Geography Quest: Summer Adventure Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Summer Adventure Edition

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Spring is finally fully underway now in upstate NY and many homeschooling families are thinking about summer plans as their formal learning comes to a close for the summer. Or maybe you are a year-round homeschoolers looking to begin your summer routine. Either way, it would be fun to incorporate some geography during this upcoming season of adventure.

Travel Geography Adventures

Perhaps your family has traveling plans for the summer. Our first stop this summer is Maine followed by a road trip to Kansas for a few members of the family and back to the St. Lawrence Seaway in August.

Here are a few ideas for enjoying geography with your travels:

  • Map the journey to your destination.
  • Prepare a car map and markers/stickers for your kids to mark the drive as you go along.
  • Make a travel journal to record the fun on your trip- Our 14yo made one for herself before leaving on our trip to Maine and she’s been having fun adding to it.
  • Pick up travel brochures to use in collages and fun memory makers of your time away.
  • Map the area you are enjoying with memories- with all the fun things you’ve enjoyed as a family. We’re staying on Mt. Desert Island in Maine and we’ve had some pretty fun times in a few spots. We can map the memories we’ve made here.

Geography Adventures with Summer Books

There are a whole host of summer books to pour through and immerse yourselves in for adventure with a side of geography. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Swallows & Amazons- The original and the whole series. Nothing but good old fashioned fun with this one. You’ll have to stick in for a few chapters getting acquainted with nautical terms, but once you are there it will take off and you’ll find yourself wishing you could camp on an island for the summer too!
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch- Not specifically for summer, but it’s definitely full of adventure as you learn the history of American navigation.
  • The Captain’s Dog- A story of Lewis and Clark told in the point of view of his dog. Who doesn’t love the story of the journey of Lewis and Clark?
  • Fantasy Adventures- The books of Tolkien and Lewis have elaborate “other world” settings. If you have a student who loves world building, it might be fun to make maps of these fantasy worlds.
  • Books with Journeys- Other than the fantasy works I mentioned, my teens suggested the Percy Jackson series, Ranger’s Apprentice, and others as books with journeys which are fun to follow.

Almost any book can make for a fun geographical adventure. If you have a favorite, please share below!

Incorporating Geography into Your Homeschool The Easy Way

I was excited to participate in a bunch of Google Plus Hangouts this year with Bright Ideas Press (and the iHN). This one is all about how to easily incorporate Geography into Your Homeschool and I thought it would give us ideas for summer fun with geography.

The panelists on this hang out had some fabulous, low prep ideas on doing geography which is perfect for summer fun. You don’t want to miss Tyler Hogan’s explanation on why geography is important for kids.

I’m looking forward to our geography adventures this summer. How can you encourage geography skills while having a fun season of warm weather? Tell us about it!

Geography Quest: Mountain Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Mountain Edition

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Is it warm yet where you live? We are still camped out in the 40s and 50s most days, but the milder weather is inevitable even in upstate NY. Time to get out and explore, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. How about some motivation? This week our focus is on the mountain ranges of the world in Geography Quest: Mountain Edition.

Identify the World’s Mountain Ranges

Can you name all the mountain ranges in the world? We can start big and go small.

  • List the mountain ranges you can think of by continent- go back and see if you missed any.
  • Name countries which have major mountain ranges.
  • Name the mountain ranges- can you make a list before you look them up?
  • List the mountains you’ve visited.
  • Tell which mountains you have hiked and/or summitted.

Map the World’s Mountain Ranges

You can choose the map you’d like for this activity. I might choose several map so you can see the results well.

  • Use a world map to show where mountains ranges are located.
  • Using your continent list, print a map of each continent and label the mountains with a triangle symbol.
  • Label the mountains on country maps using your list of countries as a resource. (after you check accuracy- of course!)
  • Look at where the mountain ranges are located. Is there relationship between where you find mountains and the earth’s geology? Can you explain it?

Fast Facts on Mountains

Now it’s time to see if you can locate these mountain facts. Ready?

  • Identify the tallest mountain range in the world. Any guesses?
  • What is the longest range of mountains?
  • What is the mountain/range with the lowest elevation?
  • Which mountains are the shortest- as in the size of the mountain “chain”?
  • Identify famous “through hikes” of mountain ranges. The east coast of the US has one. Are there others?
  • How are mountains made?
  • What is the ring of fire? Are there mountains nearby?
  • Which mountain is the most active volcano?
  • Find the mountains that separate Spain and France.
  • Can you find any mountains in the news right now?

What else would like to find out about mountains? Try making your own fast fact questions to ask your family.

Topographical Maps

Blog, She Wrote: Mountain Edition

Does your family enjoy hiking? Have you ever used a topographic map? Now is a great time to try one out. You can find one of your local area through the USGS website.

  • Locate a topographical map (topo map) of your area using the USGS site.
  • Interpret the symbols on the map. What do the concentric lines mean?
  • What does it mean when the lines are close together? Further apart?
  • Take a walk with your topo map- this might reveal what the lines mean as well!
  • Make your own topo map of your yard. If your yard doesn’t offer much variety in elevation, then try a nearby park or another familiar spot.
  • Use the topo map to mark places on your trail. We have a map of a few local trails which we use to make waypoints for navigating our way.

Mountains provide much beauty and reveal the fierceness our planet can experience both in form and function (ie the weather!). Take on this week’s Geography Quest and enjoy a mountain adventure!

Geography Quest: Great Lakes Ice Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Great Lakes Ice Edition

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Surely you haven’t experience this winter without seeing a headline about ice on the Great Lakes. They keeping vying for my attention. After all, how can you resist the beckoning of icey satellite images of some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world? It’s been a long, cold winter for the northeast and many parts of the midwest and even the south. And with extended cold weather comes the ice. Today’s Geography Quest focuses on how much of the Great Lakes (and other other nearby waterways) are frozen.

Do The Great Lakes Really Freeze Over?

As I was doing the research for this Quest, I found some really stunning video and satellite photography. This first one shows time lapse footage of the Great Lakes (especially Lake Superior) freezing this season.

  • Find out if the Great Lakes have frozen over and if so, how often does it happen?
  • When is the last time the lakes froze to the extent they are frozen right now?
  • Which ones freeze the most often and/or the fastest?
  • Are there any that don’t freeze?
  • What factors account for the differences in how the lakes freeze?

Does Niagara Falls Freeze Solid?

Just last week there was a news segment on folks making the trip to the falls to see them frozen solid. What do you think?

I’ve been to Niagara Falls in late April when the sun is bright and warm and watched ice the size of cars flow over the falls. With all the ice on the Great Lakes this year, I’m sure the falls will remain icy for longer than usual.

What are Ice Jams?

I didn’t learn about ice jams until I moved to NY. It stands to reason that all this ice has to go somewhere. Already this winter we’ve seen flooding in our community caused by ice jams. More awaits since many of the creeks and their tributaries are still frozen and it looks like we’re due for a frost.

The first video shows a Coast Guard boat tasked with breaking up the ice on Lake Michigan to get the shipping industry moving again after winter.

The next video explains what ice jams are and it shows the ice built up on the Illinois River. Ice jams cause flooding when the water cannot pass around them.

Make Your Own Ice Maps

Chart your own ice maps by doing these few things:

  • Grab a map of the Great Lakes Region. I like to enlarge maps using the poster feature in the Adobe printing for pdf documents.
  • Estimate the amount of ice cover for each lake and color in the amount cover. Make a key for your map.

Blog, She Wrote: Great Lakes Ice Edition

Long Term Effects of Great Lake Ice Cover

What can you find out about the long lasting effects of so much ice cover?

  • How long will it take the ice to melt?
  • With so much ice to melt, how will that affect the summer swimming season? Water has a high thermal mass and take a while to warm up even without lots of ice!
  • How will the shipping industry deal with the ice? Will ships be able to navigate through to the St. Lawrence Seaway?

This has been an extraordinary year for cold weather in the northeastern and midwestern United States. Enjoy a look at ice formation on the Great Lakes.

 

Weather Stations & Forecasting

Blog, She Wrote: Weather Stations & Forecasting

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We studied weather with our Nim’s Island unit and I thought this would be a great time to add to this long standing post and bring it up to date with resources and ideas. The kids and I had some meetings over a few days to discuss exactly what we wanted to measure, where, how and how often. We tried a weather station a few years ago that bombed out because of equipment failure. It was just not designed to go the distance as you’ll see below.

The next time we tried, we pieced together our weather station down at our mailbox and the kids ambitiously decided to record the weather three times a day! You’ll have to design a data chart to accommodate the vision that your kids have. We wanted to track it daily long term which is fun for math and science pursuits. As you track the weather, you can introduce forecasting and statistics over time. We even did a math lesson using the Beaufort Wind Scale and median statistics.

Keeping a Weather Calendar

 

  • For a glance at our former weather calendar- it evolved into a workable version using small pocket charts from the Target dollar aisle.
  • There are many ways to keep a weather calendar. Many of you might have a weather observation during your morning time or circle time if you have one- displaying your weather observations is one option.
  • I prefer the notebook/data gathering method. Instead of each student keeping his own notebook of weather data, I like to have a common weather log where the kids record their observations for the day. The tricky part is finding the data chart that you want. I dislike trying to search for the perfect page for notebooking so I went to notebook paper a long time ago. Decide all the things you want to record and keep a log book handy.

 

Resources for Studying Weather from Preschool to High School

 

Book List for Weather Studies

It’s a long term science project to incorporate weather into our nature and unit studies throughout the year.

Explorental Offers a Weather Meter Rental

Explorental is a company which offers high quality equipment and materials for short term rentals to families. The Multi-Function Weather Meter can measure many of the measurements we’ve been tracking in a small hand held digital form. If you aren’t sure to begin with a weather station or you want to track weather in the short term, then try out this handheld digital weather meter from Explorental.

I think it’s fantastic Explorental is excited about getting big ticket items into the hands of families. What does your family want to explore together?

Blog, She Wrote: Explorental

Geography Quest: Groundhog Day Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Groundhog Day Edition

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It’s that time of year again when Punxutawney Phil comes out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and either sees his shadow or doesn’t. Otherwise known as Groundhog Day, this tradition has been around since 1887 when a group of groundhog hunters named themselves the groundhog club. Let’s go questing and find out more about this weather predicting cultural event!

Find Out More about Punxutawney Phil & Groundhog Day

Geography is more than just places on the map. It’s also about culture and the people in a place. A look at United States culture would not be complete without a mention of Groundhog Day. Elementary students all over have colored and cut at least one Groundhog project in the past week, right? Of course.

  • Find out more about when the tradition of Groundhog Day started. Visit the official Punxutawney Groundhog website.
  • How about some Groundhog Day lessons?
  • A post about studying Groundhog Day from last year- this is a nice one if you need to let go of any guilt of not having made any groundhogs with your primary kids!
  • What celebration did Groundhog Day come from that was a tradition for the early German settlers of Pennsylvania? (see the FAQ on the Groundhog site)
  • Map the location of Punxutawney, PA and Gobbler’s Knob. Where do the 20,000+ people go to see this forecast?

Weather Predicting & Climate Groundhog Style

While it may not be wise to get all of our weather knowledge from our favorite groundhog, Groundhog Day does give us pause to think about when spring will arrive. While weather itself is more earth science oriented, climate is most definitely a discipline of geography.

  • Did you see this year’s prediction? By now you’ve heard that Phil saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. Definitely take a few minutes to watch and hear the 2014 official proclamation.
  • Did you know that February 5th is Weather Forecasters Day? Is that a happy coincidence or are meteorologists keeping good company with critter forecasting?
  • How much more winter? This is a great opportunity to study climate trends at your latitude and to look at averages for when spring weather really arrives. Does Phil’s prediction match the expectations in your area this year?
  • Look at differences in spring’s arrival as you travel north away from the equator. Growing up in Maryland and living about 400 miles north of there in New York state has given me a whole new perspective on spring! I also experience big differences in the amount of daylight just 400 miles north. See if you can choose places on the map and compare their spring arrivals. Eye opening for sure!
  • A set of resources on the effect of latitude on climate- from cK-12 Foundation.

Enjoy a fun look at weather and climate as you explore more about Groundhog Day and look at the bright side… it’s February and for some of you that means spring is on the way soon- how soon? Study the climate and find out!