Helping young students understand how they relate to the world they live in is a common Social Studies standard. It also helps students understand their relationship to the world. A few years ago I created a unit called “This Is Our World” and look forward to teaching it every year.
This year, my students were truly captivated by the lessons and we completed some really fun hands-on extensions to go along with them. I wanted to share some of our learning, activities, and projects that we completed throughout this unit.
The first lesson starts off BIG. The objective today is for students to understand that they live on the planet called Earth which is part of the solar system. I started the lesson showing my students a picture of the solar system and we read a book about “Earth.” Then, I showed them some pictures taken from the International Space Station. (My students were VERY into this!) We talked about how BIG space is and watched this video to help them understand just how big it is. (They were mesmerized.)
The next day, we learned that the Earth is comprised of three things: land, air, and water. We passed around our Montessori sandpaper globe to better understand where the land is and where the water is.
While the globe was being passed around we discussed that there is much more water than land on the globe and named some animals that live in the water and on the land. We then sorted picture cards into three categories: land, air, and water.
After this, during exploration centers, students were given the opportunity to create Earths out of play dough using play dough work mats and blue and green play dough.
Other students painted Earths.
We also created a large mural, caption, and label to hang on our wall.
Over the course of the week we learned that there are seven continents, that we live in North America, and that we live in the state called Texas. We enjoyed creating maps, watching videos, listening to music, and reading books along with these lessons. Some of our favorite videos were:
When we got to the town in which we live, we really had a blast. To make this come to life, I went to Home Depot and bought a piece of wood and had it cut into 3″ and 4″ pieces. One of the guys there chopped it up for me for free! I purchased a few sanding blocks and set all the materials out on our “math table.” When my students came to school that day, they were captivated. They couldn’t wait to find out what we were going to do with the materials.
To introduce the lesson, I read the book, “Good People Everywhere.”
I really love this book as it points out that there are, just as it says, good people everywhere. I used this to springboard our lesson that we live in a community. In the book it shows towns, streets, houses, schools, playgrounds, etc. It was the perfect way to show my students all different aspects of our community and town. I then told them that we were going to make a large community in our STEM lab. (Insert happy squeals and applause!) I explained that their first job was to turn a piece of wood into their house. I gave them a lesson on how to sand their block of wood and how to check if it was smooth and ready for paint. During the sanding process, the kids talked about what color their houses were, if they had a one or two story house, and other facts about their houses. (This was a great way for my students to connect and get to know each other.)
Once their block of wood was smooth, they drew the outline of their house with pencil.
Next, they outlined the lines with Sharpie and got to work painting their houses.
At home, students were working on creating there favorite place in our community out of recycled materials to add to our community. They brought in FABULOUS projects and loved sharing them during our morning meeting. (This was a great chance for students to practice public speaking!)
We then got to work constructing our community in our STEM lab. To do this, I taped green butcher paper on the floor and had my class sit around the “land” and make a plan as to where each building should go. Some students decided to start a “road team” and they began cutting out and testing the roads they made.
Other students formed a “construction team.” They decided that they should put the police station, fire station, and hospital close to each other so that they could all help each other. They also made sure to put the P. Terry’s (hamburger place) and Chick Fil A near them so that the workers had good food to eat!
They put Austin Scoops next to the movie theatre so that they could get an ice cream cone after watching a movie.
They put the school near these places in hopes that we could go on a field trip to the ice cream shop!
They worked together SO WELL throughout this process and carefully taped the roads to the community and tested them out with play cars to make sure they were drivable and went to the correct places. They also added signs so that drivers would stay safe.
The entire planning, constructing, and creating process was child driven. They problem solved and were so very proud of their end result. Many other classes stopped by to watch them work and to check out our community.
It truly was a great experience. They learned so much about our community and internalized so much more than the social studies standards asked us to learn. If you are interested, all of these lessons and activities are found in my “This Is Our World” packet available on TpT. (click here for the link)