03 January 2011

Improptu Geography lesson

It's the last day of Christmas break, and the kids were happily watching TV while I did some internet research.  I placed a couple orders for free seed catalogs, and decided to look up what hardiness zone we are in.  For those who aren't familiar with gardening, each plant grows best in its own climate, and hardiness zones are a great way to know what will grow best in your area.

Each seed packet comes with info telling you what zone (or zones) it will grow best in.  (I pulled the above image from google - and you can see that it has the hardiness zones listed for Australia).

Anyway, I was looking at the above map to double-check my hardiness zone  (click the map above to see it larger).  I lived in La Crosse for so long that I keep having this mental feeling that I am in zone 4, and I have to forcibly remind myself I am now in zone 5. ~sighs~

"What's that, Mom?"  Jacob was staring at the colorful map in fascination.  "It looks kinda like the map hanging behind Ms. Tripp's desk."  I grinned and started to explain that Ms. Tripp's map was probably colored by state, while this one was colored by temperature.  The warmer the overall temp, the brighter the color.

At this point, James came up and pointed at the state of Texas.  "That's the largest state." he said confidently.

"Actually, James, Alaska is larger than Texas"  I said.  He looked quizzically at the map (which DID make Alaska look slightly smaller than Texas)...then grinned at me and laughed, thinking I was pulling his leg.  So I pulled up a more realistic-sized map of North America, and he caught on.  He also was indignant at the makers of the zoning map for "lying" about the state size (which was so cute).

Then the questions started coming fast and furious.  "Which country is the biggest?"  So I pulled up a map of the world, and they quickly figured out it was Russia.  ("Wow...you could fit three United States inside of Russia!")  With a little bit of prompting, they realized that Russia and Alaska are very close to each other, even though they are on the opposite sides of a traditional map.  "It's because the world is round, right, Mom?"  Yup!

"Which country is the smallest?"  So I pulled up a map of Italy and showed them Vatican City.  "Wow...that's really small!"

"Which country is the one that's been in the news lately?"  That one caught me off-guard a bit, because a lot of countries have been in the news recently - so I asked for more details.  "You know, the one with all the big bombs."

"Oh, I think you mean Iran."

"No, Mom - it was "North" something, like North Carolina but a country, not a state...and you said your Grandpa fought there?  And their leader is sick all the time."

"Ahh, you mean North Korea."

"Yeah!  Where is North Korea?"

I showed them where North Korea was, while puzzling over the "leader is sick" comment...then I realized the name of the leader of N.K. is Kim Jong Il (which sounds a lot like "ill").  I have to admit it made me chuckle a bit.

After the North Korea conversation, they kinda lost interest in the maps and turned back to the TV.  The whole "lesson" couldn't have taken six or seven minutes, but they learned a lot.

This isn't the first time they have shown an interest in geography.  I'm thinking I might have to get a couple of large, classroom-quality maps to hang up for them.  Definitely a United States map, and I think a world map as well.

" A child educated only at school is an uneducated child" 
         - George Santayana


Grandma Debbie said...

This is great that they have such an interest. I was just given a Rand McNally road atlas that I would be happy to let you have.

patricialynn said...

@Debbie that would be great! I think the kids would really enjoy that.

Probably as much as they enjoy flipping through Sean's old biology textbooks. I swear I have the only seven year old who can correctly identify the organs in the body.

Wendy said...

Sounds like a typical "homeschool" lesson at my house ;).

I'm in zone 5, too, but I grew up in zone 6/7, and so when I first started gardening up here, I kept trying to grow stuff that needs a longer, warmer growing season. I think I'm finally starting to learn, but goodness it took me a long time (and a lot of dead perennials) to figure it out ;).