Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September Kindergarten Review: Maps and Compasses

September was a certain 5-year old's birthday and we took a trip to Seattle to celebrate. His Godmommies live up there and we hadn't seen them in about six months. It happened to fit into his birthday weekend, so we planned it as a surprise. I also planned to do maps this month, to fit in with our trip.

Several days before his birthday he woke up to find a map from "The Birthday Faeries", directing him down to the train station parking lot. The map was in a series of 7 or 8 maps, each one building on the one before. He told Papa-Bug what the directions were and we drove him to the train station. At the station, he found a package with train tickets to Seattle and a Seattle Map in it. Away we went. We brought our compass. In Seattle we got several other maps - tourist maps and whatnot. We used these maps to find out where the Godmommies live, and how close they are to things we could see (like The Space Needle). When we got home I found a topographical map of the Seattle area and we compared the maps to one another - one showed a small area of Seattle, one a larger area, the road map showed a LOT more, the topo map didn't show us roads, etc.
On the train, listening to tunes, impatient to get there...
I got him a puzzle of the United States - you know the one, were each state (or almost each state) is its own piece. He has had a great time putting that together, and he is a master of basic US geography now. One evening, with friends over, we did the puzzle and marked where each person had lived - more than 14 states were covered! Our favorite related book is "The Scrambled States of America" by KK. It is a fun and silly way to learn about US geography.

I had planned some math exercises involving distance, but he did those on his own. I found him with his puzzle, tracing his finger across different routes: "North Carolina is over here and it is so far away. Minnesota is here and it is closer..." and so on. He was doing such a good job counting states, comparing size and shape, exploring distance, and so on, that I didn't feel a need to interfere with the natural math lesson happening in front of me.

One of the best projects we did was so simple. In the morning, we traced Brother-Bug's shadow with chalk on the driveway. The shadow was pointing West. Again in the afternoon we traced the shorter and North facing shadow. In the evening, the East facing shadow. It was very easy and a simple way to teach direction and the sun's movement. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture before it rained and washed our project away.

Easy map making for a 5-year old.
We made a map of our neighborhood as well. Brother-Bug went out with a camera and we took pictures of landmarks and street signs on the walk from our house to a nearby playground. I printed the pictures out and made construction paper streets. Then I let Brother-Bug figure out how the streets fit together, and where the pictures should go. With some assistance he came away with a lovely map of our neighborhood. I only wish I would have printed the pictures a little bit bigger.

Look at those piano-playing hands!
I did less this month, because we started learning piano as well, and I wanted to make sure we had enough slack around school things to accommodate piano practice and lessons. How grateful I am to my music teachers of days gone by - I am more than competent enough on the piano (as is Papa-Bug) to easily teach primer level piano at home. This is not only a financial savings, but an emotional one as well - we don't have to get to lessons, stress about practicing enough, or anything else. We just sit down and explore the piano together with gentle guidance and some pushing from a parent. As of this writing, Brother--Bug has 4 or 5 simple songs that he plays all the time. He is loving piano.

So those are the high points of our September. Of course, we read related books, found relevant websites, and all the rest. Learning to use a compass proved to be too tricky for us right now, so we will save that for another adventure. Now, on to Weather and Seasons in October! We'll be making our own barometer, among other things.

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