Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Maping the world with our animals

In our classroom, we have collected many “continent boxes” over the years. We use them as an addition to our traditional Montessori folders. We have been lucky enough to swap items with many friends across the world and in each box, we have little collection of plastic animals. It just occurred to me one day as we were learning about the continents, that I could gather all these animals and use them in conjunction with a large floor world map. The children have been studying the continents for quite some time, they are now quite familiar with their names and shapes and colours. The idea is for the children to explore the map of the world, and in particular the countries of origin where the animals come from. I am working on a felt map to use but this is a slow process as I am not great at sewing! In the meantime, we are using the Montessori world map.  I use 7 little boxes colour-coded according to the continents on the Montessori world map.  Each little box contains plastic animals from each continent. As you can see below, I simply used plastic washing soap liquid dispensers to store the animals. I had boxes but they were either too big or too small, while some were made out of wood, wicker or plastic.  I wanted something a bit more uniform but I didn't want to go and spend too much money. I suddenly realised that I had been "collecting" theses dispensers in my utility, so...voila!

How does it work? I  invite a child to work with me and I point first at the colour code on each box. I ask the child to match the colour to the corresponding map and ask them to remind me of the name of the continent. The child works with one box/one continent at a time.


When he is finished, the child must tidy up, one continent at a time, placing the animals in the right tub.

The aim of the activity is to look at the countries of origin of many animals the children are familiar with, thanks to their interaction with our continent boxes. The exercise requires the child to isolate maps, to identify them on the world map, giving him/her a sensorial impression of the positions, shapes and sizes of each continent. This activity is a great revision of the continent and their names, as well as a good introduction to the animal kingdom. It also helps some of the younger kid with colour recognition. And though the activity is presented and played on a one-to-one basis, it proves to be a great team work as  all kids LOVE to use the animals that way and talk about them. So not only this activity links zoology and geography but it also helps children to expand their vocabulary and engages them to converse and think.
I just need to add more animals to represent marine zoology and I am lacking animals for South America and Asia. In the  progress!