Antarctica covers about 14 million square miles surrounding the south pole of the earth.  Because of its distance from the equator, it receives very little sunlight and it’s very cold there, too cold to support the growth of trees.   It’s much colder even than the North Pole.  The land is largely covered by ice.  It is mostly uninhabited, except for researchers and tourists.  Compared with other places on earth, it is very much an untouched continent.  Sir Peter Scott, founder of the WWF, said this about Antarctica: “We should have the sense to leave just one place alone.” Antarctica is the only continent without any indigenous people.  It has no independent government and no economy.  It is governed only by an Antarctic treaty which many countries have signed and that governs how the land is used.  Thousands of scientists from all over the globe do research there, so even though we … click to read more

US Postal Codes

Postal codes, or postal abbreviations, are short hand ways to write the names of states when addressing letters.  But they are also used in advertising, legal information, on news weather reports and many other places.  Typically in the upper elementary years of school, 4th or 5th grade American kids are expected to memorize the postal codes of the United States. The US post office has decided on standard two letter abbreviations for each state so that when a letter is addressed the sender, the receiver, and the postal workers can all see at a glance where the letter is headed or where it came from. For example Maine is abbreviated ME.  The postal codes are always exactly two letters, always capitalized, and never with periods.  Most states are pretty easy to guess from their postal codes, but some might be confusing.  Is AK Alaska or Arkansas?  It is Alaska.  Arkansas … click to read more

Topographic Maps

We have been learning about elevation and topographic maps and I could tell the kids weren’t quite grasping the idea of contour lines.  They understood that the lines meant a change in elevation, but couldn’t quite visualize the spatial concept of it.  I decided a hands-on lesson was in order. EXPLORATION: Topographic Maps With A Mountain Model I covered our school table with white butcher paper and got some colorful markers, dental floss, and some rulers out.  I made a big lump of salt dough and created a mountain with it in the middle of our table.  The kids all helped sculpt the mountain. We picked up the mountain and one by one, put it right in front of each kid, allowing them to trace the outline of the mountain on the spot in front of them using a marker.  Then we put the mountain back in the middle. Next, … click to read more

North America Treasure Map

Make a North America treasure map with your kids. The purpose of this activity is to familiarize kids with the North American continent. You should start by finding North America on a globe or world map.  Find where you live and show the location compared to North America or inside North America.  You might want to name all of the seven continents as well. Then on a large sheet of paper draw a rough map of North America free hand.  We had a roll of brown paper.  A brown paper grocery bag would work too.  You could also use white paper or a piece of poster board. Then decorate the map with some of the actual features of North America.  We added some deserts, the Grand Canyon, a volcano in the Cascade Range, the Mississippi River and the vast forests of the north along with other features.  We used a … click to read more

Ocean Currents

The ocean is never still.  Ocean currents are constantly moving and churning the waters.  There are surface currents and deep currents and upwelling currents.  All these currents move heat and nutrients around the world oceans.  The currents affect the land as well.  Here is an Ocean Currents Map showing some of the major surface currents in the oceans. Color the arrows in red for warm currents and dark blue for cold currents.  The major currents can be labeled with the help of a student atlas.  The rest of the ocean should be colored light blue. The currents that begin near the equator are moving warm water to regions nearer the poles, which warms these regions and helps the earth remain temperate.  The currents that begin closer to the poles move cold water toward the equator, cooling the hot regions of the earth. Besides the way heat and nutrients are moved around the earth … click to read more

The Ocean Floor

The ocean floor is covered with mountains, valleys, plains, and other features similar to the land surfaces of earth.  The ocean’s features, like land features, are a result of tectonic processes from deep inside the earth. The earth is made up of a hot inside and big plates of crust covering the outside.  These plates spread apart and squish together and grind past one another.  These actions cause the crust to buckle, fold, and split, which makes mountains and valleys. There are volcanoes under the oceans just like there are on land.  These volcanoes can build up into mountains, sometimes breaking the surface as islands.  The Hawaiian islands began as undersea mountains. Trenches are formed in places where one ocean plate is being pulled under, or subducted, beneath another ocean plate. Here is an Ocean Floor Map.  It shows some of the major mountain ranges and trenches that can be found … click to read more

Map of the Oceans

The first step when learning about the oceans is to name them.  Use this printable to label and color a Map of the Oceans. There are five oceans and many seas around the world.  The five oceans are Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific, Indian, and Antarctic.  The Antarctic Ocean is also called the Southern Ocean.  Use a student atlas to find the location and label the oceans.  You can also label some of the larger seas.  After you label the oceans color the oceans. Library List Here are some books on oceans that we like.  Click on the covers to view the books on Amazon.        Search at your library for these topics: oceans, ocean floor, coral reef, ocean animals, whales, dolphins, sharks, fish Additional Layers Oceans affect the global climate and weather patterns, learn more about how. Learn about some ocean explorers like Ernest Shackleton, Wilem Barents, and Lief Ericson. Learn about … click to read more

South America Crowns

This little craft helps kids learn about the continent of South America.  They can make South America Crowns. Start by cutting out the crown shapes.  These crowns are about 5 inches thick with a center rounded bulge.  The bulge is there to make a “front” for the crown and to make a larger space where the map of South America will fit.  Then print and prepare the South America Crown Badges. When I did this with my kids I prepared the “badges” ahead of time by roughly cutting them out.  This made it faster to get through the activity, but you can have kids cut out their own if you like.  I gave each child a little pack of crayons, a glue stick, and their badges: Then they each colored their own badges and put them back into their own bag.  While they colored their badges I told them about … click to read more

The Compass Rose

Don’t forget about cardinal directions when teaching your kids geography.  They should learn about the compass rose in 1st grade and then review it clear through elementary school, placing it on every map they create. Here is a printable Compass Rose to introduce the concept or review it. Compass Rose Most maps have a compass symbol on them so people can orient their map with the real world.  Without a reference to the real world a map is useless.  Look at a variety of maps with your kids and find the compass rose on each map.  Even globes usually have a compass rose printed on them somewhere. The four cardinal directions on a compass rose are north, south, east, and west.  Most kids have an easy time remembering north and south, but a tough time remembering east and west.  On a compass rose these two directions spell “WE” if written in … click to read more

A Game About Asia

This game about Asia is to help kids learn the location of the largest continent on a world map and globe.  Hopefully kids will also be able to recognize some of its landmarks and cultural features.  The landmarks and culture will help kids to place Asia not only on the map, but in the world.  It is easier to remember a fact if there is some interesting feature attached to the bare facts. Is it in Asia? The game is called “Is it in Asia?”  The goal is to correctly identify which landmarks and cultural items on a set of cards are from Asia and which are not.  Place each item that is from Asia on a map that each child has.  It is a group game.  No points are scored, and no one wins or loses.  The purpose is to learn something new, not to see how much you already … click to read more