Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Adventureland: Indiana Jones and India Unit Study

With the excitement over finally reaching the required height for the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride at Disneyland, Aidyn has been intrigued by the adventurous archaeologist and his harrowing journeys.

He has seen all three of the original Indiana Jones movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade.

*Disclaimer: The Indiana Jones series range from to PG-13 to PG ratings, and some scenes are not "appropriate" for younger viewers;therefore, I make no claims that all children should or could watch them; however, we have always had dialogue with our son about fiction/non-fiction and special effects, and when we provide context to something, Aidyn is usually capable of understanding it well enough to not be afraid/sensitive.*

He loved all three but The Temple of Doom in particular. We began reading the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom chapter book, but the language was a little out of reach for Aidyn, so we switched our unit study to India, the country in which Indy has his adventures in the film. To be fair, the movie could generate some flat stereotypes about India and its people, so I sought to find relatable books and stories from India to introduce us to its character.

(The book Monsoon is upside-down so it looks like Noosnow! Haha!)

The Road to Mumbai by Ruth Jeyaveeran follows two companions, Shoba and her monkey, Fuzzy, as they travel to a wedding in Mumbai. In trying to find the wedding, they pass many inhabitants of India, including a camel named Ismael, a boy named Anil who sells coconut water along the roadside, silent monks, and women in beautiful saris, among others. This story is a sweet presentation of India's rich and colorful culture. Aidyn particularly liked the way the monkey was trying to sneakily discourage everyone from crashing the wedding.

After reading The Road to Mumbai, we found Mumbai on our wall map and traced their journey on the map provided at the back of the book.

Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami plops readers right into the hot, dusty and windy climate of India as a young girl and her family wait with anticipation for the monsoon rains. Even though she fears the monsoon rains will cause a flood, she eventually understands the importance of both the dry season and the torrential downpour of rain. She learns to have patience, to trust her Nani's experience, and to read the skies for signs of the monsoon. This gorgeously illustrated story is a vivid portrayal of the climate in India, which differs from ours in California.

I was a bit wary at first of reading The Story of Little Black Sambo, a "banned" book, to Aidyn as it has a controversial history, but after picking up this Christopher Bing-illustrated version, with its beautiful and magical artwork, I knew I could not pass it up. We're so glad we didn't! The Story of Little Black Sambo, also known as The Story of Little Babaji, is a fable about a boy who trades his grand pieces of clothing and umbrella to the Bengal tigers who threaten to eat him. Eventually, the tigers, who concern themselves with fighting over which is the grandest for having such clothes, erupt in anger and stubbornness, allowing Sambo to not only escape but to profit from his quick thinking.

After reading the story, we talked about fiction vs. non-fiction and the fanciful elements that make the story magical.

What I loved about the illustrations were the collage-type artwork preceding and following the story. The antique postcards, journals, and maps contain the feel of Adventureland, a piecing together of old relics, maps to adventures, and personal diaries of explorers.

For more factual information about India, we read India (Globe-Trotters Club) and learned about the geography of India (their two major rivers and tall mountain peaks), how India "crashed" into Asia millions of years ago (forming the Himalayas), the modes of transportation in India as well as Ganesh, the Hindu god of wealth and wisdom who keeps travelers safe, family life in India, how they dress, how and when they do school, and how to use our fingers to count the way they do.

 To learn more about the dangerous wildlife, we watched Deadly Dozen: India on Netflix. Here is a clip about Bengal tigers from the same show:

Inspired by the big cats in this episode and the ones illustrated in The Story of Little Black Sambo, we each drew a tiger. Here's Aidyn's:

Aidyn also watched an episode of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in which he and his parents visit India and he befriends a kind Indian boy who teaches him to play cricket.

We also did a couple of brainstorms as we learned more and more about India.

Before moving on from India, Aidyn placed their flag on our world map.

 Aidyn also watched one of our favorite short films, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

And yesterday, as a wonderful capstone to our India unit study, we watched Life of Pi. What a remarkable film. As soon as the credits rolled, Aidyn asked to see it again. Here is a trailer below:

And now we're off to The Jungle Cruise to learn about different animals and their habitats (including the savanna and rainforest biomes). Check back next week!


  1. How fun to study India through Indiana Jones enthusiasm. I really enjoyed hearing about the books you used - I had heard of Monsoon (and have it on our wish list) but the other titles are new to me.

  2. Monsoon is a beautiful read. You can *feel* the heat they describe and the wonderful relief of the rain. I first learned about monsoons in a geography textbook, and I wish this book had been my introduction instead.