you Hannah – You are AWESOME!

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I absolutely LOVED how silly these foods looked! :01

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Isn’t that amazing? Really makes you look twice, right?

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Dia de Los Muertos…

In honor of this sacred event that celebrates family and friends who have passed into the spirit world, we hand cast sugar skulls for Day of the Dead.

We love this Mexican tradition for many reasons, but one of our favorites is the way the Mexican culture honors those who have died. They build beautiful altars (ofrendas)   with favorite foods of those who have died, photos and flowers. Death in this culture is a celebration rather than something sad – they decorate sugar skulls and host parties, have dances and they even have fireworks at nightfall! Although it’s sometimes sad to know some people in your life have died, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, there’s always something good that comes out of it!

If you want a fun way to understand more about this tradition, and some of the thoughts behind the customs, check out Pixar’s movie Coco (shown in the featured image). It is a great movie and has INCREDIBLE imagery!

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Our finished sugar skulls!

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This is the packaging from the sugar skull mold we used. dont’cha just love the graphics?

Not a Run-of-the-Mill Island!

Weather is changing here in West Michigan…winds are picking up and skies are shifting and we’re drawn to start baking and making cups of hot cider! Speaking of baking, ever wonder where your flour came from back before there were automated manufacturers? Well, one example would be the windmill, which was first used in 18th Century Holland! Here in West Michigan, we have the only working dutch windmill in the entire country – and its roughly about 250 years old!

In 1964, the windmill (or the De Zwaan ) was moved to America by boat, just before a law was passed that windmills were no longer allowed to leave the Netherlands, so the purchase was the last one ever made. The De Zwaan (the Swan) came in 4 pieces which were then reassembled in Holland, Michigan, standing 125′ tall, where it still stands today! Part of the agreement with the Dutch government was that it remain a working windmill and be open to the public to teach about Dutch history and the was of the mill.  On windy days when the temperature is right, De Zwaan’s own miller, Alisa Crawford can still be found milling wheat into flour where people can purchase it online or when visiting Windmill Island. Alisa is the first Dutch-certified miller outside of the Netherlands as well as becoming the first woman admitted into the guild! So cool!

Of course, we were excited that they offer guided tours through all levels of the windmill. It is amazing how old it is, and that it is actually someone’s workplace. It reminded us how ingenious humans are to come up with the idea of using wind for power….. we knew all about turbines that create electricity, but hadn’t considered wind as a way to make grains. If you’re ever in Holland, Michigan, be sure to check out Windmill Island! You won’t be disappointed!! :0)

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