Saturday, February 13, 2010

The World of Geography

As a college student in Utah I was shocked by how many of my fellow students were uncertain about the location of my home state, Oregon. I frequently heard, “is that the state north of California, or is it up by Canada? “ I guess I can’t really blame them, until a couple of years ago I only had a vague notion about the location of many states, and my understanding of latitude and longitude was a little fuzzy. Rote memorization is a big no-no in our house so I’ve found some other fun ways for the kids (and myself) to learn geography.

We stumbled on our first game by accident. One summer the boys developed a bit of an obsession with finding out-of-state license plates. Everywhere we went they searched for vehicles from far- away places. They needed a way to keep track of which states they had found so I printed off a map of the United States for each of them, and then when they found a state they would color it in. It didn’t take them long to realize that the smaller a state is and the farther away, the harder it is to find! (We did eventually find the elusive Hawaii and Rhode Island plates!)

My boys also like to collect state quarters. I got them each a map to display their collections. Not only have they pored over the maps countless times, checking to see which ones are still missing but they’ve learned a little bit about each state based on the engravings. I’ve found that learning about a place is the very best way to remember its location.

We talked about the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock and then we looked at the outcropping of Massachusetts, making it easier to remember which state it is. We’ve talk about being able to see the Statue of Liberty from both New York and New Jersey, about Mississippi being next to the Mississippi river and about the Pioneers traveling across the Missouri River. Small, simple amounts of information give the names of places meaning and improve recollection. Sometimes we can’t think of a good bit of information to “hook” a state name on, then we try to remember something about the shape of the state. We used to confuse Indiana and Illinois until we decided Illinois looked like a swollen nose, which reminded us of “ill”.

Our favorite geography games are the “10 Days” series. There is a different game for each continent; the object of the game is to collect 10 country cards that you can place in the right order to take a 10 day journey. As each card is drawn we study the map to find its location and see if we can work it into our game strategy. Often when we’re done playing the game the kids like to just play with the cards, planning out all kinds of long exotic trips across the planet.

Another favorite in our house is a game we like to call, “Where in the World is Uncle Ryan?” My brother, Ryan, travels extensively and it’s always fun to look up his location on the map, learn something about where he is, and hear about his adventures when he gets back. Even if you don’t have an immediate family member who travels, friends, neighbors, and missionaries are excellent sources of information about different places around the world. Geography is literally all around us. Now that it has become more than a memorization exercise, it is one of our families’ favorite subjects!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

H Day: Houses, Hands, Hearts, and Hugs

Today we went to Suzy's house for H day. She made these cute little H books for the boys to color and give to their daddy's. It had the lyrics to the song I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home, printed out with cute pictures to go with that the boys got to color. The song has lots of good H words in it that she pointed out along the way. Home, hands, name a few. And the boys were able to look at the words and pick out big and little H's.

After that, Suzy brought out a really cool set up of the song The Wise Man and the Fool Man. She had a paper house set up in a bucket of sand, and a paper house taped to a rock (which she put in the bucket after we were done with the sand part). She had filled an empty soy sauce bottle with water, and she let the boys take turns pouring "rain" onto the houses while we sang the song. Both boys thought that was a blast. Anything to do with water usually catches Scientist's attention, especially if he gets to splash it around. :)

The last activity was an instant hit because it had to do with building and with marshmallows. :) We helped the boys construct houses out of toothpicks and marchmallows. They loved it, and were even willing to have the help. Their favorite part of course was eating the marshmallows, which we made them wait to do until after we'd taken a picture. :)

Scientist's marshmallow house

Scientist was being kind of a stinker the whole day (except when he got excited about what we were doing) and wouldn't smile (or even look) for the picture.

All in all it was a fun day for letters. I have really enjoyed doing this every week with Suzy. It's always fun to see what she comes up with, and I think the variety makes it that much more fun for the kids too. I have "I" next week, cross your fingers for me to come up with something...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

G Day: Goats Gruff, Grain, and Glitter Glue

Today was G Day.I decided to do a goat theme. I introduced the boys to goats by playing the song Bill Grogan's Goat off of the Silly Songs CD. Then I read them the story The Three Billy Goats Gruff. In an effort to save time, I made them each a set of stick puppets beforehand. I found the pattern online here. Since I didn't have craft sticks, straws worked nicely. So everytime I talked about one of the characters in the story, I had them hold up the character I was talking about. They seemed to like this, although they had a little bit of a hard time keeping their goats straight. Scientist's favorite part seemed to be the end. When he retold the story to Uncle Kyle later, he skipped straight to the part where the troll on the bridge gets pushed into the water and makes a big splash. Forget the goats, it was all about the troll and the bridge for him. :)

After our story we all went into the kitchen for some creative art. I had printed out a picture of a goat for each of them. I found those just doing a google search for goat coloring pages. Then I got out three different kinds of grain: oatmeal, rice, and corn kernels. Each boy got a glue stick, and the objective was to glue the grain onto the goat to decorate it. Well, the glue sticks didn't work as well as I'd hoped, and my regular Elmer's Glue was in the room where Sponge was taking a nap. So, we improvised. Scientist and I have been making Valentines, so the glitter glue was still out in the kitchen. We decided to use that. The goat glueing grain project didn't turn out quite how I had envisioned it. Scientist's kind of ended up a big sticky mess. But that's ok. It was still fun.