To Your Health
Teaching SuggestionsPrint this Page
- Subject(s): Cross-Cultural Understanding
- Region / Country: Central & Eastern Europe / Republic of Bulgaria
- Grade Level(s): 3–5, 6–8
Students will focus on how storks and other cultural icons, in both Bulgarian and American customs, are believed to encourage and bring good health.
After reading the letter and participating in the activities students should be able to
- Compare Valentine's Day with Baba Marta.
- Define and show an example of martenitsi.
- List three natural phenomena in their region prominently associated with the coming of spring, and give reasons they are important in the culture.
- Explain the cultural significance of storks in Bulgaria.
- Name two kinds of health and give examples of methods that promote a healthy lifestyle.
- To Your Health by Elizabeth (Vernon) Kelley
- Biography of Elizabeth (Vernon) Kelley
- A paper cup for each student (and for the teacher)
- Juice of your choice, suitable for a toast
- Red and white thread or yarn
- Reference materials on animals native to your region that migrate seasonally (Optional)
- A list of axioms from the Farmer's Almanac that address health issues, e.g., "Toads give you warts" (Optional)
- Some decorative valentines or pictures of decorated valentine hearts (Optional)
- Map of Bulgaria
- Peace Corps information on Bulgaria (Optional)
- Tell the class that they will be learning about a holiday, the pursuit of health, and the coming of spring. Read them the first two sentences from the letter "To Your Health."
- Ask what it means to make a toast, and try to elicit the idea that it is a wish. Distribute paper cups to each person in the class and fill each cup with juice. Tell the students that you will be performing a toast like the one you just read about. Use the toast, "To health!" After the toast, discuss with the class why Bulgarians choose these words for their wish (and why we do, in the United States). Discuss how health affects the quality of our lives.
- Ask the class what they do to stay as healthy as possible. Have each of the students make a list of their strategies. Then have the students discuss their lists in pairs, followed by a class discussion, in which you compile all the strategies on the board. Ask the students whether there are traditions in the United States that promote good emotional health. Discuss Valentine's Day, as an example, and any other holidays that promote good cheer. Discuss the positive effect on emotional health for children in school who receive valentines from their classmates, friends, and teachers. Show the students some decorative red-and-white valentines, or pictures of such valentines.
- Tell the students they will be learning about a holiday in Bulgaria that also promotes good health through giving. Read the students paragraphs 2 and 3 and the first sentence of paragraph 4 from the letter "To Your Health." Have the students compare Baba Marta with Valentine's Day as a class. Give them some red and white thread or yarn and let them create some martenitsi.
- Display the martenitsi on a bulletin board or a table in the classroom.
- Distribute copies of the letter "To Your Health" to the students. Read the remainder of the letter with the class. Ask the students what they think of Elizabeth's friends' conclusion that she would be even healthier since the storks were flying when she spotted them. Point out that Americans have their own bit of folklore regarding storks, which Elizabeth refers to in the article—storks delivering babies to parents. Point out that both superstitions are a part of their respective cultures. Ask the students if they know any other axioms related to animals and health, such as "toads give you warts." List some examples on the board (use a reference if you need to), and discuss how scientists would prove or disprove these assertions.
- Show the location of Bulgaria on a map (link) and discuss the climate that Elizabeth describes in her biography—particularly the nature of the winters. Point out how martenitsi are related to the people's enthusiasm for spring and the changes that occur at this time of year. Remind the students there is probably some truth to the assertion that it is easier to stay healthy in warm weather.
- Ask the students if they know of any animals in their region that migrate, like storks in Bulgaria and other parts of Europe. Divide the students into groups, and have each group identify the natural changes in their region that are most prominently associated with the coming of spring. Are there any animals in the students' region whose arrival in March or April is a harbinger of spring? Have students use reference materials if needed. Ask each group to share its list and to tell why they selected the items they did.
- Research other interesting holidays in Bulgaria. Report to the class on their cultural significance in Bulgaria, and whether there is an American equivalent to the holiday.
- Research further how Americans celebrate the coming of spring through festivals, customs, or rituals. Survey your neighbors, check the Internet, and check other reference materials. Share your findings with the class.
- Where do storks live in the United States? Use a reference to find out, and let your classmates know if these are year-round homes or summer homes like those in Bulgaria. Are storks in the United States the same species as those in Europe? Do U.S. storks nest and live among human habitations the way European storks do?
- Find out through research how the "stork and baby" story started, why it persisted. Share the information with the class.
Framework and Standards
- Health is an essential element of our quality of life.
- Holidays often represent important cultural values, but the origins and meanings associated with holidays may not always be clear as the holidays evolve over time.
- How does one try to stay healthy?
- How does a culture attach significance to a particular day or event, and how can the meaning change over time?
- How do people, plants, and animals react to the changing seasons?