Helping Your Child Learn Geography

Welcome! You Are Here arrow3 Articles/Parenting/Helping Your Child Learn Geography.

Helping Your Child Learn Geography


Remember thumbing through an atlas or encyclopaedia as a child,
imagining yourself as a world traveller on a safari in Africa, or boating up
the Mississippi River, climbing the peaks of the Himalayas, visiting ancient
cathedrals and castles of Europe, the Great Wall of China? We do. The world
seemed full of faraway, exotic, and wonderful places that we wanted to know
more about.

Today, we would like to believe that youngsters are growing up
similarly inquisitive about the world. Perhaps they are, but recent studies
and reports indicate that, if such imaginings are stirring in our youngsters,
they're not being translated into knowledge. Not that there ever was a
"golden age" when all our young and all our citizens were
conversant about the peoples and places of the globe. Still, there is
considerable evidence that such knowledge among young Americans has dipped to
an alarming low.

Last year, a nine-nation survey found that one in five young Americans
(18- to 24-year-olds) could not locate the United States on an outline map of
the world. Young Americans knew measurably less geography than Americans 25
years of age and over. Only in the United States did 18- to 24-year-olds know
less than people 55 years old and over; in all eight other nations, young
adults knew more than the older ones.

No less disturbing was the fact that our young adults, when compared
with young adults in other countries, came in last place in a 1980 Gallup
Poll. Our 18- to 24-year-olds knew less about geography than their age-mates
in every other participating nation. But it shouldn't surprise us. Youngsters
in other countries study more geography. In England, Canada, and the Soviet
Union, geography is considered one of the basic academic subjects and is
required of most secondary students; in the United States, only one in seven
students takes a high school geography course.

You'd think that our students learn at least some geography, though, in
their world history classes. Those who take world history probably do. But
that's only 44 percent of our high school graduates. More than half of our
high school students are graduating without studying world history.

If youngsters are to acquire an appreciation of geography and
ultimately learn to think geographically, parents and communities must insist
that local schools restore it to prominence in the curriculum. They should
insist that geography be studied and learned, in one form or another, through
several years of the primary and secondary curriculum.

Learning should not be restricted to the classroom. Parents are a
child's first teachers and can do much to advance a youngster's geographic
knowledge. This booklet suggests some ways to do so.

It is based on a fundamental assumption: that children generally learn
what adults around them value. The significance attached to geography at home
or at school can be estimated in a glance at the walls and bookshelves.

Simply put, youngsters who grow up around maps and atlases are more
likely to get the "map habit" than youngsters who do not. Where
there are maps, atlases, and globes, discussions of world events (at whatever
intellectual level) are more likely to include at least a passing glance at
their physical location. Turning to maps and atlases frequently leads
youngsters to fashion, over time, their own "mental maps" of the
world--maps that serve not only to organise in their minds the peoples,
places, and things they see and hear about in the news, but also to suggest
why certain events unfold in particular places.

Helping every child develop his or her ability to use maps and to
develop mental maps of the world ought to become a priority in our homes and
schools. For, as we all know, our lives are becoming an ever tighter weave of
interactions with people around the world. If our businesses are to fare well
in tomorrow's world markets, if our national policies are to achieve our aims
in the future, and if our relationships with other peoples are to grow
resilient and mutually enriching, our children must grow to know what in the
world is where.

This booklet is designed to help parents stir children's curiosity and
steer that curiosity toward geographic questions and knowledge. It is
organised around the five themes recently set forth by geographers and
geography educators across the Nation--the physical location of a place, the
character of a place, relationships between places, movement of people and
things, and phenomena that cause us to group places into particular regions.

We encourage parents to get to the fun part--that is, the activities.
The games, maps, and suggested activities that follow, while informal and
easy to do, can help lay a solid foundation in experience for children's
later, more academic forays into geography.

Bruno V. Manno Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning

Kirk Winters Research Associate

Office of Educational Research and Improvement U.S. Department of


Children are playing in the sand. They make roads for cars. One builds
a castle where a doll can live. Another scoops out a hole, uses the dirt to
make a hill, and pours some water in the hole to make a lake. Sticks become
bridges and trees. The children name the streets, and may even use a watering
can to make rain.

Although they don't know it, these children are learning the principles
of geography. They are locating things, seeing how people interact with he
Earth, manipulating the environment, learning how weather changes the
character of a place, and looking at how places relate to each other through
the movement of things from one place to another.

With this book, we hope you, as parents, will get ideas for activities
that will use your children's play to informally help them learn more
geography--the study of the Earth.

Most of the suggestions in this book are geared to children under 10
years of age. The activities and games are organised around five specific
themes that help focus our thinking. These themes were developed by the Joint
Committee on Geographic Education of the National Council for Geographic
Education and the American Association of Geographers and are now being used
in many schools. They are:

1. Where are things located?

2. What makes a place special?

3. What are the relationships among people and places?

4. What are the patterns of movement of people, products, and

5. How can the Earth be divided into regions for study?

These themes have been adopted by many schools in the last few years
and may be new to many parents. To help focus your awareness of the issues,
we will begin each chapter with a brief description of the theme. This
description includes examples of questions geographers use as they strive to
understand and define the Earth, for geography provides us with a system for
asking questions about the Earth.

Location: Position on the Earth's Surface

Look at a map. Where are places located? To determine location,
geographers use a set of imaginary lines that criss cross the surface of the
globe. Lines designating "latitude" tell us how far north or south
of the equator a place is. Lines designating "longitude" measure
distance east and west of the prime meridian--an imaginary line running
between the North Pole and the South Pole through Greenwich, England. You can
use latitude and longitude as you would a simple grid system on a state
highway map. The point where the lines intersect is the
"location"--or global address. For example, St. Louis, Missouri, is
roughly at 39° (degrees) north latitude and 90° west longitude.

Why are things located in particular places and how do those places
influence our lives? Location further describes how one place relates to
another. St. Louis is where the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers meet
about midway between Minneapolis-St. Paul and New Orleans. It developed as a
trading centre between east and west, north and south.


To help young children learn location, make sure they know the colour
and style of the building in which they live, the name of their town, and
their street address. Then, when you talk about other places, they have
something of their own with which to compare.

* Children need to understand positional words. Teach children words
like "above" and "below" in a natural way when you talk
with them or give them directions. When picking up toys to put away, say,
"Please put your toy into the basket on the right" or, "Put
the green washcloth into the drawer." Right and left are as much
directional terms as north, south, east, and west. Other words that describe
such features as colour, size, and shape are also important.

* Show your children north, south, east, and west by using your home as
a reference point. Perhaps you can see the sun rising in the morning through
a bedroom window that faces east and setting at night through the westerly
kitchen window:

* Reinforce their knowledge by playing games. Once children have their
directional bearings, you can hide an object, for example, then give them
directions to its location: "two steps to the north, three steps west

* Use pictures from books and magazines to help your children associate
words with visual images. A picture of a desert can stimulate conversation
about the features of a desert--arid and barren. Work with your children to
develop more complex descriptions of different natural and cultural features.


Put your child's natural curiosity to work. Even small children can
learn to read simple maps of their school, neighbourhood, and community. Here
are some simple map activities you can do with your children.

* Go on a walk and collect natural materials such as acorns and leaves
to use for an art project. Map the location where you found those items.

* Create a treasure map for children to find hidden treats in the back
yard or inside your home. Treasure maps work especially well for birthday

* Look for your city or town on a map. If you live in a large city or
town, you may even be able to find your street. Point out where your
relatives or your children's best friends live.

* Find the nearest park, lake, mountain, or other cultural or physical
feature on a map. Then, talk about how these features affect your child's
life. Living near the ocean may make your climate moderate, prairies may
provide an open path for high winds, and mountains may block some weather

* By looking at a map, your children may learn why they go to a
particular school. Perhaps the next nearest school is on the other side of a
park, a busy street, or a large hill. Maps teach us about our surroundings by
portraying them in relation to other places.

* Before taking a trip, show your children a map of where you are going
and how you plan to get there. Look for other ways you could go, and talk
about why you decided to use a particular route. Maybe they can suggest other

* Encourage your children to make their own maps using legends with
symbols. Older children can draw a layout of their street, or they can
illustrate places or journeys they have read about. Some books, like
Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wizard of Oz, contain fanciful maps. These can be
models for children to create and plot their own stories.

* Keep a globe and a map of the United States near the television and
use them to locate places talked about on television programs, or to follow
the travels of your favourite sports team.

Additional Activities

Children use all of their senses to learn about the world. Objects that
they can touch, see, smell, taste, and hear help them understand the link
between a model and the real thing.

* Put together puzzles of the United States or the world. Through the
placement of the puzzle pieces, children gain a tactile and visual sense of
where one place is located in relation to others.

* Make a three-dimensional map of your home or neighbourhood using milk
cartons for buildings. Draw a map of the block on a piece of cardboard, then
cut up the cartons (or any other three-dimensional item) and use them to
represent buildings. Use bottle tops or smaller boxes to add interest to the
map, but try to keep the scale relationships correct.

* Use popular board games like "Game of the States" or
"Trip Around the World" to teach your children about location,
commerce, transportation, and the relationships, among different countries
and areas of the world. Some of these games are available at public

* Make paper-mache using strips of old newspaper and a paste made from
flour and water. If children form balls by wrapping the strips of paper-mache
around a balloon, they will develop a realistic understanding of the
difficulties in making accurate globes. They can also use paper-mache to make
models of hills and valleys.

Place: Physical and Human Characteristics

Every place has a personality. What makes a place special? What are the
physical and cultural characteristics of your hometown? Is the soil sandy or
rocky? Is the temperature warm or is it cold? If it has many characteristics,
which are the most distinct?

How do these characteristics affect the people living there? People
change the character of a place. They speak a particular language, have
styles of government and architecture, and form patterns of business. How
have people shaped the landscapes?

Investigate Your Neighbourhood

* Walk around your neighbourhood and look at what makes it unique.
Point out differences from and similarities to other places. Can your
children distinguish various types of homes and shops? Look at the buildings
and talk about their uses. Are there features built to conform with the
weather or topography? Do the shapes of some buildings indicate how they were
used in the past or how they're used now? These observations help children
understand the character of a place.

* Show your children the historical, recreational, or natural points of
interest in your town. What animals and plants live in your neighbourhood? If
you live near a harbour, pay it a visit, and tour a docked boat. You can even
look up the shipping schedule in your local newspaper. If you live near a
national park, a lake, a river, or a stream, take your children there and
spend time talking about its uses.

* Use songs to teach geography. "Home on the Range,"
"Red River Valley," and "This Land Is Your Land" conjure
up images of place. Children enjoy folk songs of different countries like
"Sur La Pont D'Avignon, .... Guantanamara," and "London
Bridge." When your children sing these songs, talk with them about the
places they celebrate, locate them on the map, and discuss how the places are

Study the Weather

Weather has important geographic implications that affect the character
of a place. The amount of sun or rain, heat or cold, the direction and
strength of the wind, all determine such things as how people dress, how well
crops grow, and the extent to which people will want to live in a particular

* Watch the weather forecast on television or read the weather map in
the newspaper. Save the maps for a month or more. You can see changes over
time, and compare conditions over several weeks and seasons. Reading the
weather map helps children observe changes in the local climate.

* Use a weather map to look up the temperatures of cities around the
world and discover how hot each gets in the summer and how cold each gets in
the winter. Ask your children if they can think of reasons why different
locations have different temperatures. Compare these figures with your town.
Some children enjoy finding the place that is the hottest or the coldest.

* Make simple weather-related devices such as barometers, pinwheels,
weather vanes, and wind chimes. Watch cloud formations and make weather
forecasts. Talk about how these describe the weather in your town.

Learn About Other Cultures

People shape the personality of their areas. The beliefs, languages,
and customs distinguish one place from another.

* Make different ethnic foods, take your children to an ethnic
restaurant, or treat them to ethnic snacks at a folk festival. Such an
experience is an opportunity to talk about why people eat different foods.
What ingredients in ethnic dishes are unique to a particular area? For
example, why do the Japanese eat so much seafood? (If your children look for
Japan on a map they will realise it is a country of many islands.)

* Read stories from or about other countries, and books that describe
journeys. Many children's books provide colourful images of different places
and a sense of what it would be like to live in them. Drawings or photographs
of distant places or situations can arouse interest in other lands. The
Little House in the Big Woods, Holiday Tales of Sholem Aleichem, and The
Polar Express are examples of books with descriptions of place that have
transported the imaginations of many young readers. There is a bibliography
at the end of this booklet, and your librarian will have more suggestions.

Weather Vane

Materials: wire hanger, small plastic container, aluminium foil, sand
or dirt, tape or glue, scissors, crayon.


1. Straighten out the hanger's hook and cover half of the triangle part
of the hanger with foil. Fold the edges, and tape or glue in place.

2. Fill the container with sand or loose dirt, put on the lid, and mark
it N, S, E, and W. Poke the hanger through the centre of the lid. The hanger
should touch the bottom of the container and turn freely in the hole.

3. Put the container outside with the N facing north. When the wind
blows, take a look at your weather vane. The open half of the vane shows the
direction from which the wind is coming.

Reprinted from Sesame Street Magazine Parent's Guide, June 1986.
Copyright Children's Television Workshop.

Relationships within Places: Humans and Environments

How do people adjust to their environment? What are the relationships
among people and places? How do they change it to better suit their needs?
Geographers examine where people live, why they settled there, and how they
use natural resources. For example, Hudson Bay, the site of the first
European settlement in Canada, is an area rich in wildlife and has sustained
a trading and fur trapping industry for hundreds of years. Yet the climate
there was described by early settlers as "nine months of ice followed by
three months of mosquitoes." People can and do adapt to their natural

Notice How You Control Your Surroundings

Everyone controls his or her surroundings. Look at the way you arrange
furniture in your home. You place the tables and chairs in places that suit
the shape of the room and the position of the windows and doors. You also
arrange the room according to how people will use it.

* Try different furniture arrangements with your children. If moving
real furniture is too strenuous, try working with doll house furniture or
paper cut outs. By cutting out paper to represent different pieces of
furniture, children can begin to learn the map maker's skill in representing
the three-dimensional real world.

* Ask your children to consider what the yard might look like if you
did not try to change it by mowing grass, raking leaves or planting shrubs or
trees. You might add a window box if you don't have a yard. What would happen
if you didn't water the plants?

* Walk your children around your neighbourhood or a park area and have
them clean up litter. How to dispose of waste is a problem with a geographic

* Take your children to see some examples of how people have shaped
their environment: bonsai gardens, reservoirs, terracing, or houses built
into hills. Be sure to talk with them about how and why these phenomena came
to be.

* If you don't live on a farm, try to visit one. Many cities and States
maintain farm parks for just this purpose. Call the division of parks in your
area to find out where there is one near you. Farmers use soil, water, and
sun to grow crops. They use ponds or streams for water, and build fences to
keep animals from running away.

Notice How You Adapt to Your Surroundings

People don't always change their environment. Sometimes they are shaped
by it. Often people must build roads around mountains. They must build
bridges over rivers. They construct storm walls to keep the ocean from
sweeping over beaches. In some countries, people near coasts build their
houses on stilts to protect them from storm tides or periodic floods.

* Go camping. It is easy to understand why we wear long pants and shoes
when there are rocks and brambles on the ground, and to realise the
importance to early settlers of being near water when you no longer have the
convenience of a faucet.

* If you go to a park, try to attend the nature shows that many parks
provide. You and your children may learn about the local plants and wildlife
and how the natural features have changed over time.

Movement: People Interacting on the Earth

People are scattered unevenly over the Earth. How do they get from one
place to another? What are the patterns of movement of people, products, and
information ? Regardless of where we live, we rely upon each other for goods,
services, and information. In fact, most people interact with other places
almost every day. We depend on other places for the food, clothes, and even
items like the pencil and paper our children use in school. We also share
information with each other using telephones, newspapers, radio, and
television to bridge the distances.

Travel in Different Ways

* Give your children opportunities to travel by car, bus, bicycle, or
on foot. Where you can, take other forms of transportation such as air
planes, trains, subways, ferries, barges, and horses and carriages.

* Use a map to look at various routes you can take when you try different
methods of transportation.

* Watch travel programs on television.

Follow the Movement of People and Things

* Play the license plate game. How many different States' plates can
you identify, and what, if anything, does the license plate tell you about
each State? You don't have to be in a car to play. You can look at the
license plates of parked cars, or those travelling by when you are walking.
Children can keep a record of the States whose plates they have seen. They
can colour in those States on a map and illustrate them with characteristics
described on the license plates. Some States have county names on their
plates. If you live in one of these States, keeping track of the counties
could be another interesting variation.

* Go around your house and look at where everything comes from. Examine
the labels of the clothes you wear and think of where your food comes from.
Why do bananas come from Central America? Why does the milk come from the
local dairy? Perhaps your climate is too cold for bananas, and the milk is
too perishable to travel far. How did the food get to your house?

* Tell your children where your ancestors came from. Find your family's
countries of origin, and chart the birthplaces of relatives on a map. You can
plot the routes they followed before they arrived at their present location.
Why did they leave their previous home? Where do all your relatives live now?

* Have your children ask older relatives what their world was like when
they were young. They can ask questions about transportation, heating and
refrigeration, the foods they ate, the clothes they wore, and the schools
they attended. Look at old pictures. How have things changed since Grandma
was a child? Grandparents and great aunts and uncles are usually delighted to
share their memories with the younger generation, and they can pass on a
wealth of information.

Follow the Movement of Ideas and Information

Ideas come from beyond our immediate surroundings. How do they get to
us? Consider communication by telephone and mail, television, radio,
telegrams, telefax, and even graffiti, posters, bumper stickers, and
promotional buttons. They all convey information from one person or place to

* By watching television and listening to the radio, your children will
receive ideas from the outside world. Where do the television shows they
watch originate? What about radio shows?

* Ask your children how they would communicate with other people. Would
they use the phone or write a letter? Encourage them to write letters to relatives
and friends. They may be able to get pen pals through school or a pen pal
association. (Please see the listing in the back of this booklet.)

Regions: How They Form and Change

How can places be described or compared? How can the Earth be divided
into regions for study? Geographers categorise regions in two basic
ways--physical and cultural. Physical regions are defined by land form
(continents and mountain ranges), climate, soil, and natural vegetation.
Cultural regions are distinguished by political, economic, religious,
linguistic, agricultural, and industrial characteristics.

Examine Physical Regions

* Help your children understand physical regions by examining areas in
your home. Is there an upstairs and a downstairs? Is there an eating area and
a sleeping area? Are there other "regions" in your home that can be

* Look at the physical regions in your community. Some neighbourhoods
grew up around hills, others developed on waterfronts or around parks. What
physical regions exist in your hometown?

Examine Cultural Regions

* Take your children to visit the different political, residential,
recreational, ethnic, and commercial regions of your city.

* Go to plays, movies, and puppet shows about people from different
countries. These are often presented at libraries and museums.

* Give children geography lessons by tying in with ethnic holiday
themes. Provide children with regional or ethnic clothes to wear. Some
museums and libraries provide clothes children can borrow. Holidays provide
an opportunity to learn about the customs of people around the world. You can
use the library to discover how other people celebrate special days.

* Compare coins and stamps from other lands. They often contain information
about the country. You may be able to find stamps from other countries where
you work, or your children may get them from pen pals. Stamps tell many
different kinds of things about a country, from its political leadership to
native bird life.

* Learn simple words in different languages. Teach your children to
count to 10 in other languages. They can also learn simple words like
"hello, .... goodbye," and "thank you." Look at the
different alphabets or script from various regions. All these activities
expose children to the abundance of the Earth's cultural treasures. Many
libraries have language tapes and books, some especially for children.

* If you have friends who are from different countries or have either
travelled or lived abroad, invite them over to talk with your children. If
they have pictures, so much the better. What languages do they speak? How are
their customs or dress similar to or different from yours?


Geography is a way of thinking, of asking questions, of observing and
appreciating the world around us. You can help your children learn by
providing interesting activities for them, and by prompting them to ask
questions about their surroundings.

Set a good example, and help your children build precise mental images,
by always using correct terms. Say, "We are going north to New York to
visit Grandma, or west to Dallas to see Uncle John," rather than
"up to New York" or "down to Dallas." Use words such as
highway, desert, river, climate, and glacier; and explain concepts like city,
State, and continent.

Many of the words used in geography are everyday words. But, like any
other field of learning, geography has a language of its own. (A glossary of
basic geography terms appears in the back of this booklet.)

Expose children to lots of maps and let them see you using them. Get a
good atlas as well as a dictionary. Atlases help us ask, and answer,
questions about places and their relationships with other areas. Many States
have atlases that are generally available through an agency of the state

The activities suggested in this booklet are only a few examples of the
many ways that children learn geography. These activities are designed to
help parents find ways to include geographic thinking in their children's
early experiences. We hope they will stimulate your thinking and that you
will develop many more activities on your own.


Backler, Alan; and Stoltman, Joseph. "The Nature of Geographic
Literacy." ERIC Digest (no. 35). Bloomington, IN. 1986.

Blaga, Jeffrey J.; and others. Geographic Review of Our World: A Daily
Five-Minute Geography Program for Grades 3-11. GROW Publications. Racine, WI.

Duea, Joan; and others. Maps and Globes: An Instructional Unit for
Elementary Grades. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA. 1985.

Geographic Education National Implementation Project. Walter G.
Kernball (chair). K-6 Geography: Themes, Key Ideas, and Learning
Opportunities. National Council for Geographic Education.

Western Illinois University. Macomb, IL. 1984.

Department of Education and Science. Geography from 5 to 16. HMSO
Books. London. 1986.

Hoehn, Ann. "Helping Children Get Their Hands on Geography"
(unpublished activity guide). Milaca Public Schools. Milaca, MN. 1988.

Joint Committee on Geographic Education. Guidelines for Geographic
Education, Elementary and Secondary Schools. Association of American
Geographers and National Council for Geographic Education. Washington, DC.

National Council for the Social Studies. Strengthening Geography in the
Social Studies, Bulletin 81. Salvatore J. Natoli (editor). Washington, DC.

National Geographic Society. Geography: An International Gallup Survey.
The Gallup Organization, Inc. Princeton, NJ. 1988.

National Geographic Society. "Geography: Making Sense of Where We
Are." Geographic Education Program. Washington, DC. 1988.

National Geographic Society. Geography Education Program.
"Teaching Geography: A Model for Action." Washington, DC. 1988.

Wilson-Jones, Ruth Anne. "Geography and Young Children: Help Give
them the World" (unpublished paper). LaGrange, GA. 1988.

Glossary or Legend


Distance above sea level.


A bound collection of maps.


A group of islands or a sea studded with islands.


A wide area of water extending into land from a sea or lake.


Lines indicating the limits of countries, States, or other political


A man-made watercourse designed to carry goods or water.


A large but narrow gorge with steep sides.

cape (or point)

A piece of land extending into water.


A person who draws or makes maps or charts.


One of the large, continuous areas of the Earth into which the land
surface is divided.


A unit of angular measure. A circle is divided into 360 degrees,
represented by the symbol *. Degrees, when applied to the roughly spherical
shape of the Earth for geographic and cartographic purposes, are each divided
into 60 minutes, represented by the symbol '.


The fan-shaped area at the mouth, or lower end, of a river, formed by
eroded material that has been carried downstream and dropped in quantities
larger than can be carried off by tides or currents.


A land area so dry that little or no plant life can survive.


The altitude of an object, such as a celestial body, above the horizon;
or the raising of a portion of the Earth's crust relative to its
surroundings, as in a mountain range.


An imaginary circle around the Earth halfway between the North Pole and
the South Pole; the largest circumference of the Earth.


A large body of ice that moves slowly down a mountainside from
highlands toward sea level.


A large arm of an ocean or sea extending into a land mass.


Half of the Earth, usually conceived as resulting from the division of
the globe into two equal parts, north and south or east and west.

ice shelf

A thick mass of ice extending from a polar shore. The seaward edge is
afloat and sometimes extends hundreds of miles out to sea.

international date line

An imaginary line of longitude generally 180° east or west of the prime
meridian. The date becomes one day earlier to the east of the line.


An area of land, smaller than a continent, completely surrounded by


A narrow strip of land located between two bodies of water, connecting
two larger land areas.


A shallow area of water separated from the ocean by a sand bank or by a
strip of low land.


A body of fresh or salt water entirely surrounded by land.


The angular distance north or south of the equator, measured in


A listing which contains symbols and other information about a map.


The angular distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in


A high point of land rising steeply above its surroundings.


A spot in a desert made fertile by water.


The salt water surrounding the great land masses, and divided by the
land masses into several distinct portions, each of which is called an ocean.


The highest point of a mountain.


A piece of land extending into the sea almost surrounded by water.


A large area of land, either level or gently rolling, usually at low

plateau (or tableland)

An elevated area of mostly level land, sometimes containing deep

physical feature

A land shape formed by nature.


The number of people inhabiting a place.

prime meridian

An imaginary line running from north to south through Greenwich,
England, used as the reference point for longitude. range (or mountain range)
A group or chain of high elevations.


A chain of rocks, often coral, lying near the water surface.


A man-made lake where water is kept for future use.


A stream, larger than a creek, generally flowing to another stream, a
lake, or to the ocean.


The relationship of the length between two points as shown on a map and
the distance between the same two points on the Earth.

sea level

The ocean surface; the mean level between high and low tides.


A narrow body of water connecting two larger bodies of water.


A tract of permanently saturated low land, usually overgrown with
vegetation. (A marsh is temporarily or periodically saturated.)


The physical features of a place; or the study and depiction of
physical features, including terrain relief.


A relatively long, narrow land area lying between two areas of higher
elevation, often containing a stream.


A vent in the Earth's crust caused by molten rock coming to the surface
and being ejected, sometimes violently.


A sudden drop of a stream from a high level to a much lower level.

Glossary, in part, courtesy of Hammond, Incorporated

Free or Inexpensive Materials


The following places often provide free maps, although you will
probably have to go in person or send a self-addressed stamped envelope in
order to receive one:

* State tourist agencies and local chambers of commerce publish walking
tour maps or guidebooks to area attractions.

* Local government offices, especially those dealing with public
transportation, often provide free road maps.

* Car rental companies. The Federal Government has hundreds of maps
available. For a comprehensive listing, contact the Government Printing
Office (GPO) bookstore in your area or the Superintendent of Documents,
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. The GPO handles the
printing and sales of items produced by government agencies. Some examples of
what you might find there, or directly through the developing agency,

* Schematic maps with historical data and park activities of the areas
under the care of the U.S. National Park Service. Contact the particular
site, or write to the Department of the Interior, U.S. National Park Service,
P.O. Box 7427, Washington, DC 20013-7127.

* Maps from the U.S. Geological Survey, the civilian map making agency
of the United States Government, covering a range of areas including National
Wildlife Refuges to LANDSAT pictures of the Earth. For a catalog, write to
the Earth Science Information Centre, U.S. Geological Survey, 507 National
Centre, Reston, VA 22092.

* A map of the United States showing the U.S. Wildlife Refuges. Write
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge, 18th and C Streets
NW, Washington, DC 20204.

* Maps of water recreation areas, from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Write to Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, 2803 52nd Avenue,
Hyattsville, MD 20781-1102.

* A wide selection of material is available from the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington,
DC 20546. Of particular interest are NASA Facts--Planet Earth Through the
Eyes of LANDSAT 4 and Earth System Science. For a full list, ask for a copy
of NASA Educational Publications.

Another source is The Map Catalog (Joel Makower, editor, and Laura
Bergheim, associate editor), published in 1986 by Vintage Books of Random
House. It is probably at your public library.


Look for these magazines in your school or library:

* Discover produced by Family Media, Incorporated;

* World, published by the National Geographic Society; and

* Ranger Rick and Your Big Backyard, published by the National Wildlife

Pen Pal Organisations

League of Friendship P.O. Box 509 Mt. Vernon, OH 43050 (6 14)392-3 166


Easy Reading and Picture Books:

Anderson, Lonzo. Day the Hurricane Happened. Story of what a family
does when a hurricane rips through their island.

Bach, Alice. Most Delicious Camping Trip Ever. Exploits of twin bears
on a camping trip.

Balet, Jan. Fence, A Mexican Tale. Illustrations help tell the story of
two Mexican families.

Beskow, Elsa. Children of the Forest. A family of Tomten (small forest
people) work and play through the four seasons in their Nordic home.

Brenner, Barbara. Barto Takes the Subway. Barto lives in New York City.
He and his sister take a trip on the subway.

Brenner, Barbara. Wagon Wheels. Three young black brothers follow a map
to their father's homestead on the Western plains.

Brinckloe, Julie. Gordon Goes Camping. When Gordon decides to go
camping, his friend Marvin tells him of all the things he will need for the

Buck, Pearl S. Chinese Children Next Door. A mother who had spent her
childhood in China tells her children about her neighbours there.

Burningham, John. Seasons. A series of pictures that define the four

Burton, Virginia Lee. Little House. A country house is unhappy when the
city with all its houses and traffic grows up around it.

Chonz, Selina. Bell for Ursli. A boy who lives in a tiny village in the
mountains of Switzerland has an adventure when the spring festival comes.

Cooney, Barbara. Miss Rumphius. One woman's personal odyssey through
life to fulfil her grandfather's wish that she make the world more beautiful.

Devlin, Wende and Harry. Cranberry Thanksgiving; Cranberry Christmas;
Cranberry Mystery. A series of mystery-adventure tales set on the cranberry
bog shore of Cape Cod.

Dobrin, Arnold. Josephine's Imagination; A Tale of Haiti. Story of a
young girl and her adventures in the Haitian market.

Eiseman, Alberta. Candido. Paco, a Peruvian boy, loves his pet llama
but knows that he must find a way to train the animal to work as other llamas

Ets, Marie Hall. Gilberto and the Wind. A very little boy from Mexico
finds that the wind is his playmate.

Feelings, Muriel L. Jambo Means Hello. A Swahili alphabet book.

Frasconi, Antonio. See and Say, Guarda e Parla, Mira y Habla, Regard et
Parle. A picture book that gives words from four languages and prints each in
a special colour. Has a page of everyday expressions as well.

Garelic, May. Down to the Beach. Boats, birds, shells, sand, waves,
tides and all the fun and wonder of the beach are pictured in simple,
rhythmic prose and beautiful water colours.

Goble, Paul. The Gift of the Sacred Dog and The Girl Who Loved Wild
Horses. These stories, accompanied by beautiful pictures, are based on
legends of the Native Americans.

Green, Norma B. Hole in the Dike. Retells the familiar story of the
young Dutch boy whose resourcefulness, courage and finger save his country
from being destroyed by the sea.

Hader, Berta. Reindeer Trail. The generous Laplanders bring their herds
of reindeer all the way from Lapland to Alaska to help hungry Eskimos.

Hoban, Tana. Over, Under & Through, and Other Spatial Concepts. A
picture book on spatial concepts.

Holling, Holling C. Paddle-to-the-Sea. Describes the journey of a toy
canoe from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Kessler, Ethel. Big Red Bus. An illustrated bus ride for the very
beginning reader.

Krasilovsky, Phyllis. The First Tulips in Holland. Beautiful drawings
about spring in Holland.

Kraus, Robert. Gondolier of Venice. The city of Venice is sinking into
the sea, but Gregory, a proud gondolier, gets a clever and unusual idea to
help the old city.

Lamont, Bette. Island Time. A parent and child board the ferry that
takes them to their very special island on Puget Sound.

Lisowski, Gabriel. How Tevye Became a Milkman. Short tale, with
illustrations of the Ukrainian countryside, based on the character also
depicted in Fiddler on the Roof.

McCloskey, Robert. Blueberries for Sal. Make Way for Ducklings. One
Morning in Maine. Favorites from an award winning children's book author.
Each describes a special journey and the difficulties in getting from one place
to another.

Mizumura, Kazue. If I Built a Village. An idealistic picture of what a
village, town and city can be ends with a small boy building with blocks.

Morrow, Suzanne Stark. Inatuk's Friend. Story of an Eskimo child who
must move from one place to another.

Musgrove, Margaret. Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions. Read and
observe 26 African tribes from A to Z.

Peterson, Hans. Big Snowstorm. Illustrations and text picture events on
a Swedish farm during a raging, January blizzard.

Rockwell, Anne. Thruway. As a small boy rides along a thruway with his
mother, he tells of all the things he sees.

Shortall, Leonard. Peter in Grand Central Station. Peter takes his
first trip alone, but when he gets to New York, his uncle is not there to
meet him.

Skorpen, Liesel Moak. We Were Tired of Living in a House. Four small
children pack their bags and leave home to find a new and better house.

Spier, Peter. People. Explores the enormous diversity of the world's
population. Looks at various cultures, homes, foods, games, clothing, faces,
and religions.

Van Woerkom, Dorothy. Abu Ali: Three Tales of the Middle East. Abu Ali
is fooled by his friends, tricks them in turn and even fools himself in three
humorous stories of trickery based on folklore of the Middle East.

Books to Read Aloud or for Better Readers:

Brink, Carol Ryrie. Caddie Woodlawn. These stories convey the flavour
of pioneer life through the eyes of a little girl who lived in Wisconsin a
century ago.

Bulla, Clyde Robert. A Lion to Guard Us. This is a story of the
founding fathers of the Jamestown colony and the families they left behind in

DeJong, Meindert. Wheel on the School. Children of Shora, a Netherlands
village, are determined to bring storks back to their town.

Dodge, Mary Mapes. Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates. Poor Dutch
children long to compete in a skating contest.

DuBois, William Pene. The Twenty-one Balloons. In the fall of 1883,
Professor William Waterbury Sherman sets forth from San Francisco on a
balloon expedition around the world.

Hansen, Judith. Seashells in My Pocket: A Child's Guide to Exploring
the Atlantic Coast from Maine to North Carolina. A look at seashells on
Atlantic Coast beaches.

Henry, Marguerite. Misty of Chincoteague. A story of the wild ponies that
live on an island off the eastern shore of Virginia, and of one
freedom-loving pony.

Kelly, Eric. The Trumpeter of Krakow. Mystery story centring around an
attack on the ancient city of Krakow in medieval Poland.

Milne. A.A. The House at Pooh Corner; Winnie-the-Pooh. Christopher
Robin and his friends have adventures and tell stories.

Mowat, Farley. Owls in the family. This is a story of the author's
boyhood on the Saskatchewan prairie, raising dogs, gophers, rats, snakes,
pigeons, and owls.

McNulty, Faith. Hurricane. This is a nature story that takes place when
a family struggles against a hurricane.

Spyri, Johanna. Heidi. Story of a young girl who goes to live with her
grandfather in the Swiss Alps. She is then taken by her aunt to live in the
city and struggles to return to her grandfather.

Steig, William. Abel's Island. A mouse lives for a year in the
wilderness until his wit and courage take him back home.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Little House series. Documents the life of
the author and her husband a century ago.

Wyss, Johann. Swiss Family Robinson. The adventures of a Swiss family
shipwrecked on a desert island.

Atlases and other reference guides for young people:

Big Blue Marble Atlas. Paula Brown and Robert Garrison. Ideals Publishing
group. Milwaukee. 1988.

Discovering Maps: A Young Person's Atlas. Hammond Incorporated.
Maplewood, N.J. 1989.

Doubleday Children's Atlas. Jane Oliver, editor. Doubleday. New York.

Facts on File Children's Atlas. David and Jill Wright. Facts on File
Publications. New York. 1987.

Life Through the Ages. Giovanni Caselli. Grossett and Dunlop. New York.

Picture Atlas of Our World. National Geographic Society. Washington,
D.C. 1979.

Picture Encyclopaedia of the World for Children. Bryon Williams and
Lynn Williamson. Simon and Schuster. New York. 1984.

Rand McNally Children's Atlas of the World. Bruce Ogilvie. Rand McNally
and Co., Inc. Chicago. 1985.

Rand McNally Student's World Atlas. Rand McNally and Co. Chicago. 1988.

Usborne Book of World Geography. Jenny Tyler, Lisa Watts, Carol Bowyer,
Roma Trundle and Annabel Warrender. Usborne Publishing, Ltd. London. 1984.


This project could not have been completed if it were not for the help
of many dedicated people. Thanks to those who shared their ideas and
materials on geography and early childhood--Mark Bockenhauer of the National
Geographic Society, teachers Ann Hoehn, Judy Ludovise, and Ruth Anne
Wilson-Jones, and Salvatore Natoli of the National Council for the Social
Studies. Thanks to the same group for reviewing the final document and to Pat
Bonner of the Consumer Information Centre, Robert Burch and technical staff
of Hammond, Incorporated, and George Zech of the Duncan Oklahoma Schools.

Thanks to the National Mapping Division of the United States Geological
Survey for becoming involved in the development of this document and for
making it available to a broader audience. In addition, thanks to Ann
Chaparos for the cover design and help on the layout.

Last, but not least, thanks to the staff of the Office of Educational
Research and Improvement for helping make the draft into a booklet--Cynthia
Dorfman, Kate Dorrell, Lance Ferderer, Mark Travaglini, Tim Burr, and Phil

City maps, time zone map, and mileage chart courtesy of Hammond
Incorporated, Maplewood, NJ.


------------ END ------------

You are heresignpostArticles/Parenting/Helping Your Child Learn Geography

arrow_upTop of Page