Hands-on High School Geography: Atlas Building

When Kathryne- my oldest- wanted to take geography this year as an elective in her senior year, I thought it was a good idea. But I wasn’t exactly sure what a high school geography course would consist of. To be honest, I didn’t learn much about geography in high school- or at any time throughout school. I finally learned some of the major countries in each continent when I studied geography with my little girls last year.

Geography with the little girls consisted of lots of learning about the different cultures in the countries we were labeling. We made foods and crafts and games from the countries. It was lots of fun. But is this what high school geography would be I wondered? Somehow I couldn’t picture Kathryne enjoying making African pottery while she learned about the people groups who lived in the Sahara desert.

Hands-on high school geography

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Kathryne has been using North Star Geography from Bright Ideas Press this year. When I began looking through the curriculum this summer, I was curious to see how geography was taught to high school. Turns out, there are some things that look pretty fun in the curriculum. (I keep saying I’m using the book next year and taking the course myself!)

Atlas Building: Why do it?

One of the activities that I think is pretty cool is one that Kathryne will work on all year long- Atlas Building. If you think about it, having student’s create their own atlas over the course of the year is a great idea for cementing the information that they’re learning, whether it’s labeling maps or gathering facts about a country. And, more than just learning how to use an atlas to label a map or read about a country, students who are building their own atlas are apt to remember more about what they’re learning because they’re handling the information in additional ways.

This atlas building project is having kids “touch” the information in multiple ways. They’re researching countries. They’re recording information. They’re labeling maps. They’re drawing illustrations. They’re creating an actual atlas that they can then use for reference. Having multiple ways to use the information helps students internalize it in a way that just memorizing country names and facts can’t.

Atlas Building: What does it look like?

The atlas building instructions are found on the companion CDRom that comes with the North Star Geography curriculum.

North star geography from bright ideas press

In each chapter students are given things they need to label on a map as well as information they need to research and record.

Labeling maps in high school geography

Blank maps and fact files are provided for students to fill in.

Country research in high school geography

World map in high school geography

I printed the atlas building instructions before Kathryne began the course.

Each week she completes the map labeling and country research sections. At the beginning of the atlas building section there was a world map and a World Fact File. (Note: Kathryne is dysgraphic. Believe it or not, she can (usually) read her own writing.)

North Star Geography from Bright Ideas Press

North Star Geography from Bright Ideas Press

As she goes through the course, she’s completing continent maps and country fact files.

Researching countries for high school geography

By the time she completes the curriculum, she’ll have a complete atlas that she created and that she can use for reference. She’ll also know quite a bit more about where various countries are located and facts about them. Atlas building is proving to be an excellent hands-on way for her to learn more about geography, and I’m looking forward to seeing the completed atlas at the end of the year.

Building an atlas for high school geography

If you want to know more about North Star Geography from Bright Ideas Press, you can check out this post.

High school geography class

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