Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Geography with Montessori Pin Flags

My own schooling in geography was woefully inadequate, so among the benefits of this rigorous study of geography that we've been enjoying is the fact that I'm finally learning my geography, too! Would you like to hear me recite the 53 countries of Africa?

I know, I know...it's much cuter when the seven-year-old rattles them off.

Obviously, the plan is to eventually cover the entire world, and we have been studying U.S. geography, as well, since the girls are interested, but seeing as Willow already has the names of the countries memorized, I'd like us to be able to physically locate them before we relegate Africa geography to regular practice and move on fully to new areas of interest.

I worked VERY hard a few weeks ago to build up enough of a surplus in my crafts/homeschool budget to purchase the entire pin flag and geography map collection from Montessori Print Shop. The prices are affordable enough to let me feel like I didn't have to do the design work myself to create my own pin flags and map keys from scratch, although I nearly reconsidered when I discovered that, although I could purchase all the  map keys I'd need as one bundle, I'd have to pick through the shop for nearly half an hour to find every individual pin flag set for every single continent and the United States--blech!

To use pin flags, you need a corkboard or foam core base, and a paper map to put on the base. The map package from Montessori Print Shop includes labelled and unlabeled, colored and blank maps. I printed and laminated one copy of the colored and labeled maps to use as a reference, and several copies of the blank labeled maps, because the girls enjoy coloring them in their correct map colors as part of their schoolwork.

To make the pin flags, you first need to print the flags (I did print ours in color, although coloring them in yourself would be another enjoyable, if lengthy, task). You cut each flag out, fold it in half--

--spread glue from a glue stick on one inside half of the flag, and also put a dot of Elmer's glue on both sides of a flat-headed sewing pin:

Fold the halves together, smoothing them over the pin--

--and repeat ad nauseum:

So far, we only have Africa and the United States completed, so I store both sets around the edges of the corkboard work surface. However, I do plan to eventually cut down a piece of corkboard to size, paint squares on it to delineate the area in which each pin flag set is to be placed, then cut a cardboard box to size so that the entire pin flag collection can be stored without poking anyone or getting in the way.

To play with the pin flags, lay the paper map flat on top of the corkboard work surface, and simply stick each flag where it belongs:

It's absorbing work, as you can see, and quite enjoyable. Although Willow has the names of the countries memorized, memorizing their locations this way, rather than in order along with the names as she recites them, will allow her to call up the location of a specific country without having to first get to it in the order of recitation.

In a more casual manner, as we organically begin to spend less time with Africa and more time with, say, United States geography, and the U.S. presidents, and Base Ten computation, we will also nevertheless begin to work on our ability to draw the continent of Africa, first by tracing it with dry-erase markers on a laminated map, and then by drawing it freehand with a model by our sides, and then by drawing it from memory.

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