Sunday, January 26, 2014

C is for Continents

After our Introduction to Geography (landforms and mapping), we jumped right into learning about the 7 continents. From this week on, each theme corresponds with a letter of the alphabet. In true Montessori fashion, we're not learning the alphabet in alphabetical order. ;)

We did a lot of casual learning (unschooling, you might say) for the past couple of months, and during that time M learned most of the letters and their sounds just by watching the Letter Factory video, playing with letter magnets, and other simple letter games. Since she is already familiar with most of the letters, I'm really not especially concerned with the order we go in. You can see the full list of themes on this introductory post. To keep the posts from getting overwhelmingly long, I'll put all of the geography activities in ones post, letter activities in a second post, and everything else in the Weekly Wrap-up post.

We started the week by revisiting M's new interactive globe. We talked about which parts represent land and which parts represent water, and used the talking pen to locate all 7 continents and listen the the facts that the globe supplied.

Next, we took out the tray with M's new DIY pin map. I printed the free file from Montessori Print Shop to create this map. I used modge podge to attach the blank control map to a piece of foam core board for the backing. I printed the second map and colored the continents in the Montessori colors (Asia = yellow, Europe = red, Africa = green, Australia/Oceania = brown, North America = orange, South America = pink, Antarctica = white), laminated them and cut them out. I created the flags according to the directions in the file. I used a small hole punch to punch a hole at the right spot in each continent cut-out so the toothpick flag would go through easily, and I finished by putting a black sharpie dot at the spot where I had stuck the pin so M would see the hole to place the flag.

She LOVED this activity! She used the continent card from the 3 part card set (The Helpful Garden) as a control to help her place the continents in the correct spots, and assembled and disassembled the map three times in a row!

Next, I pulled out the rest of the 3 part cards (print a free set from The Helpful Garden), and the felt continent map that was inspired by the one from Imagine Our Life. I have pretty much no sewing skills, so I cut out the continents from felt, glued them to blue felt backing, and then traced the outlines onto the felt background. I glued Antarctica to the background, but the rest of the continents are removable. I managed to hand sew little pieces of velcro onto the background and the continents so the labels can be attached to the map (continent names and ocean names).

Since we're just starting out and M doesn't actually know the names of the continents yet (and can't read...), I gave her the 3 part cards to match as labels.

When she was finished, she packed all of the cards into these amazing pocket folders (thanks Counting Coconuts!). M thinks these pouches are so cool, and I think that anything that encourages her to clean up when she's done is pretty incredible!

The next day I wanted to create a sensorial experience by putting out all different materials from around the world. I chose a few animals and figures from the various TOOBs I purchased for our continent boxes (along with the matching 3 part cards I made), and added some souvenirs my brother brought back from a trip to Africa, a Mexican drum, Russian Nesting Dolls, Around The World Flash Cards, Finger Puppets, and coins from around the world.

I didn't have a plan for what I wanted M to do with these materials - I just wanted to give her a chance to play and explore with everything.

The coins and Russian nesting dolls attracted her attention first. She dumped the bowl of coins on the table and spread them out. She commented that the coins were all different colors and size, and found a few that had similarities.

She spent a LOT of time playing with the nesting dolls. My mom has a larger nesting doll set that my brother brought back from a trip to Russia several years ago, so she already knew how the dolls worked. It was a great practical life and sensorial activity. She opened and closed the dolls over and over, and sorted them from largest to smallest. I showed her where Russia was on her globe so she could see where the dolls came from.

Next, she started sorting through the basket of figures. I laid out some of the 3 part cards on her mat and encouraged her to try to find the matching figures in the basket.

While she sorted, I grabbed the felt map and laid it out behind her. We sorted the cards/figures by continent (using the colors as a guide), and placed the people (finger puppets and figures from the TOOBs) on the continents. We talked about how different people live in different places around the world. We talked a little about how the environments differ in different parts of the world, and how that impacts the kinds of animals that live there. We played around with her globe and listened to facts about the geography, climate, and currencies of different parts of the world.

Later in the week we participated in some classes in our community that helped us expand on what we had learned about continents so far.

We went to the library for their Kindercraft program. M listened to stories about snow and penguins and made her own snow globe to take home.

We also went to Rainforest Fridays at Roper Mountain Science Center. M had a blast and learned a ton about birds and seeds. She got to hold coconut seeds and tagua nuts (poor man's ivory), and look at many other small seeds under a microscope. She met Tilly the Umbrella Cockatoo from Indonesia. She pet him, watched him play in the "rain" (sprayed water), and watched him crack open and eat sunflower seeds. She tasted fresh and dried papaya (and was offered sunflower seeds, but wasn't interested). The program was excellent, and we are excited to go to more in this series over the next several weeks.

I downloaded some geography apps for M to try out on her Nabi. We're still testing them out (I'm hoping to do a post on the best apps sometime soon), but she definitely had fun with some of them.

We did a fun little art activity that allowed M to create her own picture of the Earth. She used a foam brush to dot green paint inside a circle to represent land on Earth. She then ripped apart a couple of cotton balls and glued them around the outside as clouds. She went back and added blue paint for water. I wrote the title at the top, and helped her write her name on the bottom.

We had a lot of fun this week, and it was a great start to our exploration of the continents. I'm excited to see how things go next week when we explore Africa!

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  1. Beautiful pictures! Lovely way to look at the continents...I'm a homeschooling Mom to five & I am not that creative but attempting to learn :)
    Rachael @ Diamonds in the Rough (

    1. Thanks! I'm not all that creative either, but I'm pretty good at researching and finding good ideas online ;) We're definitely having a lot of fun with it! Thanks for stopping by!