Saturday, October 19, 2013

Using Terrain Models to Teach Geography

One of the best things I took away from Bank Street College of Education was a plasticine terrain model I made in Sam Brian's class about teaching social studies. This unit and activity challenges me to make the mundane interactive and interesting. Through this work children can better understand the land and water around them.

I remember being not that small and imagining that the Hawaiian islands my family vacationed on were anchored by chains to keep them from floating away. I had no idea they were attached to the ocean floor. 

Last year I watched one of my students come to the same realization and was reminded of the importance of giving students a chance to understand even those most basic things we adults take for granted. 

Working together we examine mountain, river, and coastline phenomena, developing language to describe what we are looking at.  There were many debates and students worked hard to explain their reasoning, making connections and drawing on personal experiences and knowledge about real places in the world.  

We had a handy picture dictionary to help. 

My student's favorite part is to place little block houses on the model just before we flood it. They love seeing who gets washed away and who stays put against the tide. 

We are going to flood it again Monday. They are planning to bring in little trees and people to enhance it. They want to try a different colored water to make it brackish.  I am just thrilled they are seeing our little fake island as their own.

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