A Place in Your World
To know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. Children
need a sense of their place in the world, starting with their place in the
family, their home in the neighborhood, their community’s businesses and
stores, the boundaries of their town and their state, and where the neighboring
towns, cities, states, and countries lie.
Children will be interested in knowing who started their town and why. Who
were the earliest pioneers in their state, and when did their state establish
its statehood? Who were the statesmen who worked hard to create the great
state that children know as their home state? Who helped establish the
United States of America, and where did America’s forefathers come from? Why did the earliest explorers to America leave their countries to travel to a
land that was foreign to them? What was life like in the countries that those
explorers left? How did life change for them?
As you can see, geography, history, and different cultures and lifestyles
all revolve around one another. And they all help to establish a child’s place
in this world.
Start with the simplest maps of your child’s neighborhood
and broaden into state maps, world maps, and globes to help your child see
where he is in this world. You can use storytelling as a way to describe not
only his history and his family’s history, but also the history of his town, state,
country, and world.
Children can draw maps, as large as they want, of their backyard, play
areas, or the parks they visit. They can label the different spaces and use
symbols for trees and paths, playground equipment, picnic tables, buildings,
and playhouses. Then mark the routes they often follow, such as the path between the house and play areas, or the trek between the playground and parking lot at your local park.
Broaden their mapmaking skills as your children’s sense of community
grows. Have them draw a map of your neighborhood or town, showing your
house, the park, the nearby grocery store, gasoline station, the bank, post office,
hospital, library, churches, schools, fire and police stations, and other pertinent
Encourage children to decorate and label the maps in creative and colorful
ways, then display them on a bulletin board. As they learn about new or different
areas in their towns, have them add those locations to their maps.
Use nicely illustrated books about your state to help children learn all it
has to offer. Create a basic map of your state and have children mark their
town or community on the map. Next, have them locate and label the city
that is nearest to their home. Then locate and label the capital of your state.
Now, using interesting books on your state, allow children to select
points of interest or places they would like to visit someday, such as a state
park, a cave, lake, waterfall, ocean, amusement park, ski resort, raceway,
zoo, aquarium, museum, pioneer village, covered bridge, tower, or skyscraper.
Have children locate and label those places on your state map. Visit those areas of interest as time and circumstances allow.
When children explore the places they have learned about, their world becomes much
more real to them. Do the same with maps of the United States and the world.
Although you may not be able to visit all the areas you would like, beautiful
travel videos or DVDs can bring distant places right into your home!
History need not be dull or boring. History
was, and is, made by living people, real people, people of the past, and
people we may know today. Choose a famous person from the past and
be that person. Research him or her; learn what that person was like, what
he wore or how she spoke, where the person lived, what life was like when
that person was alive, and how the culture or lifestyles differed from others.
Then create that person’s style of clothing from paper or cloth. For instance, if it’s
Abraham Lincoln you’re emulating, replicate his stovepipe hat, black jacket,
pants, and famous beard. If it’s Sacagawea, make a duplicate of her costume and
papoose. Find pictures of famous people by using the Google Images search
engine or checking illustrated library books. Then BE that person for a day or a week. Walk in their shoes - or moccasins - for a while!
What are some good biographies to read on historical figures?
The Who Was Biographies, DK Biographies, and Sterling Biographies
cover a wide range of historical figures, such as Davy Crockett, Joan of
Arc, Frederick Douglass, Marie Curie, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein,
Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, Steve Jobs, and more. Use biographies
to learn more about each era’s events and lifestyles.
Bring out the craft box, construction paper, craft sticks, glue, markers,
pipe cleaners, and begin crafting history. Help children construct medieval
castles, Viking boats, the Mayflower, teepees and longhouses, western frontier
buildings and wagons, or the White House.
Use illustrated library books on castles, boats, the Wild West, or the White House as guides for replicating the objects and for learning more about each creation.
Make pipe-cleaner people to inhabit the places your children create,
then let the stories from long ago unfold. Hands-on activities always serve
to raise a child’s level of awareness and help to embed the learning experiences
in his mind for years to come. Whenever possible, incorporate hands-on
activities into your daily lessons to help bring history alive for your children!