Although snow and sledding aren’t likely something you’re thinking about in the dog days of summer, planning for the upcoming school year might be, and the book Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan would make an excellent study in project-based learning for your family. The book was written in 1942 and still captivates 8-12 year olds today with its daring adventure of children smuggling gold past unsuspecting Nazi soldiers in occupied Norway.
Soon after the Germans invaded Poland, the Norwegians knew their country was also a target and sought to devise ways to protect their nation’s gold reserves from the invading Nazis. When the invasion happened soon after, they were ready. Many millions of dollars of the country’s gold had been quietly moved to a cave built of snow and ice in the remote countryside of Norway. Although it was now hidden, the Nazis were everywhere and the Norwegians needed a way to get the gold out of the country, to America, where it would be safe.
The children of families in the small village nearest the secret cave were tasked with smuggling the gold bars to a camouflaged ship in a nearby fjord that would be used to transport the gold to America. While they appeared to just be playing in the snow, these children were actually pulling loads of gold bars on their sleds, moving the gold little by little from the icy cave to the waiting ship.
The most amazing part of this saga is that it’s believed to be based on a true story. The details are sketchy, and World War II is a distant memory now for those who survived it, but some version of these events is believed to have actually happened. How much of the mission-planning was done by adults? Was it the children’s idea to smuggle the gold bars on their sleds? Think of the challenge they must have faced along their journey, and how they learned to perfect their plan as conditions changed. There is even mention of the kids distracting the Nazi soldiers with lighthearted snowball fights to they wouldn’t remember to inspect the contents of their sleds as they went by. Those children with their sleds were national heroes to Norway.
This book is a captivating and gripping read for kids, but also an instructive lesson to parents in the virtues of project-based learning. These Norwegian children were given a mission and found inventive and adaptive ways to accomplish their goal of moving tons of gold undetected. Sometimes a little creative genius goes a long way, and the lessons life teaches make more of an impact than those learned from the pages of a textbook.
About the Author: Jennifer Needham is an open-minded homeschooler and mom to five children. She enjoys discovering and reading amazing literature for homeschoolers with her kids. She also writes lesson plans for teaching homeschoolers about nutrition and healthy living, which you can find at her website, Nutrition for Healthy Kids.