Do you have a science-crazy kid? I do! Has your student discovered biographies? Mine too! Did you scour the internet looking for fun Marie Curie activities? Me too!

If you were also frustrated to discover that there is a sad lack of fun activities celebrating the first woman to win a Nobel prize…then you and I might become Homeschooling Best Friends.


Marie Curie Homeschool Unit Study

Don’t get me wrong, I think that Lap Books are great options for a shorter book report in later grades.

If you’re looking for something in the K-2nd grade level though, I’m usually thinking of enrichment activities that build information through food, art, science, and more.

So, I did what most parents do when they can’t find it…they build it.

Who was Marie Curie?

First off, why Marie Curie? Well, beyond her incredible scientific discoveries, there is the fact that she was a trailblazer for women.

Marie won the Nobel Prize, the first female to win and the first person to win two times. The work she had undertaken with her husband Pierre led to the discoveries of polonium and radium and later developed the ray spectroscopy after Pierre was dead.

The renowned scientist died in 1930 of aplastic anemia, allegedly from radiation exposure.

Books and Shows

There is a wealth of great books on Marie Curie for older kids, but my favorite for this age group is the “Who is Marie Curie” and the complimentary Xavier Riddle episode. These are hands-down, the best biographies for kids in my opinion.

Find a comprehensive overview of Marie Curie at You’ll need to create a free account to log in.

If your local library doesn’t have the series, here is a link to the author Brad Meltzer, reading the book. Pretty fantastic storytime series!

Hands-on History Activities

We work to bring history alive in our house, which is admittedly more challenging for this age group. Concepts of years before they were born can be a little tricky.

Rather than memorize dates, we use activities. Because her parents were teachers, Marie was blessed with a love of learning at an early age. But, when she wanted to study at the university, she wasn’t allowed.

The Flying University

Instead, she joined Flying University. A secret school for girls before women could go to school openly. The school had to move around, constantly changing locations to ensure that it was never found out.

For this activity, we created a sign and moved our lessons each day from one room to the next. It’s not convenient, but that’s really the point.

Talk about how challenging it must have been, without text messages and cell phones, how would you know where to go? You could never leave your supplies out and set up. Was there a secret knock?

Talk about how unfair it was for women not to be allowed to get an education and how brave it was for these women and the men who supported them to break the rules.

Create Little Curies

During World War 1, Marie created mobile X-ray machines to take to the front. She’s credited with saving thousands of men from having their legs amputated.

Take a cardboard box (less than $1.00 at Home Depot) or a wagon or basket will do. Have the kids color the box or make an ambulance sign, and drive their “Little Curie” to their stuffed animals and toys to conduct an X-Ray.

Consider finding some animal x-rays online and printing them out.

Marie Curie Unit Study Science Activities

Obviously, no unit study would be complete without science activities. Rather than overcomplicate it, make science fun and easily completed.

I don’t know about you, but if it’s huge and messy, requiring massive amounts of prep and materials, it’s not likely to be completed. Instead, just have fun.

Scientific Research

If you haven’t already, introduce the Scientific Method. Emphasize that the focus is not only about asking questions but about asking a specific question that can be answered with a guess.

After that is checked, you can ask a new question as a result, continue to question, verify the result and try again.

Physics Balloon Run

If you’ve never tried the balloon run, get ready for some giggles. Tie a string between two objects, we used two chairs. Create an uphill slope and put a straw on the string prior to tieing it up.

Blow up a balloon and use a clothespin to hold the air in rather than tie the end. Use masking tape to secure it to the straw then release the clothespin.

Chemical Reactions

While you might not win a Nobel prize in chemistry for blowing up a balloon, you could have a lot of fun watching the chemical reaction that happens when baking soda and vinegar mix. Use a small funnel to add baking soda to a balloon. Place the balloon over the mouth of a water bottle with vinegar in it and watch the gas that results fill a balloon.

Lemon Alternative

For a fun citrusy twist, create a lemon volcano by adding a drop of food coloring and some baking soda to a slice in the lemon. The acid from the lemon will interact with the baking soda in a similar manner, creating a lemon volcano.

Easy Density Experiment

One of the problems we have as adults is that we tend to overcomplicate things. Keep it simple with fun density experiments. Compare and contrast how salt affects water. The easiet option? Add 3 Tablespoons salt to half a glass of water.

Have a second glass with no salt and compare how an egg floats in the salt water, but not in the freshwater.

Add in a STEM challenge by offering up supplies such as tinfoil, popsicle sticks, lids, and other everyday items. Challenge your student to plan and then build a boat that can float with 10 pennies for 10 seconds.

Geography Activities for Poland

Marie moved to Paris to attend the university there that welcomed women, however, she was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland. Curie was born Maria Sklodowska on November 7, 1867, the youngest of five children.

We know that she never lost her love of her homeland, as she named one of the new elements she discovered, Polonium, after her native country. Consider studying Poland in some hands-on activities.

Polish Children’s Authors

It was hard trying to find a book about Poland that didn’t focus on the Holocaust. While this is essential history, I didn’t want it to be the focus of our unit study, as Poland is so much more than that tragedy. Not to mention that it had not occurred yet when Marie was growing up in Poland.

Instead, we did touch on the Holocaust when we learned about “another important historical Polish person.” I always like to add depth to our studies by touching briefly about another person from the same culture. In this case, it was Irene Sendler, who is credited with saving over 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto that they were imprisoned in during the war.

For our literature, we found a fantastic classic children’s author, Julian Tuwim.

We also found an absolutely dazzling contemporary non-fiction book by Polish Author Piotr Socha. Yes, it’s about the history of bees, which really has nothing to do with Marie Curie. However, it is from a Polish author and Marie Curie did love nature, so sort of a stretch, but you’ll be dazzled by the book.

Polish Recipes

One of our favorite ways to learn about other cultures is through their food. This leads to conversations about how cultures were built around the resources that were available to them locally.

For Poland, we found a wonderful book, The Sugared Orange, and a website that houses delicious-looking recipes to explore.

We looked through The Sugared Orange and talked about how Marie spent three years working as a governess and perhaps enjoyed some of these same recipes in the countryside before she returned to Warsaw.

Blueberry Pierogis and Sugared Oranges

We tried the more traditional savory pierogis and these dessert ones. Hands down winner, the blueberry! It’s like a mini pie, who wouldn’t love that?

Note: The sugared oranges definitely need the sweetest oranges you can find and the extra time to scrape as much pith off as possible. Otherwise, they’ll be bitter. If you take the time to do so, you won’t be disappointed.

Chicken Barley Soup

The barley soup really benefits from taking the time to make stock beforehand. Creating a rich and savory broth stuffed full of vegetables, this soup might become a regular on your menu.

If you need inspiration, ensure that you spend some time on thepolonist.

Including Art in Your Studies

You can go in several different directions when you are considering what art to include. Depending on the age and interests of your students.

Folk Art

Enrich your Polish studies by studying the beauty of folk art flowers, painted polish eggs, or create a folk art option of their favorite (dinosaur, fox, mermaid, etc.) Folk art is most often recognizable for its repetition of patterns. You could spend an entire lesson simply exploring Polish folk art.

We chose to include some projects from our Woodland Art Unit, tying it into Poland’s wooded landscape. For this unit, we happened to be completing it in spring, so it tied in perfectly with the beautiful folk art Easter Bunny art project we created.

Glow in the Dark Art

Alternatively, create a glow-in-the-dark atom in honor of Marie’s discovery of radium, a glowing mineral. We completed glow-in-the-dark leaves. You could also consider painting a Little Curie, mobile X-ray unit. Simple vintage truck style.

A sweet alternative is a bicycle, after talking about how Marie and Pierre took their honeymoon via bicycle in the country outside of Paris.

Nobel Prize and Science Crafts

And of course, creating a Nobel Prize and discussing how Marie became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry and physics. We also created a 3-D atom craft with bright pom-poms.

Make a point to talk about how people didn’t understand the dangers of exposure to radiation, so they used it for many things from painting watches to their teeth for costumes.

Some people even drank it as there was a lack of understanding about radioactive material.

Hands-On Literacy

Much of your literacy choices are going to be dependent on your student’s current level. The literacy activities included in the science bundle offer clip cards, letter matches, sight word builders, letter combination games, writing prompts, and more. Preview the bundle here.

Literature Games with Bright Pencils

Personalize the Templates

Most of the activities include blank templates to ensure you can customize them for your student’s current studies.

We love to take our letter matches and put them at the bottom of a sensory bin. Although sensory bins are targeted to the pre-k crowd, I’d encourage you to give your students up through 1st grade a chance to play in one.

You might be pleasantly surprised at how engaging they find it.

Sensory Bin Filler Ideas

For our bin, we filled it with homemade glow-in-the-dark sand before rotating it out the second week with brightly colored pom-poms.

What you include in your unit study will depend on the goals you set at the beginning. For us, one of our goals was to learn that radioactive materials glow in the dark. Because people didn’t know about the dangers (Including Marie Curie herself) the materials were used for many everyday purposes.

For example, watch dials and even teeth were painted to create a glowing effect. Marie and Pierre even kept some in a jar next to their bed.

Hands-On Math

The math options are meant to be set up as centers, or supporting materials. Fun hands-on activities and games. It’s absolutely not necessary to include these in your unit studies. I find that they bring about a lot of engagement getting strewn about during the weeks we’re completing our studies.

Have Fun Studying Marie Curie

And there you have it. That’s how we study Marie Curie in 1st grade. Here’s some information to help you with your planning. Find free resources to include in our printables library or the entire unit study in our shop. (Coming Soon)

Here is some information to give you an overview and weave into your Marie Curie unit.

Early life and education

Maria Sklovodowska, also known as Marie Curie, was born in Warsaw in 1867. Curie was the youngest child amongst five siblings Zosief, Jozef, Bronya, and Hela. Both Curie’s parents taught school. Her dad, Wladyslaw, had been teaching mathematics in school.

At age 10 Curie lost her mother, Bronislawa, to tuberculosis. Curie stayed close to her father in her teenage years. Her imagination was bright and curious and her education was very good.

A Woman of Determination

Despite being denied access to the University in Warsaw, Marie and her sister Bronislawa were determined to earn degrees.

Marie stayed in Poland, working as a governess while she helped support her sister’s tuition at the Sorbonne in Paris.

After her sister graduated, Marie was able to come to Paris and study. Without much money, she studied while living in a small room with inadequate heat. In the winter she had to sleep underneath all of her clothes in an effort to stay warm.

Marie Curie Nobel Prize

In 1905 Marie Pierre received the Nobel Prize in physics along with her husband and Henri Becquerel for their separate combined research in radioactivity. The year the doctorate was finished Maria passed the physics dissertation.

Pierre was killed when he was hit with his bicycle in 1906, in an accident. She was nevertheless determined to continue their work and succeeded him in his chair at the Sorbonne, the University of Paris, as well as continuing to lecture where he had quit.

Work on Radioactivity and Discoveries

Her determination and exceptional efforts resulted subsequently in another 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemists’ Science. Having discovered two new elements, radium and polonium, she conducted groundbreaking work on radioactivity that still impacts our lives years later.

Death and legacy

In May 1934 the renowned scientist passed away at age 60 at the Sancillenmoz hospital at Passy in France. Her death was diagnosed with anemia. She had two daughters, Irene (1899) and Eve (1894).

Who Will You Study Next?

What is your next historical study going to be about? We’re excited to be studying Sacagawea next followed by Albert Einstein. Sign up for the newsletter to be notified when those unit studies launch.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for fun ways to bring art into your homeschool, explore the fun art lessons on the site. Either print out the directions or follow along with the videos.

Don’t Forget to Save This for Later

Easy 1st Grade Marie Curie Unit Study
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