Turkish Delights

Today we led a 2 hour session on Turkey for our local home education group of approx 26 children aged between 2 and 14. Planning it was quite a challenge but, once we were there, we delivered the activities as a family and had a great time reliving some of our wonderful memories of living in that amazing country.

We showed a slide show about our day-to-day life in Ankara - including looking at the weather, how we got around, places to visit in the city and further afield, the boys' experience of Turkish school! Our older two chipped in with some of their anecdotes, and all the children listened really well and were interested. We then did some Turkish language activities in a circle and the childen learned to say "Hello" (Merhaba), "I'm ____, What's your name?" (Ben ______, Senin adin ne?) and to count from 1-10. We practised this by throwing a ball around the circle and counting together.

I then divided the children into three groups and we had a round robin of three activity stations. Each group had about 25 minutes at each activity. There is never enough time to do all we would really like to do, but I always think these group session should give a flavour and inspire the children to go away and find out more, and I hope that's what today's session will have done.

One activity was cooking sigara boregi, crispy rolls filled with white cheese and flat leaf parsley. You mix the cheese and parsley with a little beaten egg in a bowl. Cut filo or spring roll pastry into long, thin triangles. Spoon a small amount of filling on to the wide end of each triangle, fold in the outer corners and then roll up towards the thin end. Stick the tip down with a little beaten egg or water and lay the finished rolls out on a plate to stop them sticking together. They can be shallow fried in oil until crispy and lightly browned, and eaten fresh and hot. Delicious. We also had some yaprak dolma (stuffed vine leaves) which we had bought from the supermarket for the children to try, but we didn't even have time to get them out. I also planned to buy some squares of baklava, but the supermarket didn't have any this week, and to make ayran, which is a refreshing yoghurt drink made by mixing yoghurt, water and salt. There wasn't time. I have made all these things in the past, but they are pretty fiddly. I recommend this book - "Turkish Cookery" by Gulseren Ramazanoglu if you want to try any Turkish cooking for yourself.

The second activity table needed to be one at which the parents and children could work independently, so I laid out several atlases, - including The Barefoot World Atlas, which I love - and other books, information, maps, guides, postcards from Turkey. I had printed off the outline of a map of Turkey with bordering nations and seas for each child to fill in, and I prepared a list of questions / suggestions / things to look at .....

Which countries and seas surround Turkey? Can you label them on your map?
Why does Turkey have earthquakes? Can you find out about tectonic plates and faultlines?
Can you find and draw the Turkish flag?
Ask our boys about Turkey's most popular football teams.
Who was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk? Can you find out why he is still so important to Turkish people?
What was the former name of the city of Istanbul?
What is the capital sity of the modern Turkish Republic? Can you mark it on your map?
Why did the country's capital move?
In central Turkey is an interesting region called Cappadocia. See what you can find out about it.
Maybe you could find out about an anumal or bird native to Turkey. Can you draw a picture of it?
Many people go on holiday to Turkey's beautiful coasts every year. Can you find out which are the most popular resorts?
Maybe you could conduct a survey of people here today to find out who has been to Turksy and where they went.

I tried to include different topics so that something might appeal to everyone, and also to cater for the different ages and stages the children are at.

I laid out a couple of Turkish carpets and had a traditional folk costume, which our son had to wear once for a school performance. Alongside, I placed "The Wise Fool" - a book of traditional tales from the Islamic World about the folk hero, Mullah Nasruddin Hodja. My boys love these comical tales, and our eldest son read a few to some of the younger children during the session today.

The third activity was an art table. I showed the children various examples of Turkish ceramics, tiles and carpets and we talked about the colours and patterns. They then had a go at designing their own "Turkish style" plates on paper plates or carpets on pieces of paper using pens or watercolours or whatever medium they chose. I also showed them the youtube videos (in this post below) demonstrating the Turkish art of ebru (marbling). Each child had a go at marbling using acrylic paint on water. Their faces when we lifted the paper out and they saw the magical transformation were a picture!

At the end, we had a few moments to round up, so I put on some Turkish music by Tarkan and showed those that wanted to how to dance in a line using a basic four-step rhythm. The girls were particularly engaged by this, and spent some time practising the dance, moving in a line around the room. It was lots of fun. All-in-all, a successful day's work and well received by all attending. It was a lovely opportunity to share a little of who we are with our friends.