Map-Based Curriculum Aides: Update 2
October has flown by, we're into November, and it's time for another update on the map-based curriculum aides.
Let's just say this a work in progress and things have changed a little bit...
The idea has blossomed from a set of maps to assist in geography education into a full-blown geography curriculum. (Purchasing the set of maps separately may still be an option!) But as I talked with others, a salient point came up. One reviewer said, in effect, "I'm afraid that someone will purchase this set of beautiful and informative maps and have no idea what to do with it, so it just sits on their shelf (or their computer) unused." That hit home. I needed to be able to guide homeschool families through the power of maps to use geography to connect their children to the real world and build a bridge to everything they're already learning. So I'm adapting all the content from the map-based curriculum aides into a full-blown curriculum.
Use maps to connect children to the real world and use geography to provide context for what they’re already learning.
Connect 15,000 children to the real world. (This is the number children it would take, hand-in-hand, to circle the Earth.)
Explain the “why” behind geography and how it connects other fields of learning, incorporating a "whole of learning" method that weaves together STEM, literature, history, and fine arts.
Use maps and geographic datasets to examine and create data visualizations that explain real-world connections.
Use maps, books, and documentaries to enliven critical thinking.
Use an online learning platform for deeper instruction, exploration, and sharing of learning.
Have children so excited by what they learn they can’t wait to share it with the next person that walks into the room.
So What's the Latest Plan?
Currently, the plan is to still have two courses, each with two academic levels of instruction and two years' worth of content:
US Geography (in development)
World Geography (future development)
Elementary (ages 8-11)
Secondary (ages 12-15)
The program will provide homeschool families with a once-a-month curriculum prep packet that covers a different topic each month. Topics could include water, political/cultural regions, weather, climate, people, national parks, natural disasters, physical landforms, transportation, etc. The elementary and secondary would have the same overall theme each month (in case families sign up for both), but the secondary course would have different subtopics and/or more advanced material. For those familiar with unit studies, the prep packet is like a mini unit study. It would include maps, activities, a book list, a documentary list, links to historical maps, and places to visit and explore.
At the end of the month, I would provide a detailed video on the subject that helps to explore the maps and topic in greater depth. This would also be an interactive forum to ask questions and share your explorations and maps created over the course of the month. I think this approach nicely blends the guided and self-paced approaches to learning. And since the goal is to connect our children to the real world, there will be an emphasis on outside experience and observation.
I am also interested in providing an above-and-beyond component to the program that will allow motivated students to earn prizes for their work. Above-and-beyond work could include mapping projects, written reports, and, for the secondary level, a final capstone-type project using professional-level geographic information systems. There would be different levels of effort that would yield increasingly valuable awards. Prizes could include certificates, medallions, wearable merchandise, puzzles, customized world/US maps, or atlases (including full-size, library-grade atlases).
What Stage Are You At in Development?
Right now I'm doing deeper market viability research: is there enough interest to make this sustainable? What would I be competing with in the homeschool marketplace? What would make this curriculum unique from others?
I'm also developing the first month's topic (Water: Rivers, Watersheds, and Dams) as a pilot. Here's a sneak peak at some of those maps.
I would love your thoughts and feedback on the current direction. Like a river, I'm constantly going, but diversions can change my course—sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with you thoughts!