Some Background Info
St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland and the Irish, born about 385 A.D. in Northern Wales. He studied religion in Europe to become a priest and bishop. He then brought Christianity to the Irish by teaching in Ireland for 29 years. According to early Irish tradition, he died on March 17, 461 AD. The anniversary of his death is celebrated as Saint Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick is most known around the world as driving all the snakes out of Ireland through trickery.
The symbol of shamrocks: An Irish tale tells of how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
Green is associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because it is the color of spring, Ireland, and the shamrock. However, this article from National Geographic points out that not all traditions – including wearing green – are observed in Ireland.
Today St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th by the Irish as well as many North Americans, with parades, parties, wearing of green, Irish songs and jigs.
Celebrate with your students by reading Irish folk tales. Ireland’s lush and forested landscapes create beautiful backdrops for many stories, including tales of fairies – oops, make that “the good people.” Apparently fairies don’t like to be called such.
Shamrock: Cut a shamrock from construction paper. Glue pieces of green variegated tissue paper or scraps of green paper on shamrock.
Variations: Decorate with crayons, felt-tipped pens, or paint. Cover shamrock with glue. Sprinkle with green glitter then remove excess.
Hearty Shamrock: Cut three hearts from green construction paper. Form shamrock by gluing points of hearts together on a piece of paper. Draw stem.
Shamrock Prints: Cut green bell peppers in half, clean out the seeds, dip the cut side into some paint, and press onto a piece of paper. Voila, shamrock prints!
Green Veggie/Fruit Snack: Prepare a snack using slices of fresh green vegetables. Use cabbage, cucumber, avocado, zucchini squash, green bell peppers, and lettuce. How many green fruits can your class name? Think: kiwi, honeydew melon, green apples, green grapes, papayas – bananas start out green!
Shamrock Shake: Blend 1 banana, 2 cups lime sherbet, and 2 cups milk.
Pot o’ Gold Rainbows: Materials needed: (per student) 1 graham cracker, 1 portion blue frosting, 1 mini Reese cup, 1 pack Skittles. Directions: Students spread frosting over graham cracker and place Skittles in the shape of a rainbow. Then place the Reese cup at the end of the rainbow
Baked Potatoes: bake a potato for each student and have them add garnishes such as green onion, bacon bits, sour cream, etc.
Potato Pancakes: Materials needed: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 medium potatoes, 2 tbs. melted butter, milk (You may want to adjust the amount according to your class size.) Directions: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Mix in potatoes and melted butter until well blended. Add milk if necessary to obtain a soft, manageable dough. Break off egg-sized pieces, and roll each piece until it is paper-thin. Cook on a hot, ungreased griddle until brown spots appear. Try eating with some sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top. Makes 6 pancakes. In Ireland, a potato pancake is often referred to as a “boxty.”
Growing “Shamrocks”: Cut shamrock from terry cloth. Moisten shamrock. Sprinkle with alfalfa seed. Keep moist. Set in dark place. Allow several days for shamrock to grow. Set in sunlight for shamrock to turn green.
Leprechaun traps: Collect junk from home (paper towel rolls, empty containers, tin foil, little boxes various shapes and sizes, cans, scrap paper, string, sandwich bags, etc.) Have students dig through all the junk and decide what they will need for their leprechaun trap. Students build their traps. (I’d give them a half a day to do this, and be prepared for a giant mess). Permit students to look through the junk as they need more items. About half way through the time that you give your students, gather back as a class and discuss the strategies that some students are using, ie: If the leprechaun comes in here…this will happen… Point out and try to encourage the use of force and motion. Ask students to set their traps right before they go home. Lock the doors when all of them have left, set each trap off and deposit a chocolate gold coin under it!
Display a map of Ireland and discuss: Ireland is an island. People who come from Ireland or whose ancestors came from Ireland are called Irish. An emerald is a precious stone which is green. Ireland is often called the “Emerald Isle” because it is so green with vegetation. The color green symbolizes Ireland and the Irish.
Distribute handfuls of Lucky Charms cereal to students and have them count, sort out, and identify the different shapes.
Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato, by Tomie dePaola
Saint Patrick and the Peddler, by Margaret Hodges
St. Patrick’s Day, by Gail Gibbons
St. Patrick’s Day In the Morning, by Eve Bunting
St. Patricks Day Shamrock Mystery, by Marion Markham
Story Of Saint Patrick, by James A. Janda
Tales Of St Patrick, by Eileen Dunlop
The Definitive St. Patrick’s Day Festivity Book, by Michael James Fallon, Michele Anne Murphy
Irish Night Before Christmas and A Leprechaun’s St. Patrick’s Day, by Sarah Kirwan Blazek
Jeremy Bean’s St. Patrick’s Day, by Alice Schertle