Between traveling so much over the summer and moving to a new town this past fall, the younger Fives have spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out exactly where we are. So, last week in school the kid’s spent their time working on a geography project. I really wanted them to re-read Me on the Map, a wonderful book by Joan Sweeney that we read last year. Unfortunately our new library doesn’t carry Me on the Map so we decided to create our own personalized version of the book.
To begin their books each of the kids colored pictures of themselves and decorated the page with their age and a few details about things that they enjoy. Then they colored a picture of their current house labeled with their street address. The next page was a simple print-out of a map of our town on which they marked their house location. With each successive page of their books we took a step out from the town to the county, then onto the state level followed by the country, then continent, and finally ending with a map of the planet. The kids really enjoyed marking where they were on each map and including stickers and drawings that represented the geographic area that was being represented.
With their books finished we moved onto a roll-playing exercise that put their new geography skills to the test. Five String and myself would pretend to be different characters and while in character ask the kids to tell us our current location. The tricky part was that they had to use the verbal clues that we provided to figure out what geographic location would make the most sense to tell us. For example when we pretended to be aliens that made a wrong turn at Mars it didn’t make sense to tell us that we were in the state of Maine. Instead they needed to tell us the planet that we were on. Another example was when we pretended to be the local recycling collector. If the kids told us that we were in the United States that didn’t help us figure out where to go to pick up their recycling. They needed to tell us their street address. This exercise was fun as the kids got to laugh at our different characters and it encouraged them to use their newly made books.
Finally we brought technology into the mix and let the kids spend some time using Google Maps. We started by typing our address into the map search feature and looking at the satellite image of our house. Then the kids slowly moved out from the house naming the geographic area that they were looking at until the map of Earth filled the screen. We then reversed the exercise letting them zoom in on our location all the way back to street view.
By the end of the week the younger Fives understood each geographic location that is relevant to us. However, they still get confused which ones make the most sense to use in certain situations. With more practice they will figure out that when we are in Europe, for example, it makes more sense to tell people that we are from the United States rather then to tell them the name of our town or state (areas that many might not be familiar with). Until then we will keep practicing and Five String and myself will get to keep coming up with new zany characters looking for directions.