Saturday, January 17, 2009

Geography - That's A Lot of Ground to Cover

Four Days of Geography Lessons:

Day 1 -

First half of the lesson - Demonstrate that the globe of the Earth and the continents map display the same information - land and water bodies found on the Earth.

The lesson flowed from one topic to another. I felt so good about the presentation after I finished. I was almost startled by the work that it inspired later. I have so much to share...

Some lessons become annual rituals. Shaping a small ball out of clay with my hands to replicate the globe is one of them. I acted out this ritual last Monday. Before doing so, I asked the children if, when using the globe, they could see Africa when they are looking at South America, etc. They collectively answered no. I showed them how I needed to spin the globe around to see the other side. I explained that this became an obstacle for mapping routes across oceans and land, as the map maker could not lay the globe flat on a table and draw from one port to another. So, they flattened the globe and made it possible to see all the continents and oceans at one glance.

Before I flattened the ball of clay, I drew a line around the middle of the ball and labeled it (verbally) the equator. I told the children that the equator was like the belt around their waist. The equator separates the Northern and Southern hemispheres. I next cut through the center of the ball of clay, and flattened the two halves so that they resembled the circles on the continents map.

I paused for a moment letting the children absorb this.

Once, I had established that the globe and the continents map where the same in terms of what they illustrated, I asked them whether or not the Earth was in fact smooth and flat like the surface of the colored globe or the continents map. They answered no. One four year old added, "The Earth has a lot of pot holes." (teaching geography in winter can result in interesting comments) I asked them if mountains or canyons made the earth's surface smooth or rough. I described areas specifically in the United States that were mostly flat like deserts and the Wyoming landscape. I desribed rough terrain including various mountain ranges and the Grand Canyon. I also spoke to them about my own visit to Yellowstone several years ago and described for them my memories of "Old Faithful."

Following this conversation, I set aside the colored globe and the continents map and put on the table in front of me a glass globe on which I put a small amount of flour so as to keep clay from sticking to it. I then took the two continent circles that I had made earlier and placed them on the surface of the glass globe and began spreading the clay. I worked hard to cover most of the surface but kept a small crack between the two halves. I talked to the children about rivers that cut through the land, about cracks under the Earth's surface called fault lines. I told them that the Earth was not one solid mass but instead composed of several pieces called plates.

I left the clay for a moment to get a bowl and a towel. I put the towel on the floor beneath the bowl and poured some water into it. I told them that sometimes the Earth shakes and trembles near fault lines and that effects of the trembling can be seen on the surface of bodies of water - the water vibrates. I asked the children to jump up and down so as to mimic the Earth's surface shaking and I asked them to watch the water to see if its surface rippled or if a wave rose up. It did and they noticed.

After I cleared away the bowl and water, I returned to talking about earthquakes and how the Earth's crust can crack open. I explained that earthquakes can cause trees, houses and bridges to collapse. That when the Earth cracks open, slightly, people, animals and plants can fall into it. I said that dinosaurs may have fallen into these cracks. Then when the trembling settles and the Earth closes itself back up, what has fallen within becomes fossilized. "They dig all of that up Miss Dyer. Like they dug up dinosaur bones." A child stated. "Well, if the Earth is going to crack open I better let my mom know so she can get the car ready to take the babies away," another child, Sam, said. Sam is almost five and has a 2 year old sister and twin baby brothers. I told him that there weren't any fault lines under Boston so not to worry. "Well, all of this never really happened. Right," asked Zoe, one of my kindergärtners. "Yes, it has happened many times," I answered.

Second half of the lesson - Plate Tectonics

I returned to the clay covered glass globe. I had placed three small rocks behind the globe so that the children could not see them. I held up the stones and said that sometimes the Earth's plates shift and crash into each other. I then slammed the rocks together causing them to break and lift up in my hand.

"When the Earth's plates crashed into each other what do you think was formed?" I asked as I pushed two "plates" of clay together on the glass globe's surface. "Mountains," one child answered. "Right," I replied.

After repeating this entire presentation in the afternoon, a child, using the clay materials, made a globe, cut it in half and then flattened it to make the circles of the continent map. I love the last photo, although it is a little blurry, because I love how she has her hands clasped together signaling her satisfaction with her work.

Day 2 -
Inner Earth

I placed the colored globe and the "Inner Earth" globe on the table. All of the children got chairs to sit on - this was going to take a few minutes. I placed the "Inner Earth" classification cards on a working rug.

I focused on the term "crust" and asked if they knew anything else that has a crust. "Pie," answered several children. Under the crust there are several layers. I handed a piece of the "Inner Earth" globe to several children, laid out the cards that matched and did a revised version of a three period lesson. I pointed to a card, asked who had that part, asked them to place it on top of the card and to name the piece.

It was hard for many of the children to grasp that there was something under the crust of the Earth other than the dirt you would find in a garden. I reminded myself that my goal was just to give the children a good visual and mental impression of "Inner Earth.

After describing the plates, fault lines and variations in the Earth's surface, I returned to volcanoes. The children love volcano work and anything that has to do with volcanoes in my classroom. Volcanoes run a close second to dinosaurs with my students. Now that we had talked about and viewed a construction of the Inner Earth, I could talk about how the inner core of the Earth was so hot that it needed to have places on the Earth's surface for the heat to escape. I mentioned two - deep ocean chimneys and volcanoes. Repetition is so important with these types of lessons. Using the clay again, I pushed the Earth's crust up into a volcanic form leaving an opening at the top.

I put out some illustrations for the children to color. One was of a volcano and the other was of a woman checking a seismograph machine. I told how the seismograph machine is watched by scientists and that the public is notified if there are signs of a strong earthquake starting. I explained that this gives people time to protect themselves. The children seemed somewhat relieved. They did such a good job coloring the seismographs.

Day 3 - Apple Pie

This morning Sam brought in a small colorful ball of clay. He gave it to me and said, "Miss Dyer, this is like your lesson on the globe. I made it when I went home. I hope you like it. It is the Earth."

I told him I had a surprise for the class. Something that would give everyone an impression of how a volcano works. "I think I smell it Miss Dyer," Sam answered. "I think you do," I said as I walked away.

The pie came out of the kitchen and into our classroom cooked to perfection. It was placed on a table and all of the children were told that it was very hot and they were to step away and not touch it. They looked stunned. When was the last time Miss Dyer brought a pie into the classroom? I never had before.

As children gathered around the steaming apple pie. I asked,"What is covering the apple filling?" "Crust," was their collective answer. "What do we call the surface of the Earth?" "Crust," they answered again. Cristina invited the children to carefully lean their heads close to the opening at the center of the pie (so like a volcano) and to listen. One at a time they leaned, listened and reported hearing a bubbling sound.

When we examine a volcano we see that there is an elevated surface and that heat flows up the volcano and empties steam and smoke into the sky overhead, I explained. Also, deep inside the volcano is magma, hot-hot magma. The children in the circle were very focused on what I was describing.

Cristina and I returned our focus to the pie. We pointed out cracks in the crust and described them as fault lines. I asked Cristina to cut into the pie. The steam rose up out from the center of the pie and the children gasped. The hot apples inside simply drew to mind hot magma. We placed the classification card for the "Inner Earth" next to the sliced open pie. I was so happy with the image the two made.

I let them take in all that I was describing and excused them from the circle. A few moments later they were each enjoying a small piece of apple pie

Soon, the volcano work was out and the Dancing Raisins work. Photo of Dancing Raisins below:

Another child went right to the clay work and made a volcano.

Day 4 -

First part of the lesson: Pangea - One Becomes Seven

These are the final lessons in this series of presentations. I returned to the globe and the continents map. I placed them on a rug in front of me. I asked the children if they remembered how I had covered the globe with clay and how I described that there were various plates covering the Earth rather than one solid smooth mass. They all answer yes. I then said that the continents were bodies of land that were named by people and the oceans were bodies of land that were named by people. I said, "I have a secret to tell you. A long, long time ago there was only one continent. It is called the super-continent, Pangaea. The plates of the Earth shifted, the water currents pulled, the earth shook, the weather beat down and very, very slowly the super-continent pulled apart and became seven separate continents.

I put a picture of Pangaea on the rug next to the continents map. I took all of the continents out of the puzzle frame and positioned them side by side as they were in the image. I slowly slid them apart. I then asked them what would happen to a river if it was pulled apart? Where would the water go? Would it hover in the air, would it go up or down? "Down" was their answer. "So the water would fall?" I continued. "That is a waterfall, Miss Dyer," stated Ellie, a four year old first year student.

I passed around pictures of Angel Falls in South America. I explained that it was the highest waterfall in the world and that it was higher than the Empire State Building. I asked if they could imagine, while looking at the exposed Earth around Angel Falls, that the Earth had pulled apart. That what was one was now seven. They each said they could see how the earth had changed.

I asked them, "How could the people and the animals travel from Africa to South America? There is so much water between them. An ocean is between them." "They would have to swim," one child answered. "A boat! A boat! The people could use a boat," answered another excitedly.

I asked them each to get up from circle and to take a seat at the white table. Cristina had carefully prepared all of the materials needed for the next part of the presentation - the making of a small ship.

Each child was given a single egg cartoon cup. They were given markers to decorate what was now being referred to as the hull of their ships. They were each then given one coffee stir stick - the ship's mast. They were also given one yellow post-it for their sail taken from a pad of such. They were given colored pencils to illustrate their sails (on the non-sticky side of the post-it). Next, they were given a small amount of clay. The clay was put into the the base of the hulls. The sticky edge of the post-it note sail was wrapped around the upper length of the coffee stir stick (a little bit of tape held it stay in place). The mast bearing a sail was stuck into the clay which was placed in the bottom of the egg cartoon hull.

They were all now ready to set sail. I instructed them to return to the rug.

I got out a large wooden compass puzzle (any compass will do) and I labeled the oceans. I asked Carolina to place her boat on the continent map control chart, which I had also placed on the rug. I asked her to sail her boat east across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. I next instructed her to sail south down to the tip of Africa. She docked her boat at the coastline. I continued with this type of instruction until all of the ships had sailed some requested distance and were docked somewhere on the map. It was a lovely moment to see the children moving their ships so carefully. It was very quiet in the room during this work.

I must admit that I was exhausted after school on Thursday. I had Parent Conferences all day Friday. I will share with you another time the map making the older children have begun.

Next week, sand art to illustrate layering and starting on papier mache globes.

I am glad this is a four day weekend.


Tanz said...

Thank you for such a detailed description of your week. It is wonderful to see the kinds of things your children are learning.
Can't wait to see what happens next week : )

Koko's mama said...

This is so fabulous. I am going to study that post to death and try to replicate it for my own kids when they're a little older...

I love the apple pie idea.

pattyannie said...

Do you present this work as a group to your older children or is the entire class participating? Love your presentations! Thanks so much for sharing!

Susan Y. Dyer said...

I presented this work to the entire class - both classes actually - my morning and afternoon class. The children in the photo using their boats to cross the oceans are all four. I present this work every year - so that over three years the details the children remember each year come together in a more complete picture. Always remember that with such young children whether we are teaching them about the solar system or the "Inner Earth" that we are only giving them an impression of the subject and hopefully that will stir in them when they are older and some of the details will come back to them. If you could have heard them gasp when we cut into the pie and the steam rose was wonderful.

Susan Dyer
The Moveable Alphabet.