Christmas and Geography
- 2002 11 Dec
During workshops I often ask folks what they think of when I say "geography." The most common answers are "maps" and "globes." Next, I read them the following definition of geography from the National Geographic Society and light bulbs go on. Oh! It's all about people and all about Earth. It's amazing how much is covered in geography.
Geography as Defined by the National Geographic Society: "A knowledge of place names, location of cultural and physical features, distribution and patterns of languages, religions, economic activities, population and political systems. Physical regions and physical phenomena, such as tectonic activity, landform, climate, bodies of water, soils and flora and fauna. The changes in places and areas through time, including how people have modified the environment. Cartographer's tools, such as maps, instruments, graphs and statistics are also a part of geography."
Incorporate Geography into Real Life
Teaching geography as a separate subject for at least four semesters during the homeschool years is a great idea. But that doesn't mean it should be ignored the rest of the time. This is a topic that can easily be integrated into real life as well as into other subjects such as history, science, and literature.
How do you incorporate geography into real life? The ideas for doing so are vast -- here are examples of ways to tie it into Christmas.
A. Map the Christmas story. Using your favorite account from the gospels, follow Mary and Joseph's journey on an atlas map. Or, use an outline map and fill in their journey as you read about it. Seeing this familiar story develop on a map cements the events as having happened in a real time and place. This is not only a good geography exercise (that can be used with many Bible accounts) but it is also an excellent tool for bolstering our faith. A good Bible atlas is an important tool for this type of activity.
Talk about the weather and terrain in the Mideast. What was the weather like for Mary and Joseph and the newborn baby? What was the terrain like as they traveled first to Bethlehem and later to Egypt?
B. Read about countries where Christians are not allowed to openly celebrate Christmas and their faith. Find them on a map and make an effort to pray for God's work to be done in those countries. Operation World is a great resource for this activity. Buy it at your local Christian bookstore or www.ywam.org (This is also a fascinating site to view the wealth and depth of ministry taking place around the world thanks to this organization.)
At such a time as this, it is important to understand both where Christians are able to freely rejoice in the birth of Christ and His redeeming love, as well as where our brothers and sisters must worship Him in secret.
C. Send a Christmas card to someone in the military (active or retired). If on active duty, take note of where this person is serving and mark it on a map. Remember to pray for our military (and their families) during this time.
D. For younger children, look up information on the animals who were mentioned in the Christmas account. Tying the Bible in with things that are familiar to children helps them to see the "realness" of Scripture. Older students might enjoy finding out what other kinds of animals live in the Mideast. Kids enjoy drawing animals on an outline map so they can place each animal in the location where it actually "lives."
E. Read about Christmas in other lands. This is a site that describes Polish Christmas customs - there is a link at the bottom of their home page that speaks specifically about their special Christmas foods. Carp, anyone?! It is so interesting to learn about other cultures and customs and this kind of information provides plenty of material for family discussions. What are your Christmas traditions and why?
Hands-On Geography and The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide are both valuable resources for teaching integrated geography. Atlases are a must-have, consider current, historical, and Biblical. Look for age-appropriate atlases and other great teaching materials at Bright Ideas Press.
Maggie S. Hogan is a speaker, columnist, and author. She and her husband, Bob, are owners of Bright Ideas Press, dedicated to bringing the best of practical, fun, affordable materials to the homeschool market.