Geography is the study of the physical and populated earth. We begin here with the 3 elements that make the Earth; land, air, and water. Children gather these elements in small dishes and attach labels to them. Once this is mastered, they are ready to learn that the continents are made of land, the 4 oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic) are made of water, and that our atmosphere is made of air.
Children are then taught to make their own maps using large puzzle maps of the world and each of the continents, with their respective countries. They cut or punch-out the different sections and glue them back together using the map as a guide. As each child’s writing skills grow, they are encouraged to label these maps themselves.
Older children, 5–6 year olds, are often ready for a deeper understanding of Earth formations. They use models of a cape, gulf, peninsula, bay, lake, island, isthmus, and strait, and fill them up with water to see the relationship between land and water in these formations. Once they can name each formation from the model and a photo of it in nature, the children are ready to physically make these formations out of clay to take home.
Each classroom uses a wall map and let’s the children discover new places that are talked about during meeting (large group time). As countries are learned, children make flags of them, experience cultural objects brought from these far away places, and listen to the music of these countries in our world.
We also implement a 3-year rotation of special history subjects: year 1) early man through Egypt or Greece; year 2) the Age of Exploration; year 3) U. S. history.
At ABC-Stewart Preschool-Kindergarten, studying geography and culture is particularly useful in making children from other countries feel more at home. It helps us answer the questions of students native to the U.S. about different languages, foods, and manners we see in our friends from abroad. Geography is how we help the children see their place in the grander scheme of the world. It helps them learn that we are all in this together and share an equal responsibility for our planet: this is a crucial perspective for children to have.