One aspect of geography we have recently been discussing is the concept of, "Where I Live." I have noticed over the years that this topic naturally arises around Columbus Day because the children are curious about why we do not have school on this particular day. Their interest is piqued the moment they find out Christopher Columbus was an explorer who set sail across the ocean and discovered a "new land." It is the ideal time to introduce the elements of the earth and their relation to our own lives and where we live.
After talking about the earth and the globe and naming the continents, we discussed the United States, in particular, the State of Maine where we live. This can be quite a confusing concept for young learners and it is my hope the following activity helps solidify these ideas, setting the stage for future learning in geography and culture. The following activity is one I read about at My Montessori Journey a couple of years ago which I have adapted to meet the needs in our classroom.
First, I held up the colored globe and made sure the children understood that it is a model of Earth. Then, I revealed the first of five mini-posters, which I made using simple pictures from Clip-Art, the first one depicting a globe. I explained that the globe in the picture has different colors than the globe in our classroom, but that they both represent the Earth. While holding the poster, I sang, (to the tune of 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands') "I live on the planet Earth (3x), On the planet Earth!"
Next, I pointed out North America on the globe and showed its corresponding piece from our Puzzle Map of the World. The children were sweetly forgiving when I explained I could not find an orange North America on my computer and had to use a blue one instead for our poster. Also, I reminded the kids about Columbus and pointed out where spotted land and set foot. We sang, "I live on the continent of North America..."
Next, I explained how the United States is a part of North America and referred to our classroom's flag of the United States. Then, I displayed the poster with the United States outline and we sang, "I live in the United States.... In the United States!"
I asked the children why we call our country, "The United States." I used prompts such as, "Do you think there is just one State or more than one?" We talked about how there are many States which make up our country and the one where we live is called Maine. I showed our State from the U.S. Puzzle Map along with the flag and poster. We sang, "I live in the State of Maine..."
Next, I explained to the children that while we all live in the same State, we might live in different towns and I helped the children name the town in which they live. I showed the poster of the town of Ellsworth, where our school is located, and talked about how we all go to school in the same town. Then, we sang, "We go to school in the town of Ellsworth..."
Lastly, we repeated each verse of the song while I held up the posters for the children to see. Then, I placed them in a basket which we placed on a shelf for the children to use by themselves. Also, they are able to gather the puzzle pieces and other items for the song if they choose to do so. It is my hope that by allowing the children to gather these items by themselves (and not already in the basket with the posters), they will have greater opportunities for movement in the classroom while building meaningful connections with the materials.
The students in my classroom will gain a better understanding of their place in our world through this lesson. I feel it is important to spend time on this topic so that the children will be better able to understand world cultures and geography as we learn about them throughout the remainder of the year (and beyond!).