What is geography? Geography encompasses a wide variety of studies, but simply put, it is the study of the earth and its people. This issue’s column will take a look at some simple yet creative ways to study the physical earth and all its God-given splendor. So don your explorer cap, and let’s trek into the wonderful world of geography!
Wall Map Travelaganza
Wall maps bring geography up close and personal. If you have the space, keep them up all year round. You’ll be amazed to see how much knowledge your children will soak up through simple exposure day in and day out.
Laminated United States and world maps can be found at most office supply stores or online. Maps of biblical lands are a great way to become more familiar with Jesus’s life and travels or provide a nice visual to follow along with Paul on his missionary journeys. To take things a step further, use dry-erase markers to make your mark on the world using some of the ideas below.
Airplane Travel Games
Pilot your own personalized miniature airplanes and travel across the country or around the world! Build a fleet for your family by drawing simple outlines of planes on poster board, then cutting them out and personalizing them. Using a glue stick or sticky tack, equip your planes with landing gear for smooth landings. You can play several games using your fleet:
- Latitude + Longitude = Location: Introduce your children to the terms latitude and longitude, prime meridian, and equator. Now demonstrate how to pinpoint a location using latitude and longitude coordinates on the map. Finally, call out coordinates and let your young pilots fly their planes and land on the mystery location. Or call out a specific location and see if your children can find its coordinates.
- Where in the World Am I?: Choose a city, state or country. Give your children clues, getting more specific as you go. Students can mark maps as they progress through the clues until they are able to pinpoint where in the world you are.
- Capital Idea!: Call out the name of a capital city and see how fast your kids can fly their planes to the correct state or country. For a twist on this activity, name a famous landmark, body of water, battleground, or biblical event for a little mix of history, geography, and Bible study.
Rivers are fascinating. Throughout the world, great rivers like the Seine, the Thames, the Amazon, the Nile, and many more provide people with food, transportation, water for irrigation, fuel for energy, and sheer beauty. Students can trace the paths of these famous rivers using blue dry erase markers while considering the following:
- Compare and contrast lengths and widths, number of major cities and landmarks along the way, direction of flow, etc.
- Mark the source and mouth of each river.
Country, Culture, and Cuisine
One of the best ways to learn about another country is to immerse yourself in its culture. We have often spent the summer months studying a single foreign country. We begin by studying a map of the country to get a sense of its size, land characteristics, and location in the world. Follow up with a variety of activities that suit your family’s interests:
- Make a salt-dough map and label it with capital and major cities, mountains, bodies of water, etc.
- Study the country’s primary language.
- Celebrate the country’s major holidays.
- Cook and eat the country’s traditional food.
- Watch movies from or about the country.
- Read books about the country and its people.
Landforms are the physical features that make up Earth’s surface. The major landforms are mountains, hills, valleys, deserts, plateaus, plains, buttes, canyons, and basins.
Build the Landforms
Get up close and personal with landforms. Using salt dough, build landforms; then paint and label them with interesting facts, figures, and measures.
Landform Memory Game
- Memory games are some of the easiest activities to create. In fact, creating these games is a great learning tool in itself!
- Draw illustrations of a variety of landforms (general, such as “mountain” and “valley,” or specific, such as “Bryce Canyon”) on index cards and create matching cards with facts and figures, location, or trivia.
- Print the names or draw illustrations of landforms (again general or specific) and other related vocabulary words, such as “erosion” and “wind,” and create matching definition cards.
Go Loco for Local Geography
Do you live near a famous landmark such as the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, the mighty Mississippi River, the Shenandoah Valley, or the Rocky Mountains? Make the most of your location and study these wonders up close—let students photograph, sketch, and write about them in nature journals.
You can explore local geography with other activities as well.
Scout out some hands-on geography fun and teach your children the art of finding their way using a compass. If you were a Boy or Girl Scout growing up, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Don’t worry if you don’t have a compass. You can purchase a simple compass online, at outdoor recreation supply stores such as Cabela’s, or even at your local Walmart.
Children will need to understand the concepts of left and right, the names and functions of the different parts of the compass, and how these work together before conquering navigation. Once they know how to read a compass, play games to reinforce their skills. Create a homemade treasure hunt, or visit blog.eurekatent.com for outdoor recreation and compass games (search the site for “compass” and you’ll get loads of results).
In this fast-paced, technologically advanced age we live in, bring your students up to speed with a little digital trekking.
When you travel, show your children how to navigate using a Global Positioning System or GPS in your car or on your smartphone.
The root word geo means earth or ground, and a cache is a hiding place; therefore, a geocache is a hiding place on Earth. Geocaching is a great BIG treasure-hunting activity with treasures hidden all over the world and millions of participants looking for them. And it’s really easy to get started—Geocaching.com will introduce your family to one of the greatest adventures ever.
Using a handheld GPS or a GPS app on your smartphone, simply plug in the GPS coordinates for a specific cache or treasure, travel to the general location, and start exploring until you find the treasure.
Caches are usually wooden or plastic containers with gifts or trinkets inside. Some caches have a single surprise, while others have multiple items. You can also record your discovery in a logbook. Ideally, participants will take one item from the cache and leave another item in its place. Some caches even hold special items referred to as trackables—these items contain a printed code that allows them to be “tracked” from cache to cache, sometimes even with the hopes that they will travel to a foreign country. Wow!
Challenge your young scholars to piece together continents and individual countries. You can draw simple outlines and borders or print out more detailed maps from online sites such as National Geographic Education.
Explore Geography with Brainteasers
Increase your students’ familiarity with geography terms and concepts with homemade crossword puzzles, word finds, and games such as Twenty Questions. Or how about a rousing game of Geo Jeopardy?
Karen Doll and her husband, David, enjoy country life in eastern Pennsylvania. They homeschooled their children, Emily and Jeremy, from preschool through high school. Karen is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about homeschooling and chicken-keeping, as well as sharing healthy recipes and stories about country life, on her blog, Mamabirdy’s Country Chat. Stop by for a visit at karenadoll.blogspot.com.