So, now that I’ve arrived in 4th grade I’m
terrified excited to teach geography more in-depth. We’ll be traveling around the United States, Canada and Mexico; learning about national parks, major landmarks and the regions.
Truth be told, I don’t want to mess this up. I LOVE geography. I used to be a travel agent. I’ve experienced lines of latitude and longitude and what they mean because I’ve left my own time zone and climate zone. I had to know every country and state capitol and airport code back in the day so I could help folks choose and find their vacation destinations.
I have learned first-hand that geography is not written on paper – it is written on the faces of the people you meet and reflected in the sights you see along the way. And let me just say that jet lag is real, people!
I want my students to love these lessons and remember them long after they leave 4th grade. I want to create a veritable army of enthusiastic little geographers running amok around the town of Falmouth.
But… what if I’m boring? What if they don’t find geography to be the same riveting subject I find it to be? What if these lessons become just one more thing in this list of “hard work” they keep speaking of in their letters to me?
What if I can’t do it alone?
Then it dawned on me – I CAN’T do it alone! More importantly — I SHOULDN’T do it alone! Doing it alone guarantees that boredom will infiltrate my classroom, as I can only be so entertaining (though, admittedly, I am pretty entertaining!).
So, Hello, World! I’m inviting you into Room 303. Please help bring geography to life for my students. I’m getting started without you for now; laying the foundation so students understand where we come from before venturing off. For that, I’m tuning into YouTube. According to the statistics provided by YouTube this morning:
- More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
- Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
- 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
Craziness, huh? The amount of content available on YouTube IS crazy. Rest assured, I am watching more than my fair share of videos in my endless quest to find appropriate, engaging, educational materials to help students learn more about the world around them.
Last week’s video was a pair of crazy 6th grade social studies teachers from Maryland singing about Latitude and Longitude. I had students do hand motions along with the song to make the concepts “stick” a little better. This week we’ll watch them sing about the continents and oceans (see Video of the Week below).
303 Students can now sing the entire Wakko’s America song with most parts committed to memory. After watching the video only 10 times over 2 weeks, 75% of students could accurately identify the capitals of at least 40 states. I think that’s pretty cool.
Now, our goal isn’t just to memorize states and their capitals. We are also using FableVision’s Mapping the World by Heart to draw our own United States maps from memory.
Though it seems like a tall order to draw a US map and label it with states, capitals, rivers and mountains, we are up for the challenge. Having all the states and capitals memorized will certainly help us!
Finally, to be filed under Memorable Lessons With Good Intentions, I decided to take a page from the Mapping the World by Heart book, which suggested I use fruit to demonstrate the challenge of depicting spherical maps on flat planes. YES! Students need to understand that many flat maps are only an approximation of what we see on a globe.
I went shopping for a grapefruit to magically transform into a globe. Apparently it isn’t grapefruit season, so instead I bought a pummelo. Yes, a pummelo (which I’d never heard of, either, if that makes you feel better).
It looks like a grapefruit, huh? I agree – only this one is bigger, and heavier and the skin is much thicker.
After using at least 10 permanent markers to draw the Equator, International Date Line and the Prime Meridian. I added some more lines of latitude and longitude for effect. Finally, I scribbled in some pathetic continents using whatever markers still had ink in them. Students were getting a kick out of the fact that I literally had permanent marker all over my hands, and that my continents were starting to resemble a pitiful Pangaea.
I then spent the next few minutes trying to use old, sharp, rusty scissors to cut the skin and pry it off in one piece without slicing my hand open or getting marker on my arms. Do not try this at home, kids.
Thankfully, my desperate attempt at creating a globe paid off exponentially.
If you look closely, you can see something resembling South America (in green) on the right. Am I right??
Sadly, as I finished removed the skin, the bell rang for dismissal. I was ready to take my Pummelo and go home crying with marker now on my hands, face, arms and clothes. But then… I could see it. It was educational. It was valuable. It was
everything what I hoped for. And? It had to wait another day because everyone was heading home. I stayed after school, eating pummelo, planning my next lesson.
Another day dawned, and I was ready to share with my students. We reviewed from the day before…
I shared information about Robinson projection maps:
Mercator projection maps:
and finally Equirectangular projection maps:
We talked about the similarities and the differences. We discussed the distortion on each map. We considered the challenges of making a 3D object appear 2D. Finally, the map I was most excited to share was the one the pummelo showed me.
Can you see the similarities between the Boggs eumorphic map and our pummelo? Seriously??!! Look at the shape of the outlines! My pummelo looks like a Boggs eumorphic projection map! It was a great teachable moment I hadn’t anticipated. Truth be told, it was a lesson I almost abandoned.
In a sense, that lesson, and my experience so far as a 4th grade teacher, seem to parallel this post. You see the title and expect to jump in and get what you expect immediately.
Unfortunately, it takes a bit longer to get to what is most important. Hopefully along the way, everyone learns something new. I know I am, every single day.
When planning upcoming costumes for Halloween, remember to keep them appropriate for school. Remember, we have FUN, not FOOD in 303, so please save the munchies for after school. Thank you!!