Map-Based Curriculum Aides: Update 1
The hard work of creating inspiring, data-rich, high-quality, map-based curriculum aides has begun! I've observed a need in the homeschool curriculum space for stronger geographic content, and I am really excited to share with you what my vision is for these products. By asking a lot of questions, talking to my own homeschooled children, and sharing some concepts with friends and family, I think the basic outline you'll read about below will begin to unveil the fascinating and all-encompassing world of geography for children (and adults!).
US Geography will be the first curriculum aide produced.
Each curriculum aide will have two separate editions: Elementary and Secondary.
You will access the aides online with an option to download a printable PDF.
Content will include video, lots of maps and charts, historical maps, links to curated books and videos, links to places to visit, and worksheets.
Proposed table of contents is below.
US Geography Elementary is slated to be ready by late spring 2021.
Why Are You Producing US Geography First?
Perhaps you saw the survey results that indicated world geography and world history were of greater interest than US geography or US history. While the world topics were higher than US topics, US geography was still favored as a subject of interest for nearly three-quarters of survey respondents. Couple that high response rate with my desire to get the first product out as soon as possible, US geography won the day. I foresee getting US geography together much quicker because the mapping datasets I would need are generally more readily available for the US than for the world. Plus, much of the mapping I've done already is within the US, so I have an easier place to start.
What Grade Levels Are You Targeting?
It was very clear from the survey that elementary-aged students were the largest target market. I also noted, however, that middle and high school were both at 50% interest level or higher. As I combed through datasets to get ideas for maps, I ran across things that would be really cool to explore but would be way too much for younger children. Here's a real experience to illustrate:
My 13-year-old daughter walks into the room and sees me working on a map about dams. "What's that?" she asks.
"A map of the 10 largest dams in the United States." She notices they are all west of the Mississippi. "I've also labeled the largest dam east of the Mississippi," I add.
She looks thoughtful. "So there are more dams west of the Mississippi than east of the Mississippi, I gather?"
"I am so glad you asked!" I say. "Actually, no. There are a lot of dams east of the Mississippi, they're just much smaller than the huge dams in the west. In fact, I have a dataset of all 90,000 dams in the United States that I'll use to illustrate that for older students."
With that in mind, I've decided to create two versions of each curriculum aide. Right now I'm referring to them as Elementary and Secondary. We'll see if those names stick or not, but I'll be using it as a working title.
Elementary - recommended for ages 11 and younger, or about grades K-6.
Secondary - recommended for ages 12 and older, or about grades 7-12.
The Secondary products will contain all the maps from Elementary, but generally with greater detail. The Secondary curriculum aide will also include additional maps that are not in Elementary using more complex datasets. The goal for both levels is to provide enough detail to pique interest and engage young minds.
What Format Will These Be In?
I know that some people love hard-copy material—I'm one of them. I'd much rather read a printed book than an e-book, and keeping (and reading) an online journal just doesn't have the same emotional connection for me as a handwritten journal. Digital content, however, has some really awesome advantages: audio/video, live links, animation, etc. So why not combine the best of both? The curriculum aides will be hosted on a website and can be enjoyed online or downloaded as PDF and printed as you like. I may eventually provide my own hard-copy editions.
What Kind of Content Can I Expect?
Oooh! I'm glad you asked. This is where I get really excited. I'm sharing here my vision for the content with the caveat that we're still in the very early stages, so things might change. If they do, I'll be sure to let you know in future updates.
Each aide will consist of three sections—Political, Physical, and Cultural. Within each section will be chapters focusing on a specific subject area. And within that subject area there may be anywhere from 1 to 10 maps and charts to inspire discovery.
The content will be rich!
Each chapter will begin with a short video describing the chapter and some things to look for in the maps.
Each map will have a brief explanation and maybe some exploration questions for you and your homeschooler to think or talk about.
Another short video will highlight even more of the coolness of geography that you may have noticed in your map exploration and encourage you to find things you may have missed (repetition is a great learning tool!).
Following that will be historical maps directly related to the chapter subject area with the ability to explore very high-resolution images of the historical maps.
Next comes a curated list of books and videos with links of where to find them. The books and videos span fiction and non-fiction and are age-appropriate for the Elementary or Secondary levels.
If you're a traveler of any sort, you'll love the places to visit section that highlights chapter-specific places of learning and fun.
Finally, each chapter will have black-and-white printable worksheets you can use with your homeschooler for assessing learning, coloring, or any other way you like.
Proposed Table of Contents
And because I know you just asked your computer screen out loud, I've included below the proposed table of contents (sections in bold followed by chapters). Keep in mind that while the chapters may be very similar in each, the chapters will have more maps and maps of greater detail in the Secondary curriculum aide.
Political States and capitals Time zones Electoral college (Secondary only) Congressional districts (Secondary only)
Physical Major landforms Area comparisons Water National parks Weather Natural disasters
Cultural Regions Land use and land cover Cities Population density Transportation
When Will These Be Ready To Purchase?
My goal is to have the US Geography Elementary curriculum aide ready by the end of spring 2021. The US Geography Secondary would follow a couple months after Elementary is available. I'd then turn my attention to World Geography. Based on user feedback and market interest, the history curriculum aides would then be scheduled.
I've started with the water chapter and have been really enjoying some of the discovery happening there. Look for info on that chapter and more in the October update!
That's it! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions! Thanks for all your support and ideas. If you haven't already signed up to receive updates on the map-based curriculum aides, sign up here.
Other posts you may like:
Recommended resources for teaching geography in your home.
Survey on map use in 26 homeschool environments and how it could be improved with map-based curriculum aides.
Handouts, slides, and info on two geography-packed presentations at the 2017 LDSHE conference: "How Maps Lie" and "Without Geography, You're Nowhere".