As your sixth grader studies world cultures, he'll benefit greatly from a general sense of where countries around the world are located. One of the best ways he can develop this key geographical background knowledge is by spending a good amount of time looking carefully at a map, which can get rather boring. Liven up his study of geography by getting him started on these three challenges.
What You Do:
The One Border Challenge:
- Review the concept of borders as boundary lines between one country and another, and help your child find the borders of your country. Point out how most countries share borders with two or more other countries; whereas a few island countries have no shared borders at all.
- Ask your child to search his world map, atlas, or globe for as many countries as possible that border one—and only one—other country.
- If your child enjoys competition, make the challenge interesting by pitting him against yourself, another adult, or an older teen to see who can list the most countries with one border only. Only your child gets to use a map for reference.
- Compare lists to see who came up with the most countries that have only one border.
- At the end of your game, take some time to discuss the one-border countries your child found. Talk about what he knows about these countries. It is likely that he has never even heard of some of them before. If this is the case, encourage him to look one of the countries up on the Internet or at the library.
The Largest Countries Challenge:
- Ask your child to look carefully at his globe and estimate which countries are the biggest. Have him make a list of the ten countries he thinks have the greatest area, from largest to smallest.
- Again, have an adult or older teen make her own list, without consulting the map.
- Compare lists to see who comes closest to the correct order.
- Take the time to talk about the countries you listed. Which of them have appeared in the news recently?Is there one among them your child would especially like to visit? Look up a few facts about the least familiar countries.
The Continental Drift Challenge:
- Explain to your child that the continents were not always in the same place they are now, but that they moved into their positions very slowly over time. Looking at the map, show him the similarity in the shape of Africa and South America, and tell him that they once probably fit together.
- Together, look at the map and talk about how some of the other continents and large islands may have moved into their current positions. Can you see where the east coast of North America might have fit? What about Madagascar? India? If you know a good deal about this subject already, just encourage your child to talk through his ideas. If you’re not very familiar with the subject yourself, try guessing along with him.
- Watch an animation of the process of continental drift online; a web search will provide some good options.
Countries that border only one other country: Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Gambia, Haiti, Ireland, Lesotho, Monaco, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Qatar, San Marino, South Korea, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.
Ten largest countries by geographical size: Russia, Canada, United States, China, Brazil, Australia, India, Argentina, Kazakhstan, and Sudan.