Monday, 26 September 2011

A Montessori Mapping Activity

I set this activity up in response to Eve's interest in mapping and contours. The background work to this was a map that Eve drew with her Granny as part of extension activities to go with the Katie Morag books that the girls adore. Eve drew a map of an island that she dreamed up, using symbols to represent the man-made and natural features of the landscape - she made a key to go with it. I designed the components of this activity based on the elements that Eve had included on her map; contoured hills, lakes and rivers, marsh areas and woodland, footpaths and roads, houses and bridges. There was more on her map as it was an island but I simplified slightly to make it work better as a tray based activity. Above is the set-up that I did to play with it!

This picture shows the details of the contours. We explored contours further by running up and down gentle and steep inclines at a local nature reserve developed on an old colliery site. At this stage the girls understand it simply as 'close together lines = steep slope' and 'far apart lines = gentle slope'. I cut rounded shapes from the green felt in decreasing sizes so that the girls can build them up individually to put their creative stamp on their 'map'.

I also cut different shapes of blue to represent various bodies of water. We discussed whether lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and canals were natural or man-made and the girls surprised me with their knowledge! Once again I kept it simple by leaving lakes as natural features, without muddying the water ('scuse the pun!) with man-made lakes! The girls can use whichever one they want when building their map.

This is a close-up of the 'woodland', made from felt with deciduous and evergreen trees stitched on with embroidery floss! All of the components are made with either felt or embroidery floss. I had thought that I would cut the rivers, roads and footpaths from felt also but realised during construction that the floss would be both more malleable to suit the girl's creative wishes, and more 'in scale' with the felt pieces (we're talking English rivers here, not the Amazon!). I hasten to add that the activity is not to scale, the floss just looked more believable scale wise!

This is how I set it up for the girls to use. The tray has a small chunky base on - it came from Ikea originally and I used to use it with purple sand for forming letters and numbers on. I cut the dark green felt to fit snugly, and the black box, filched from my literacy materials contains the mapping pieces!

This is a close up of the key that I made with felt pieces to match the ones that were in the black box. Some reading is required to decode the key, although I am anticipating that Eve will recognise many of the symbols from her map! I am looking forwards to introducing this activity to the girls for them to explore. They are very interested in rivers and landforms at the moment so I hope they find it fun!

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