This week we are studying the Mongols and Marco Polo. Marco Polo was born in Venice in 1254. When he was 17 years old he traveled the Silk Road to China with his father and uncle who had befriended the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan. Khan later sent Marco Polo on ambassador missions around the area. As we read about Marco Polo's travels, Rachel marked his journey on a map.
Marco Polo saw many wonderful things during his explorations. Europeans were not aware of some of the plants, animals, and inventions in the Far East. Marco Polo recorded many of the amazing sights in his book The Travels of Marco Polo. We made a list of just some of the things he saw including "a very ugly unicorn that looked like a pig" (which was probably a rhinoceros) and "lions with stripes" (tigers).
The Silk Road was an ancient network of routes from Europe to China that opened up opportunities for exploration and discovery of other countries but most importantly it allowed for merchant trading across continents. The Europeans were not aware of silk until explorers like Marco Polo had discovered it in the Far East. We talked a little about how silk is made and even looked at some real cocoons from 2 silk moths that we raised in the past.
Travel on the Silk Road was hard. There were bandits along the way who were ready to rob merchants of their goods. But also the terrain was challenging as well. Marco Polo traveled over mountains and deserts and much of this travel couldn't have been done without the use of camels. The kids liked reading the cute little story of The Happy Dromedary camel.
We watched a few videos on Marco Polo and the world of ancient China to wrap up our week. My kids love the Explorers of the World DVD series. Different explorers' paintings come to life and talk about why they traveled and what their lives were like.