The things we find

My dad was a cartographer.   A whole lot of my childhood drawings, right through into my teenage years, were drawn on the backs of maps.

I love maps.  As a kid, in the days before GPS, I would always be the one holding the road map on car trips.  As an adult, the first thing I do on arriving in a new city is scratch around until I can find a map to orientate myself.  When I ran a hospital ward, I would carry a map of the work place to scribble all over, so I could keep track of where everybody was and where they were going.  Maps are deeply ingrained into the way I think.

Part of the appeal of maps is that they allow us to visualise places which may or may not exist without ever going there.  Stories and lives can take place in maps.  They allow the mind to freely wander.  It was a day for discovering the backyard with a treasure map.

IMG_2352The first step was to draw our map.  As the picture shows, it was drawn by me.  I had a degree of help in what went where.  I drew a compass point and some coordinates on it.  In a detail only I appreciated, the coordinates match those you would use to identify squares on a chess board.

IMG_2347While one of us was mapping the backyard, the other busied themselves charting the River Iss, found on the planet Barsoom.  We had just watched the movie ‘John Carter’ the night before, and it had made a big impression.  Maps of the imagination are my favourite kind.

IMG_2353With the maps finished, we went outside.  The game was to make up some cardboard tickets, hide them in the garden, and mark the hiding place on the map with a cross.  We would look at the cross on the map, and work out how the picture related to what was on the ground.  If things were going well, we would also work out the map coordinates.  I originally started off hiding crystals to look for, but got in trouble for raiding his collection.

IMG_2362The bits of cardboard we were finding were good because they could be prized as whatever we wanted them to be.  Sometimes they were tickets to order your lunch with.  Sometimes they were money.  Sometimes they were medallions which could transport you to the planet Barsoom.

Mapping backyard 15  2 feb 14Once we found all the treasure, we could just rub the crosses off the map, and start again.  We kept this up until we were all too hot and tired to continue.

I liked this game.  It was a nice example of learning through context.  In a single exercise, we were able to combine drawing, recognition of symbols, spatial awareness, running around, and most importantly, imagination.  That is where learning really takes place.

About Blokeschool

I am a homeschooling dad with a wife and two boys. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing, so I feel compelled to write it all down. In my spare time, I work as a manager for the local health district, drink too much coffee, and am an overenthusiastic martial artist.
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4 Responses to The things we find

  1. Love this!
    When each of mine was in the 3rd grade, we studied city government and every shopping day, we would go first to one of the various city buildings of our small town, such as police or library. We possessed a city map and gave it to the 3rd grader, who navigated that first leg of our journeys. After the student looked up the address in our phone book, I drove wherever I was told and the student learned map-reading that way.
    In high school, during our English Literature course, I required the creating of a simple map of England, onto which we would locate every English place mentioned in all of the reading. When possible, we included photographs of those places.
    My favorite, though, was the very Excellent geography curriculum called “Mapping the World by Heart” in which the final test is a 5-day project of drawing the entire world, accurately, given only map-sized paper, pencil, and straight edge, without any references. “By heart” or from memory. It’s a year-long course that has inspired many amazing world maps, including oversized ones on school parking lots in permanent paint. 🙂
    If you like music, there also is the Audio Memory curriculum which teaches the names of all the geopolitical places on earth. It’s children singing, sometimes with cute melodies such as a samba for South America, or a rodeo type song for western U.S., etc. My 4-year-old knew all the names of all the states in the U.S. before he could read, and could point each one out on an unlabeled outline map. I know all the countries in Southeast Asia, at MY age! 🙂 And the location of all fifty of our states, without a map!
    It all spilled over into their playtime, too. We had 7 acres which they explored and mapped, just for the fun of it. And one time, one of them calculated the volume of rain just on our property, with a 1″ rainfall. And the weight of it. Enormous!
    I’m so glad you are teaching your kids what you value.
    It makes their education perfect for them.

  2. Blokeschool says:

    Hi Katharine,
    Thanks for your comment. There is such a payload of information here. I have just been digging around on the net looking at these sites. They are great.
    I love that you linked geography and literature together. Each subject gives the other a context to exist in. Really good stuff.
    Can you get a better commendation for your teaching than when your kids start using it as play? When they are doing it for fun, you know you have had a raging success.

  3. You’re not too sure what you’re doing? I beg to differ. That is one stinkin’ good map you drew up. And a great activity. You would’ve made a good architect.

  4. Blokeschool says:

    Thanks very much. We had a stack of fun with this one, and got loads of mileage out of it.

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