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The World on a String

The seventh-grade homeschooled students I tutor once a week for a program called Classical Conversations are learning to draw the entire world from memory this year — and label at least 200 countries, capitals and features. It’s no small feat! They’re halfway there, so I thought I’d give them this little memento to help keep up their momentum. I photocopied a world map onto 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper and cut it into half-inch horizontal strips, making sure I preserved one strip in particular with the words “The World” printed on it. I played with that strip to form a circle (secured by tape) that would neatly fit the inside diameter of the clear glass ornament. Then I curled each of the remaining strips around a pencil, smoothing the curl out a bit before pushing each strip individually into the ornament and inside the band formed by the first strip. Each time I pushed in a new strip, I shook the ornament and all of the strips naturally curled around each other to form a jumbled globe shape that I thought looked really fun. My handy husband shortened up and sharpened some Christmas pencils and drilled a hole through each one so that I could tie it on — along with a little jingle bell — with embroidery thread. I hope my students enjoy the ornaments. I liked them so much that I made one for our tree, too. 🙂

December 6, 2011   No Comments

A Half-Dozen Homeschooling Helps for … Geography

KellenMap (1)

KerrickMap (1)

“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected.”

—Reif Larsen

 

One of the absolutely amazing things I’ve watched my two oldest children accomplish over the past several years is to draw the entire world and label its significant places — much of it from memory! To commemorate this feat, they each created a themed masterpiece map — both of which we framed and hung on the wall in the hall outside their bedroom. In the photos above, Kellen’s map is the Hobbit-inspired piece on top (its title, “World Map,” and his name are written in Dwarvish), and Kerrick’s map below it — complete with a Duck Tape-wrapped frame — features a Justice League compass rose with superhero logos in the margins. When I said, “Make it your own!” they enthusiastically followed my instruction. 🙂

And, as another way to remember their efforts, I gave each of them one of the World on a String ornaments that I have traditionally made for many of my students. Geography is one of our favorite things to study, so it wasn’t easy to limit our list of resources to a half-dozen (and I might have thrown in a few extras!). 🙂

(1) A Sense of Direction. When you set out to draw the world, it’s helpful to know how you’re going to get there. 🙂 Because Kellen and Kerrick completed this task as students in Classical ConversationsChallenge A program, we primarily followed that curriculum, drawing and learning one continent at a time until they were ready to conquer the whole world. We also supplemented a bit with David Smith’s Mapping the World by Heart. We especially enjoyed the lesson on latitude and longitude, which explains how map locations and distances have traditionally been measured in degrees (°), minutes (’), and seconds (”). Calculating the exact location of our city was great fun — and we came pretty close! Try it yourself by looking at a map of your state with the major lines of latitude and longitude marked. Guess your coordinates, and then confirm or correct your estimate at dateandtime.info. For example, our town — Tempe, Arizona — is located at the following spot on the globe (of course, “N” indicates that we are north of the Equator, and “W” means that we are west of the Prime Meridian):

Latitude: 33°24’53” N
Longitude: 111°54’33” W

AustraliaDrawing

(2) Maps and Models. Drawing is definitely easier when you have an example to follow. As my students began to draw each continent and eventually the world, they used the outline maps provided in the Challenge A curriculum, as well as Painless Learning geography place mats as models. It was surprisingly difficult, however, to find Mercator projection maps of the United States and Canada. (Mercator projection maps, recommended for beginning cartographers, feature straight rather than curved latitude and longitude lines). So, I created some using a computer design program. I also designed blank grids that we could print out and draw directly on, guided by the outline maps or an atlas (we used the DK Compact Atlas of the World) to put everything in its proper place.The Mercator projection maps (for the U.S. and Canada) and 11 grids (covering all of the continents and major countries) that I designed are included in GEO EXTRAS, an ebook I compiled that also contains detailed instructions for making your own large Mercator grid on which to draw a masterpiece world map like Kellen’s and Kerrick’s. (The Painless Learning world map place mat was by far our favorite model for drawing the world, and I created the Large Mercator Grid Instructions to reflect the same grid lines.) If these tools will save you some time and effort, you are welcome to purchase (via PayPal) and download the maps, grids, and instructions individually (grids are $1 each; U.S. and Canada/Greenland map/grid sets are $2 each; and large Mercator grid instructions are $2). Or, everything is available in a single download for $10. Here is a sample of one of the grids:South America-grid-sampleAnd here are the download links:

GeoExtras-CoverGEO EXTRAS (complete set):
Add to Cart
United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) maps and grids:
Add to Cart
Canada/Greenland map and grid:
Add to Cart
Mexico/Central America grid:
Add to Cart

South America grid:
Add to Cart
Europe grid:
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Asia grid:
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Africa grid:
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Australia/New Zealand grid:
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Oceania grid:
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Large Mercator Grid Instructions:
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I found that map-drawing was least stressful and most successful if I took the time to sit and draw alongside my children the first time they were assigned a new continent. After we did it once together — talking through the things we were observing and learning — they had the confidence to repeat it multiple times on their own. I also tried to make it a relaxing and inspiring part of the school day, sometimes accompanied by special treat. 🙂 If you and your students need a little jump start, you might find these music videos motivating:

(3) Around the World in Eighty (Thousand) Flash Cards. OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I think my students sometimes felt like they used at least that many index cards as they worked to memorize as many countries, states, provinces, capitals, features, and geography terms as they possibly could. Whew! As they were learning to draw each continent/country, they made a set of flash cards for that part of the world. (Click here to download free flash card instructions, which are also included in the GEO EXTRAS ebook.)

(4) World Piece(s). Your middle schoolers might think they’re too old for this, but mine didn’t mind working with their younger siblings to complete Geo Puzzles, which feature colorful, sturdy, country-shaped pieces that help students of all ages learn country and capital names and locations. Occasionally, zulily.com offers the entire set for a great price, so keep an eye out!

(5) Think Globally. If your students are really excited about geography — or if you’d like them to be 🙂 — considering having them participate in the annual National Geographic Bee, open to students in 4th through 8th grades. They can prepare year-round with all kinds of tools (apps, online quizzes, and several books — including this one and this one). Registration begins in the fall (look for a group in your area that’s organized by or open to homeschoolers), and local bees are usually held after the new year, with state and national events (for students who advance) scheduled later in the spring.

(6) Book Your Adventure. Seriously, there are WAY too many incredible books that will add depth and dimension to your students’ geography studies. So, I just want to share about a few that we already own and love — plus two that are on our wish list. 🙂 Students who find drawing on a grid a tad too technical might enjoy the methods taught in the ARTK12 series, by Kristin J. Draeger. My elementary-age children started the series with Draw Africa last year, and this year they will begin Draw Europe. MAPS, by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinska, is both an artful and fact-filled favorite. As a family, we have sought out stories about the places we’re studying, using the reading lists in Give Your Child the World, by Jamie C. Martin, as a guide. And finally, we have our eye on two DK books, Where on Earth and When on Earth, which use maps to relay fascinating scientific and historical information. Not that we really need any more books, but we might have to add those to our collection this year. 🙂

What about you? Are you ready to draw and learn your way around the world? What tools and resources help you and your students? Please share in the comments!

Note: The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. If you click through and place an order, I will receive a small commission. In return, please accept my sincere thanks! 🙂

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

A Half-Dozen Homeschooling Helps for … Latin, and
A Half-Dozen Homeschooling Helps for … Literature

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July 2, 2016   No Comments