What am I talking about?
How Did Our Geography Club Begin?
Last year, when Little Way Home Educators, our local Catholic homeschooling network, began, one of the moms suggested creating a small, home-based Geography Club within it. She asked if I'd like to join and co-coordinate the club, and, without a second thought, I said, "Yes". Geography is something I was never good at during my school years and want my children to love. What better way to make that happen than to gather with friends once monthly in order to learn and share about geography topics?
So, that mom and I got word out and, lo, many other moms were interested in meeting up for Geography Club, too. Too many, in fact, to accommodate in one home, so we opted to meet at two different homes, having each chapter focus on the same topic monthly, while doing different specific activities tailored to the families within each chapter. Then, we hoped to have a culminating Geography Fair at the end of the academic year with both chapters and anyone else from our wider Little Way group that wanted to participate.
Fast forward more than a year: After a summer break, both geography club chapters are still going strong with monthly meetings. However, the culminating fair never happened last year since we all had spring fever!
Last year, our club focused on the seven continents. We opened with an overview meeting and, then, each month, centered our fun and learning around one of the seven continents. This year, we are focusing on regions of the United States.
Meetings officially run two hours long, but tend to stretch to three or even four or five hours when the weather is good and schedules allow, since we all love to enjoy free time together.
Both chapters began with the same general outline for meetings:
- Circle Time (20 minutes)
- Experts/Museum Time (30 minutes)
- Game Time (20 minutes)
- Travelogue (20 minutes)
- Project/Games (30 minutes)
- Announcements, Snack and Free Time (varies)
However, over the months, we've adapted that outline a bit. The club a friend of mine leads pretty much follows the following pattern now with flexible times.
- Circle Time and Travelogue
- Game and Experts Time
- Group Activity One
- Group Activity Two
As I understand, they often include a snack in one of the different meeting segments, sometimes making snacks related to the geographical area as one of their group activities. Crafts are a popular group activity for them, too.
The group I lead now follows this general pattern, with flexible times for each part of our meetings as well:
- Gathering Time - As families arrive puzzles books, cards, and other materials related to the geographical area are out to be used.
- Opening Prayer and Greetings: When all have arrived, we gather to say a formal hello and prayer, which, often a child leads.
- Circle Time: I lead the children in some sort of overview about the geographic region we are focusing on, using any variety of picture books, songs, mapping activities, group games, etc. I have come up with that month.
- Body Breaks: As needed during Circle Time and Experts Time, we take quick body breaks, which might include quick, but fun on-your-feet geography games or simple things, such as jumping the number of times as there are states in a region of the USA or countries on a continent.
- Experts Time: A highlight of every club meeting, this is the time when each child who wishes takes the "Expert Chair" to share a mini-project on a topic of choice. Projects range greatly and have included everything from a brief oral report on inventors that came from a specific region to art projects based on animals or geographic features to self-written stories inspired by the people and places within a region.
- Activity Stations: We typically set up anywhere between three and five activity stations that the children can rotate through based on their interests. The activities the stations vary greatly and have included crafts, games played by indigenous people, book baskets, mapping activities, puzzles, card games based on geographic region information, and more. Sometimes the children create and lead their own activity stations for one another.
- Announcements, Free Play, and Snack: Two hours after starting, any relevant announcements are made, clean up is done, and the kids (and grown ups!) who wish to hang out for free play, snack, and chatting.
Sometimes,meetings are held outside, sometimes in, sometimes a little of both. All the time, they are filled with a balance of child-led and grown up-led learning and fun.
Which Areas Do You Want to Hear About First?
As I have time, I will share highlights from each of the specific meetings we have had thus far. If you have a particular continent or region of the United States you're most interested in hearing how we approached, let me know,so I can be sure to highlight that one first. (Mind you, so far, we've only done a general overview of the USA and the New England Region. However,the Mid-Atlantic Region is next in our plans, followed by all the other regions.)
We love our monthly Geography Club and encourage others to start similar initiatives. We'd also be delighted to hear about your favorite geography-related activities, recipes, picture books, resource books, and projects. Do share them in a comment here or on Facebook.