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By Nina Filipekfreelance education writer

Fun ways of developing children’s knowledge, skills and understanding in geography

Make your own volcano

Use basic classroom resources to build your own natural disaster

1 It’s a disaster!

Spend some time talking about what a natural disaster is and look at photographs of some examples. Divide the children into small groups and give each group some basic resources: different coloured paper, scissors, sticky tape, pens and pencils. Tell the children that they are going to create a model of a natural disaster. The fewer the resources you provide, the more creative the children will have to be with their model-making. For example, a semi-circular piece of paper can be folded into a cone shape to make a tornado or a volcano; a strip of curled blue paper can make a tsunami and screwed up red paper or torn strips can make fire or lava. Let the children vote on which disaster model they think is best. Place your models in appropriate locations on a large world map.

2 Country collage

Make a 3D collage of each new country you study. Use maps and atlases at different scales as a source of reference. Give small groups of children some card to make the base. Tell them to cut the base into the shape that defines the border of the country. Provide some basic resources, for example blue wool to represent rivers, different coloured paper to represent different land use, felt-tipped pens for drawing major roads and railways, grey paper to represent urban areas, papier mâché for mountains, and so on. Decide what symbols and geographical features to include and prompt discussion within the groups to promote learning.

3 Mini mountains

Let the children observe how a fold mountain is formed and create their own. Make a rectangular block using different colours of Plasticine layered up on top of each other. At each side of the Plasticine, place a small block and push them towards the middle. The pressure from the blocks on either side pushes up the layers of Plasticine and creates a ‘fold’ mountain. Explain that the blocks represent harder rock and the Plasticine in the middle represents softer sedimentary rock. Look at photographs of fold mountains, for example the Himalayas, the Rockies and the Alps. You can also demonstrate how fault-block mountains are formed using three wooden bricks placed in a line. Press the outer bricks towards the centre brick. Get one of the children to push the centre brick up to represent the pressure of rocks below. The gaps between the bricks represent fault lines in the rock.

4 Tornado in a bottle

Show the children how to make a tornado in a plastic drinks bottle. It’s fun and educational because the water moves in the same way as the wind in a tornado. Get the children to fill an empty drinks bottle (remove the label) with water up to three-quarters full. You could add a few drops of washing up liquid and a little food colouring. Next add glitter to represent the debris and dust that a real tornado will suck up. Put the cap back on and screw down tightly. Hold the bottle upside down by its cap and swirl the water around in quick circular movements. Rest the bottle on its cap and watch the tornado take shape. Look at photographs of tornadoes in books and on the internet. Read accounts from children who have experienced tornadoes at www.fema.gov/kids/torn_travis.htm

5 Geography bingo

Sharpen concentration levels by giving the children a bingo board. In each of the squares, write a geographical term or a place name that you want the children to remember from the lesson. This is a good exercise to try at the start of a new topic when you are more likely to be introducing new geographical concepts and vocabulary. Tell the children to cross out the words with a felt-tipped pen as they hear them. The first person to shout Bingo wins a reward. In the plenary, discuss the words on the bingo card as a way of recapping the content of the lesson.

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