Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mapwork: Haiti

Along with sewing sundresses for Haitian orphans, the girls and I did a few more activities to round out a brief unit study of Haiti, one meant mostly to contextualize their understanding of their service project.

I've been surprised since we began homeschooling to learn how much I value, and therefore emphasize (and therefore assign!) memory work. It's far from the former mental picture of public schools in which everything was learned by rote and nothing internalized by doing, but I certainly have seen that in the large days of work and play and study and rest that homeschooling allows us, there is plenty of room for plenty of memory work. And thus we memorize poetry, and spelling words, and Latin and Spanish vocabulary words, and math facts, and geographical locations.

Mapwork goes along with whatever other study we're doing of a location. Along with their sewing project on Haiti, for instance, I showed the girls the location of Haiti on the globe and asked them to memorize it so that we could play the "globe spinning game." In the globe spinning game I spin the globe, and when it stops I ask the girls to find a location. Each girl can now find Haiti consistently on the globe, no matter their starting point.

I also think that map labeling is a valuable activity--it's all about context! Instead of a country-specific map, I usually choose a more regional map from Megamaps, so that the girls can color and label not just their country, but the countries and surrounding oceans:
Each girl also has a one-page world map (also from Megamaps) in her geography folder. As each country (or state, or ocean, or continent) comes along, she colors and labels it on that world map. We reuse the same map until there's an overlap (Africa, for instance, and then Egypt), and then I print them a new map to start on.

Labeling the maps and initially memorizing the geographic location takes...hmm, less than half an hour? Maybe around that, depending on the complexity of the location. After that, reinforcing the location on the globe by playing the globe spinning game takes probably 30 seconds every now and then, certainly not a significant time-suck for such a valuable piece of memory work.

Now, when they're older, I'm going to print them a giant world map, and then we're all going to start learning how to draw in countries freehand. An entirely freehand map of the world is an accomplishment that I'm quite looking forward to.

In our study of Haiti, we also used:

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