I never thought of geology or geography as subjects for three year olds, but Maria Montessori taught us that young children are capable of learning anything and everything. A few months ago we began our geography lessons. Because young children are tactile learners, we started with a sandpaper globe. All of the land is bumpy and the water is smooth. This gives children an idea of how much of the Earth is composed of land and water. It’s very easy and a little messy to make your own, but here’s how to do it.
How to Make a Sandpaper Globe
1. Search thrift stores or family members’ basements for an old globe. We found one at a thrift store with the USSR and a $6 price tag. (Great recycling lesson here!)
3. Working in small sections, apply craft glue to the land masses with a fine paint brush. Sprinkle with sand and gently pat it into the globe (You can take it from the beach or buy it at a hardware store.) Allow the sand to dry. This works best if done over a period of a few days. Trying to get it all done at once makes for a messy and uneven finished product. If you miss a spot, simple go back the next day to touch up when it is completely dry. A lot of details in archipelagos will be lost. That’s OK. This is just to give a general concept of Earth. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good!
4. Once all of the globe is covered in blue paint or sand and dry, coat it with Mod Podge. Allow it to dry and then begin your lessons.
How to Teach with a Sandpaper Globe
1. Before introducing the globe, explain that Earth is made up of three things: water, land and air. Make sure your children have seen an ocean, lake or river, so they have a concept of a large body of water. Give the child small jars of dirt, water and air. You can talk about air and how you breathe it and how wind is moving air that you can feel.
2. Give your child cards that represent water, land and air. Allow your child to classify each by placing them in front of the jars. Question mistakes in a friendly way. Keep it positive. Take nature walks and point out land, water and air.
3. When you introduce the globe, say, “This is a globe. It represents the planet Earth.” Teach your child to place his hands on it and feel it with reverence. Tell him that the water is smooth and the land is rough. Show him how it can slowly rotate. Let your child explore the globe on his own. Answer questions. Point out where you and loved ones live.
4. Once your child has explored the globe, ask him about air. Explain that the air is over both the land and the water. You can show pictures of Earth from space and point out clouds.
5. Allow your child access to the globe and classification cards and jars at his will. The next step will be introducing continents, so move in that direction.