History of St. Patrick's Day

History of St. Patrick’s Day: A Free Unit Study

This unit study is intended to be used by elementary school-aged children, though my preschooler certainly enjoyed all of the activities right along with us. Check out these Ireland preschool activities if you want more for your littles.

If you just want the history of St. Patrick’s Day, check the free, printable packet for the History and the Fact Sheet pages. The unit study covers the geography, history, science, math, art and literature of St. Patrick’s Day — all taught in a delightful way your kiddos will devour!

We use this unit study to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in our homeschool every year, with minor variations, and my kiddos still aren’t sick of it. We usually take two or three afternoons during the week of St. Patrick’s Day to cover the material.

You can complete as much of this unit study or as little of it as you’d like. Please just use the materials in your own homeschool, though. You may only share a link to the materials here at my blog, with a short description. Don’t share the materials themselves or copy or alter any of the content.

The ‘Hisory of St. Patrick’s Day’ printables can be downloaded using the green button at the bottom of the post. We’re glad to have you join us!

History of St. Patrick’s Day

The third page of this unit study packet outlines the history of St. Patrick and St. Patrick’s Day. The fourth page is a list of Key Facts and other interesting information.

  1. Read about the history of St. Patrick’s Day and the key facts in the unit study packet.
  2. Match the symbols of the St. Patrick’s Day to the descriptions of their history and significance.
  3. Choose one of these St. Patrick’s Day history videos to watch.
  4. See if you can name 2 other ‘missionaries’ who impacted the world similarly to St. Patrick.
  5. Learn more about the history of St. Patrick’s Day with this fun book: Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola.

Geography of Ireland

Understanding the geography of Ireland will help you to understand the history of St. Patrick’s Day. This unit study contains 2 black line maps of Ireland, one with all the counties labeled and the other without. The third map shows you where Ireland fits into Europe, along with all the country boundaries and bodies of water. You’ll need the printed maps and a box of crayons to complete this activity.

  1. On the less detailed map, draw a line separating Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom) from the Republic of Ireland. Label both portions.
  2. Mark Dublin and Belfast, each with a red star, then color both portions different colors.
  3. Label and color the bodies of water surrounding Ireland.
  4. Google how Ireland compares to your own state in size.

Basic Ireland Map

Republic of Ireland Counties

Europe Map

History of St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day Science

You’ll need a set of prisms, white posterboard, and a flashlight for this activity. We’re going to learn about light and make beautiful rainbows in our very own kitchens!

This prism set is fabulous, because the differently shaped prisms will help your kiddos better understand refraction. Prisms work by bending, or refracting, the light that hits them. There are several simple experiments you can do to show examples of this refraction.

  1. Lay the white posterboard on your kitchen table and shine the flashlight through the triangular prism like this: St. Patrick's Day science experiment
  2. Explain that white light (regular, everyday light) is comprised of all the other colors of light. Each of them has a different wavelength, from red at 700 nm to violet at 400 nm. The varying wavelengths causes the light to bend at a different angle, causing white light to separate into a rainbow of colored light, ranging from the longest wavelength to the shortest wavelength. Note the order of colors: ROY G. BIV. The physics of color is tremendously interesting and could be explored in much greater depth if your kiddos want to go further! But for now, we’re just experimenting with refraction.
  3. Now try to recreate Isaac Newton’s famous prism experiment by adding a second prism. Line them up carefully, so that the rainbow produced by the first prism hits the second prism. Place the white surface behind the second prism so that light will hit it. You’ll find that the second prism refracts the light again, combining the colors of the rainbow back into white light.
  4. Write your name in fairly large, dark letters on a piece of white paper. Hold a small, triangular prism a short distance over the paper. Looking through the prism, you should be able to read the words on the paper, but they’ll seem to be in a different location on the paper. Use a protractor to measure the angle by which the words have been refracted. Try again with a different prism and see if you can figure out how the prisms shape and size affects the angle of refraction.

St. Patrick’s Day Math

Have some St. Patrick’s Day fun with this real-life math application! You will need a box of rainbow cereal, the printables, paper and pencil and a box of crayons. Hand each of your kiddos a cup of cereal pieces. If you want to keep the fractions/decimals simple for younger kids, count out 50 pieces per cup. Random numbers of cereal pieces will challenge your child more.

Your kiddos will have fun with this Fruit Loops frequency graph, tally marks and fractions. The printables to play these games are included with the free printable packet (find the green button to download the printables).

Your younger kiddos will have fun sorting cereal pieces by color, recording the number of each color on the chart, and creating a pie graph. Older students can decipher fractions, decimals and percents. Just focus on one skill at a time, and you’ll have all kinds of great math discussions with this activity.

Edible Rainbow Art to Celebrate the History of St. Patrick’s Day

Use the fruit loops from the math activity you completed to make edible rainbows (in the correct light color order, of course!), using white marshmallows  or cotton candy as the clouds on each end. Rainbows really have nothing to do with the history of St. Patrick’s Day, I know. But this is a fun project anyway.

History of St. Patrick's Day
Edible art always goes over well with the kiddos, and I like that it was easy, no-prep, and pretty much no mess!

Literature About the History of St. Patrick’s Day

Learn more about the history of St. Patrick’s Day with this fun book: Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola. The book includes some legends along with the facts. It would be fun to have a literary discussion based on facts vs. myths, and they reasons myths are begun and perpetuated.

Speaking of legends and myths, Fin M’Coul: Giant of Knockmany Hill is set in Ireland. Fin spends his days moving huge stones to build a causeway (the famous Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim Coast) to Scotland. But one morning, he hears a rumor that Cucullin, the strongest giant in the land, is coming to find and fight him.

Fleeing home, Fin tells his wife of his worries.  But clever Oonagh the giantess has a masterful plan to trick Cucullin and save her husband. This is a fun one to read in an Irish brogue.

Your kiddos will love both of these books and have a pretty good understanding of the history of St. Patrick’s Day once you’ve finished them.

St. Patrick’s Day Unit Study Writing — How to Write a Limerick

What would a Unit Study about the history of St Patrick’s Day be without a limerick?

Limericks are short, funny, rhyming poems with a bouncy rhythm that makes them easy to memorize. Like all poems, limericks have a poetic form you need to follow. The rules for a limerick are simple:

  • They are 5 lines long.
  • Lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyme with each other and have 3 ‘beats’ (7-10 syllables).
  • Lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other and have 2 ‘beats’ (5-7 syllables).
  • They are usually silly.

It helps to think of the word AABBA. The A lines rhyme with each other and have 3 beats. The B lines rhyme with each other and have two beats.

Clap the bolded words while you read this limerick by Edward Lear:

There was an old man with a beard.
Who said ‘It is just as I feared!
Two owls and a hen,
Four larks and a wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

It’s your turn! Let’s build your poem the easy way. Write lines 1, 2 and 5 first.

  1. There once was a man from ______________. (Think of a two syllable place)
  2. Look up words that rhyme with the place you chose above and write line 2.
  3. Now write line 5. Make it rhyme with lines 1 and 2. Make sure it’s silly!
  4. Now think up lines 3 and 4. They should be shorter and rhyme.
  5. Go ahead and change your words if it improves your poem.
  6. Remember that it will be hard at first, but it gets easier!

We decided to make our man from New York. The first rhyming words we thought up were pork and stork. So it was pretty easy to come up with:

There once was a man from New York.
He cried when he had to eat pork.
Something about the stork.

Then we though he would cry if his wife ate his pork, because she was eating for two while awaiting the stork. And she probably ate everything else, too, since our guy is crying over it.

And our limerick became:

There once was a man from New York.
Who cried when his wife ate his pork.
And his steak and his pie
And his pudding, oh my!
For she was awaiting the stork.

So that’s the basic process. I’d love to hear the funny limerick’s you come up with in the comments below!


Get your free History of St. Patrick’s Day printables

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***I love creating these unit studies free of charge to bless other homeschools, but please don’t modify, copy, reproduce, sell, or distribute any of this content in any manner or medium without my explicit permission. You may post links to this unit study at my blog, Orison Orchards, as long as due credit is given and no content is copied.

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  1. Wow! You shared so many helpful resources to celebrate in this post! That rainbow craft is so cute!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      Thanks, Emily! It’s a lot of fun to share the History of St. Patrick’s Day with my own wee folk!

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      Thanks so much, Annette! I appreciate your feedback!

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