In Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco, Babushka is known throughout all of Moskva for her beautifully painted eggs. She also has an eye for the wonders of nature, so it is no surprise when she befriends an injured goose she names Rechenka. But, when Rechenka turns over a basket of Babuska's specially prepared eggs, the reader is surprised by another wonder that saves the day!
Before Reading Rechenka's Eggs
Ask the children if any of them have ever dyed or decorated eggs. Tell the class that this story is about a woman who uses the Ukrainian art of egg painting to prepare beautiful eggs for an Easter festival. Locate the Ukraine on a map. If possible, show children a book which features the history and photographs of this art form.
After Reading Rechenka's Eggs
Ask the children to describe what kind of person Babushka is. Use a chart pad to record adjectives designed to paint a personality profile. Have the children substantiate their opinions with passages from the text.
Observe "Onion Domes"
Have the children review the illustrations in the book to note the architecture featured. Pay particular attention to the "onion domes" of the large city buildings. Show children pictures of the Kremlin in Moscow, and the White House in Washington, D.C. How do the two structures compare in appearance? Ask children if they think they can spot the influence of such architecture in their own community. (Often, Russian Orthodox churches will feature such influence.) Take a walk to notice what other types of architecture are most prevalent in your community. If possible, invite an architect or architectural student to accompany you, or take photos of various buildings, and prepare a list of questions (regarding the features of local architecture and the "onion domes" of Russia and the Ukraine) to pose to your guest at a later date. Also, if your class has a "block corner," provide children with empty paper towel or empty tissue paper rolls and clay and challenge them to incorporate "onion domes" into their block buildings.
Research to discover different ways to decorate egg shells. Visit a local craft store and begin experimenting with various media and techniques (e.g., commercial egg-dying kits, paints, markers, decoupage, etc.). Students who are used to decorating Easter eggs can help those who aren't. Allow each child a chance to decorate a number of eggs. Create an "egg-tree" by having them glue ribbons to the ends of the eggs and hanging their creations on bare branches (available from craft stores, or gleaned from the ground in parks) which have been placed in soil or sand in flower pots. To complete egg trees, tie a ribbon on the end of each branch.
Noting Nature's Wonders
In Rechenka's Eggs, part of the charm of the main character, Babushka, is that she takes time to notice "miracles" or unexplainable events that someone else might easily take for granted, while part of the charm of the story line is that Babushka responds to all of these events - whether fact or fantasy - with the same sense of wonderment. Provide each student with one copy of the Rechenka's Eggs Activity Sheet printable. Then, have children reread the book in order to record each "miracle" Babushka notices (e.g., the caribou visit, Rechenka's eggs for the festival, caribou mothers and calves, Rechenka's gosling). Have children discuss whether they would classify these happenings as Babushka does, as "miracles." Have the children also discuss whether each natural occurrence would be likely to happen where they live. Then, have the children think of their own surroundings and jot in some natural "miracles" that occur in their own environment.