Objects representing Polish culture
December 1, 2014 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Our 6 year old needs to bring in a picture or non-food object that represents the culture of her ancestors. We've decided on a Polish theme from a mixed bag of ancestry her biological self represents.

My household did not identify with Polish culture although we do have a Polish name. We were raised in small town USA and did not have grandparents or other elders who could have familiarized us with our ancestry. My parents were like those from the Wonder Years, pretty darn American vanilla. Doing some internet searching it seems religion is a strong force in Poland, or at least was in recent history, but I would rather not go in that direction since we are decidedly not religious. She will need to provide a short presentation describing the object and why it represents the culture, so something appropriate for first graders is needed. I though of Chopin, but seriously, what does a 6 year old say about Chopin? Food would be way easy but is off the table.
posted by waving to Education (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here is a video, it was Poland's entry for Eurovision and it makes fun of all the Slavic stereotypes.

The one thing I think that's prominent are the Polish fabrics.

Or a butter churn.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 AM on December 1, 2014

Willow switch for Dyngus Day?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:34 AM on December 1, 2014

My very Polish grandparents always had Pisanka (elaborately decorated Easter eggs) on display around the house. Could be an age-appropriate project for a 6-year-old.
posted by jeffjon at 6:37 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

(Can be non-food, BTW -- many were painted wood as I recall.)
posted by jeffjon at 6:38 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, you could sort of refuse to play along with this 'return to the Olde Country' schtick. Your family has been in the US for at least a few generations? Then portray one of those after-immigration ancestors, and something about their lives.

Or another alternative: something from one of her other family lines.
posted by easily confused at 6:42 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

You said you prefer not to do religious stuff, but the Black Madonna of Częstochowa is most definitely Polish and also has that excellent story of the robbers who attacked the painting and fell down dead which is the kind of thing that I, as a 6yo, would have eaten with a spoon.
posted by theweasel at 6:46 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing Pisanka. It's also a pity that Polish food is off the table, because bringing in pierogi would be pretty great.

Actually, I think Chopin would be adorable and totally six year old appropriate. I remember definitely being interested in Important People In History around that age, and This Guy Was A Famous Composer And Also Polish sounds about right.

Actually, even if you don't go with Chopin, music could be a good path to go down. Should be pretty easy to find out what Polish folk music sounds like, if there are any interesting Polish musical instruments, if there's a current band or pop group with some connection to Poland, etc.

Sadly, the second thing that came to mind after Pierogi is the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski, but that does feel pretty inappropriate for six year olds.

What is your particular six year old into? That always seemed to heavily inform projects like this when I was a kid. You'd always have the kid who was super into sports doing a project about Pele, the kid who wanted to be a ballerina doing a project about the Bolshoi, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 6:58 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Came in to say Dyngus Day, will now casually moonwalk out.

You could also do something related to Casimir Pulaski, whose holiday is the BEST holiday.

When I think Polish, I think polka, but maybe that's just Chicago Polish. Anyway, accordions.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:59 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you want to go the "famous people" route, there's Marie Curie, as well. She was born and lived in Poland through university, at least. If anyone in the family has any X-rays, that could be a fun tie-in.
posted by jaguar at 7:13 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I think Polish, I think polka, but maybe that's just Chicago Polish.

This is a good point. My father and maternal grandmother were Jews from Poland and to me there is a huge cultural difference between "Polish stuff" and "Jewish Polish stuff." (eg, Chopin vs. Klezmer.) Personally, I think it would be more meaningful for your daughter if you narrow down your choices a little. If your Polish roots aren't Jewish, since you're already a few generations removed from Poland I actually love the idea of something also strongly associated with American-Polish culture like Polka. (Too bad Lawrence Welk wasn't Polish or she could bring in bubbles!)

Of course, if you want to be especially (ahem) meta, there's always the fully awesome Joseph Conrad.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:53 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel your kid's pain; I also have a little bit of Polish ancestry amongst the mix and had to do a similar project and there wan't a whole hell of a lot.

The Black Madonna listed above is A Thing, though - but the other thing that leapt to mind was the Solidarnosc movement, because I remember that being huuuuuuuuuge while it was going on, even HERE. (One of the reasons my Dad loved the show WKRP IN CINCINNATI so much was because they switched Johnny Fever out of rock band t-shirts to Solidarnosc t-shirts for a solid year as a silent show of support.) I realize that may be a bit of a heady thing for a six-year-old to talk about, but could be dispatched quite simply with a Solidarnosc poster or t-shirt, and have him say that it was a bunch of people who got together and decided to change the way the government did things - and that eight years later, one of the guys who started it became President.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on December 1, 2014

I second Casimir Pulaski. he has a federal building and a memorial in DC and it amused my law school classmates that I knew who he was because no-one else did, but then I'm a Chicago girl whose paternal grandparents spoke Polish at home. I'd bring in a toy horse as the object.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:19 AM on December 1, 2014

Nthing polka. If you don't own an accordion, you could download yourself some Frankie Yankovic or Eddie Blazoncyk. Growing up in Wisconsin, our elementary school teacher actually taught us to polka when we were seven and we all loved it so much that we independently turned my 8-year-old birthday party into a polka party.
posted by dr. boludo at 8:22 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Chopin is pretty neat. Also, there is the tale of the Mermaid of Warsaw and the Dragon of Krakow.
posted by jillithd at 8:39 AM on December 1, 2014

Good suggestions here. My ranking of your options: 1) Black Madonna 2) Solidarity 3) Casimir Pulaski.

All the rest assuming you are still in DC area: Take advantage of the proximity of the Polish Embassy and see if they have any give-aways-- most Cultural Attaches have a trove of little gifts to promote their nation's accomplishments. Also there must be some sort of Polish-American Foundation in the area (although I can't remember any, still it must be there). I also remember cool little "trading cards" of the Black Madonna being given out in Church, so you might see about getting one from a Polish Catholic Church-- again, in DC/Nova/MoCo there must be at least one somewhere. I would probably just show the card-- pass it around. Don't give them out lest you be seen to be religiously proselyting.
posted by seasparrow at 11:16 AM on December 1, 2014

Something to do with Copernicus? My Polish family are pretty proud of him and planets going around the sun is something nice and visual.
posted by kadia_a at 11:21 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also just remembered that Mount Vernon (George Washington's house) in Alexandria had some nice Casimir Pulaski exhibits. Sure to be something in the gift shop.
posted by seasparrow at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2014

How about Polish paper cutting crafts? They look a little like paper snowflakes and would be fun to make.
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2014

Response by poster: So many great ideas, thanks!! I will look into a few of them. This will be a great learning experience for me. I guess the schools do this kind of thing for a reason.
posted by waving at 4:46 PM on December 1, 2014

Came in here to say Copernicus, too. Planets, you can make a quadrant yourselves and figure out how to look at stars with it...
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 5:00 PM on December 1, 2014

what about taking polka, and go with what happens to it when it's in America for a while (like you guys are) and use a Weird Al polka? that could be a lot of fun
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:30 PM on December 1, 2014

How about Polish pottery or the patterns painted thereon -- it's very distinctive (and fun, I think).

From a different angle, there were a number of Poles involved in the American Revolution, including Tadeusz Kościuszko, so you might talk about their role in history too...

I am half Polish, fourth generation, from a family that tried very hard to Americanize, so I sympathize....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:27 PM on December 1, 2014

Weird Al's roots are Yugoslavian, so he seems like a strange choice for a presentation about Polish heritage. There's nothing especially Polish about polka itself, either.
posted by Sara C. at 7:47 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The opłatki is one of the few Polish-specific traditions my Grandma still keeps up:
Is it food? I mean, kinda, but not really.

You could bring in a screen door from your Polish submarine, if you like olde-timey ethnic bias.
posted by akgerber at 12:10 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Weird Al's roots are Yugoslavian, so he seems like a strange choice for a presentation about Polish heritage. There's nothing especially Polish about polka itself, either.

that was kind of my point, they are settling on polish, but there's nothing particularly polish about them either, so it kind of fits

posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:57 PM on December 4, 2014

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