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Poland Unit Study

I am now writing a column for the Old Schoolhouse magazine called the International Schoolhouse.  In the article, I get the chance to share with you about the landscape, the history and the culture of the highlighted country, in this case Poland.  However, there is so much to tell that simply overflows a 1500 word article that I have decided to compile the remainder of the information as a unit study for you. 

If you do not subscribe to the Old Schoolhouse, you can read a sample issue here -  Or better yet, subscribe here - The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - and get the summer issue this month with the Poland article, plus many, many more wonderful articles of encouragement.  It is their best issue yet.  Oh, and did I mention that you get 19 free gifts with your subscription.

Okay, so now that you have read the article, it's time to dive in for some hands-on learning to cement your student's growing knowledge of this small but fascinating European country.

Unit Study:

1.  READING SELECTIONS - Let's start with some extra reading.  Listed below are some great books about Poland, or set in Poland, that will provide many hours of enjoyable reading.  The links below will take you to for more information, but you can find these at your local library.  Read for pleasure alone, or have your kids write a book report on one of these selections.


2. HISTORY & TIMELINES - Learn more about Poland by compiling historical facts and events from Poland's turbulent history and adding them to your timeline.  If you do not have a timeline on the go, you can construct one by following these directions - How to Make a Timeline Easily.  Here is a link to a wonderful resource for timeline entries about Poland -

3. MAPWORK - A unit study would not be complete without taking a good look at the lay of the land.  Click here for both a labeled and unlabeled map of Poland.  Have your students mark some of the major cities, the surrounding countries, and the sea to the north, at the least.  For older students, have them use your teacher's map and fill in the rest!

4. RECIPES - This is my favorite part - the food from the land!  And I love Polish cuisine!  If you do the above activities on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then take some time on either Thursday or Friday to whip up some authentic Polish dishes in your kitchen.

Poland's cuisine is dictated by crops such as rye, wheat, millet, barley and buckwheat. Rye bread is common in this part of Europe. Pickled vegetables such as cucumbers, beetroot, cabbage (sauerkraut) and kohlrabi have become an essential part of Polish cooking. The idea of pickling is not limited to vegetables, however.  Herring, fished in the Baltic, is drenched with spices and vinegar and is often served on holy days. This has become Poland's favorite national food. Meat plays a significant role in the Polish diet. Perhaps the most famous Polish meat is kielbasa, Polish sausage. Indeed, Polish food has much to offer, and I enjoy its hearty and comforting flavors. As the Polish would say, "Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa"... "Eat, drink and loosen your belt".

Here are a few of our favorite dishes.  Enjoy!

Savory Sausage and Sauerkraut

A cold weather favorite. Good served with pierogies or even baked beans.

2   tablespoons butter
1   medium onion, chopped
1/4   cup chopped green peppers
1   large apple, peeled,cored,and chopped
2   tablespoons brown sugar
1/2   teaspoon caraway seeds
3   red potatoes, cleaned and diced
1 1/2   cups sauerkraut, drained,rinsed,& packed
1-2   lb smoked sausage (kielbasa), cut in 3 inch pieces
1. Melt butter in saucepan.
2. Add onion and green pepper.
3. Cook until tender.
4. Add apple, brown sugar, caraway seeds, potatoes, and sauerkraut.
5. Mix well.
6. Place sausage on top of sauerkraut mixture.
7. Cover.
8. Cook over medium-low heat for 40 minutes.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi

This is a recipe for traditional Potato and Cheese pierogi. Serve with chopped fried bacon and onions.

Potato and Cheese Filling
1   tablespoon grated onion
2   tablespoons butter
2   cups cold mashed potatoes
1   cup cottage cheese (or more)
    salt and pepper
2 1/2   cups flour
1/2   teaspoon salt
1   egg
2   teaspoons oil
3/4   cup warm water
1. For the Filling: Cook the onion in butter until tender.
2. Combine it with potatoes and cheese.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Vary the proportions and ingredients in this recipe to suit your taste.
5. Mix the flour with the salt in a deep bowl.
6. Add the egg, oil and water to make a medium soft dough.
7. Knead on a floured board until the dough is smooth.
8. Caution: Too much kneading will toughen the dough.
9. Divide the dough into 2 parts.
10. Cover and let stand for at least 10 minutes.
11. Prepare the filling.
12. The filling should be thick enough to hold its shape.
13. Roll the dough quite thin on a floured board.
14. Cut rounds with a large biscuit cutter, or the open end of a glass.
15. Put the round in the palm of your hand.
16. Place a spoonful of filling in it, fold over to form a half circle and press the edges together with the fingers.
17. The edges should be free of filling.
18. Be sure the edges are sealed well to prevent the filling from running out.
19. Place the pierogi on a floured board or tea towel and then cover with another tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
20. COOKING: Drop a few pierogies into a large quantity of rapidly boiling salted water.
21. Do not attempt to cook too many at a time.
22. Stir VERY gently with a wooden spoon to separate them and to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
23. Continue boiling for 3-4 minutes.
24. The cooling period will depend upon the size you made it, the thickness of the dough and the filling.
25. Pierogies will be ready when they are puffed.
26. Remove them with a perforated spoon or skimmer to a colander and drain thoroughly.
27. Place in a deep dish, sprinkle generously with melted butter to prevent them from sticking.
28. Cover and keep them hot until all are cooked.
29. Serve in a large dish without piling or crowding them.
30. Top with melted butter- chopped crisp bacon and/or chopped onions lightly browned in butter.
31. REHEATING: One of the great things about pierogies, is that they can be made in large quantities, refrigerated, frozen and reheated without lost of quality.
32. Many prefer reheated pierogies as compared to freshly boiled ones.
33. To re-heat, you can: 1) pan fry pierogies in butter or bacon fat until they are light in color or, 2) heat the pierogies in the top of a double boiler or in the oven until they are hot and plump or, 3) deep fry them.

Doughnuts - Paczki

10 servings

1 c Sweet cream
2 Yeast cakes
10 Egg yolk
1 ts Salt
5 tb Butter
4 c Unbleached flour (all-purpose)
2 oz Rum
6 tb Sugar

Heat cream to luke warm. add salt and egg yolks and beat till thick. cream butter and sugar. put these into large bowl, add yeast dissolved w/ 1 tablespoon sugar and mix thoroughly. Add rum then flour and cream alternately and beat hard till dough blisters. set in warm place to rise. punch down and let rise again. place dough on floured surface and stretch and fill w/ pitted prunes. Fold over and cut into desired size balls. place on floured surface and let rise. fry in deep hot oil turning once. Paczki should be very dark in color before turning to ensure that they are thoroughly baked. drain on soft absorbent paper. Sprinkle w/ powdered sugar.

5. CRAFTS - Finally, it's craft time!

When I think of Polish crafts, immediately Pisanki, Kraszanki and Wycinanki come to mind.  You say, "What?"  Oh, you have never heard of these.  Oh my... the Poles are known for their beautiful, intricately detailed crafts.  Some of these might be a bit difficult for the untrained to take on, but others are more doable, at least in modified versions.  At the very least, take a moment to view some of these beautiful crafts from the heart of Europe.


Pisanki is an art form of dying eggs and coloring them with very intricate detailed patterns.  Check out this beautiful picture here -

Let's be realistic when we say that this is not something we are just going to replicate with our children on a boring afternoon.  These are incredible creations created by master crafters.  BUT we can dye eggs using natural dyes and have a lot of fun doing so.  We don't even have to wait for Easter.  Here is a site with directions on how to dye eggs when those Easter egg kits are not on the grocery store shelves.



Another beautiful type of art that is created in Poland is Wycinanki.  Wycinanki is the Polish word for paper-cut designs. These beautiful cut-outs have been used to decorate the interior of Polish homes since the early 19th century!

Here is a great site that will get you started on creating your very own Wycinanki that can decorate your home or school room -  Try using colored paper or pasting the cut-out on a backing of colored paper.

And remember to have fun!

Warm Regards,

Terri Johnson
Knowledge Quest, Inc. - try our maps free! - we are looking for authors for our new book - see what we're up to. - our business helping your business to succeed!


Terri Johnson is the creator of Knowledge Quest maps and timelines.  Her mission for the company is to help make the teaching and learning of history and geography enjoyable for both teacher and students.  She has created and published over 20 map and timeline products.  Her Blackline Maps of World History have been widely recommended in the education community and published in The Story of the World history series by Susan Wise Bauer.  Terri and Knowledge Quest recently won the “Excellence in Education” award granted by The Old Schoolhouse magazine for best geography company of 2003 and 2004.  Terri resides in Oregon  with her husband Todd and their five children whom she teaches at home.


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