Learning with Other Families: How to Start a Geography Co-op
An incredibly fun way to study middle school geography is to start a geography co-op.
One of the first co-ops I ever started was about geography. This is a huge topic and one I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle, so from the beginning, I enlisted the help of other families. I decided to spread out the responsibility for selecting the material to cover, along with the format of the presentations, and the results have been better than I could have ever imagined.
What if you could learn about countries half a world away without leaving your own neighborhood? Would you like your children to experience customs from other cultures? Have you ever wondered what famous landmarks can be found in different states?
Thanks to the families in our geography co-ops, we have been able to explore all of these topics and more.
Although our co-op meetings have included some of the traditional geography topics such as maps and landforms, most of our focus has been on the people, traditions, landmarks, and cultures of various states and countries. So many interesting and meaningful lessons have come from the personal stories shared over the years by the families in our Geography Co-ops.
If you would like to learn about geography with other families here are a few simple tips and ideas to help you start a geography co-op of your own:
Invite several families to participate – we usually include about 4-6 families. Geography is an easy subject for children of all ages to study together. Our co-ops have included children ranging in age from pre-k-high school and everyone learns something (including the parents)!
To keep it easy we meet with our co-op families just once a month.
For each meeting, one family will serve as the presenters/host. This is great because each family works hard one month to share about their selected location, then the rest of the meetings they can relax and enjoy learning with the group.
To create a schedule we determine how many families will be participating and how many times the group wants to meet. For example, if 6 families participate the co-op could meet once a month for 6 months and everyone hosts 1 month. Or, if 3 families participate and you meet for 6 months, each family could host twice.
As part of the initial planning decide on the theme for the co-op meetings.
One year we focused on the United States and for a few years, we focused on countries around the world. You could also decide to focus on traditional geography topics like maps, navigation, landforms, layers of the earth, etc. We have even met to learn about famous landmarks and unique holiday traditions around the world.
When it is each family’s month to host they share information about a state/country/related topic of their choice. For example – when we participated in a United States co-op each host family selected a state to which they had a personal connection (maybe they lived there or a family member grew up there).
The years we learned about different countries each family selected a country they had visited or one they wanted to learn more about.
The host family conducts research about their selected location and prepares presentations and activities for the group.
Our meetings usually include a variety of learning formats such as telling stories, sharing photos, scavenger hunts, crafts, games, etc. We try to cover topics such as geography/location, climate, famous landmarks, language, historical/famous figures from that location, traditional food/festivals/traditions, etc.
Be sure to include the kids! Children in the host family also select a topic to share at the meeting. They conduct their own research and find an interesting way to share information with their friends.
We typically end our meetings with traditional foods from the location for everyone to sample.
For example, we used to live in Virginia, so when it was our month to host we shared information about some of the famous people throughout history who were from Virginia, fun facts about landmarks around the state, photos from different seasons, and we ate peanut soup and ham biscuits.
Another family used to live in Japan so they shared photos and told us about what a typical day was like for them when they lived there. They also brought along snacks representative of the dishes they learned to make when in Japan.
The host family selects and arranges a group meeting time/place for all families to gather.
Our co-ops have met in a variety of locations. Perhaps there is a park or other location with features similar to the place being discussed or the host could decorate their home and invite everyone over.
When we learned about Australia, for example, we met at a pool and included water activities.
We also have a unique opportunity living here in Central Florida – when we study countries around the world we often hold our meetings at the appropriate pavilions at the Epcot World Showcase! We have eaten pretzels and learned about Christmas traditions in Germany, studied Stave Churches and fairy tales in Norway, and learned to make masks in Italy. Epcot is definitely one of our favorite places to spend time learning with our friends!
We hope this gives you some ideas so you can find fun and easy ways to explore the world and learn with other families!
Make sure you join us this week as we continue sharing ways to learn with other families.
This is great Susan, I love it!
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