Two lessons were taught here: geography and some yoga. Kids love colors and shapes. They love tangible materials and they love putting things together. And of course, they love to stretch and move and have seemingly care-free fun doing yoga by putting various body parts on various “parts of the world” , in an extra-education version of the American game “Twister”.
Making the colorful yoga-mat continents involved a painstaking cut-out project where I glued together long strips of translucent baking paper, attached it to a huge, 2 x 1.4 meter world map in the main hallway of my school, got help from a 6th grade class to trace all the land masses and islands from this map, cut out the continents and then transferred the pattern paper continents on to yoga mats, finally cutting those out, to produce some beautiful, Montessori-code colored continents. Using a blue sheet “ocean” background, the kids (featured in all the photos in this post) used the map to recreate a world continent map of their own.
The process involved talking about colors and especially shapes, and having the kids recreate the shapes using gestures and their bodies themselves. Once they were able to conceptualize the shape and form of each continent, I asked them to place those continents on to the blue sheet. I asked them to try to remember the position of each continent in relation to the others, and to space them as correctly as possible. We then looked at the world map as an answer key to see how correctly they had “re-created the world.”
Only some minor corrections were necessary; the kids had done a great job of memorizing the shapes and the disposition of our world’s continents! Africa and South America needed to be moved farther apart – yet by widening “the Atlantic Ocean”, I was able to throw in a quick lesson in plate tectonics. They then had fun putting the Africa and South America pieces together and then taking them apart, like puzzle pieces, further internalizing the concept of plate tectonics.
Below is a photo of a plate tectonic lesson taught in English to 6-7 year olds in a Czech school.
(I can’t wait to do some lessons on paleontology and Earth history with them! Especially since we all know how much kids are fascinated by dinosaurs.)
After our “yoga mat continent map” was finished, we identified some countries – especially big, “visually prominent” ones, first on the world map and then on the yoga-mat continent map with the blue sheet.
Then the kids looked at yoga positions on a brown yoga mat nearby, which I had reserved for that purpose. They immediately started to copy the various positions on the mat. There was little for me to do except to check that their backs were straight, that their yoga “shapes” were correct, and that they were breathing deeply and regularly.
Finally, we put it all together. We made a game of “Geography Twister” using body parts – first in German, and then in English. The kids had to put various body parts on various continents in specific areas on those continents (of course, vocabulary like “east / west / north, south” were used for this purpose as well.)
The results produced various yoga positions, reinforcement of their knowledge of world continents, countries and cardinal points, and lots of laughter.
There are thousands of ways to teach, learn, and have fun in the process! As I saw on the day of this outdoor lesson, “Geography Yoga” is one of them.
The next lesson – with a foam puzzle floor map of the world – had the kids identifying the continents once again, but this time also the countries. The map is made of foam and is a puzzle with over 250 pieces. You know how kids love puzzles! They put it together joyfully and in the process, learned the name and position of many countries. They were able to show me how they traveled across the Middle East to Germany. We talked about time differences. I asked applied questions about time and daily activities across the globe. The kids were fascinated by the fact that my mother back in Los Angeles was just waking up, while we were finishing a late afternoon lesson… or that a Russian child in Moscow was having breakfast, while a Russian child in Vladivostock was going to bed!
This map is almost the same size as the hand-made Montessori color continent map we assembled and used today, but detailed with every country and the country flag.
More yoga and geography is pictured below. Kids sure love to move! They sure love colors! They sure love to act on the following commands: “Put your left food on Australia and your right foot on Japan. Put both your hands on north Brazil. Keep a straight back.” The result, of course, is the yoga position “downward dog”.
I can’t wait to do this lesson again and the kids are looking forward to it as well!