We have a block of time set aside for "project work" a couple of times each week. Sometimes the project is independent, research based, like Juni's Blue Jay project, other times is something more tangible like a sewing project or art based. For the past month or so we've been working on a "map project". This project started with the picture book, "The Way to Captain Yankee's" (below) that shows the map of an island, and tells the story of a Ms. Calico who loses her way--but fortunately has a map with her. It was cute, though not a book I loved. But, the kids loved following along with the character's route as she went. The project launched from there. We drew maps of "Barefoot" Island (an idea I found on Pinterest). They created different parts of their island, included a key with symbols similar to the ones used in the book, a directional arrow, and labels for different parts of the map.
From there we practiced reading different kinds of maps: the World Map in our bathroom, the elevation and trail maps from Maine Huts and Trails, some vintage gift wrap from the bookstore that included a map of Washington DC from 1945, and greeting cards with maps of Penobscot Bay. We pretended we were lost in DC and practiced navigating from one Embassy to another.
We've been playing the "which way" game in the car, where Kale and Juniper navigate while we drive to familiar places.
With the Gazetteer we calculated distances, and then to work with a smaller scale, began drafting the footprint of our house, to scale, on graph paper. This has been Juniper's favorite part so far, and she is fastidious about measuring each wall and piece of furniture before adding it in. (I have always had a love affair with house plans, so the kids are very familiar with how to draw them--but this is her first, very own house project). This has been a good introduction to fractions.
From here I've got ideas to map our property, using Google Maps, and other techniques for measuring large spaces. Or possible drafting some made up houses, creating a village or town based on the Busy Town books, or maybe making a relief map with playdough. Maybe all of the above. When Juniper is done with the house drawing we'll make a plan together for our next steps. I'd love to include GeoCaching as well when the weather warms.
Kale loved the Barefoot Island project, and is always up for measuring, but otherwise has had little interest in the Map Project. What he is totally into right now is coloring, writing, and words. We can't make it through a page of any book without him asking about the meaning of a word. Then he will immediately add that word to his vocabulary. Often he asks about the meaning of words from books we've read in the distant past, or words from songs, or overheard phone conversations. (We have to be careful about what we say around him). And, he is writing. He has always been a story teller, but he is suddenly (maybe from all of the coloring?) so patient and focused at wanting to write for himself. He identifies about 1/2 the alphabet and can draw 5-6 letters independently. The rest he asks how to form, and then painstakingly, with his tongue working his lower lip, forms each one until his message is finished. Pretty darn sweet. There's almost nothing I like better than an E with centipede legs.