I love USA geography. For a while now I have been thinking about different ways to teach the states to Arin. Nothing ever struck me as a great way to teach it to a three year old - that was, until one day when I was reading the awesome blog, Superheroes and Princesses. She has introduced the USA to her little ones through literature and activities that tie in with each state. We have decided to jump on board with that idea and use her examples to guide us while learning the states!
The first state that we are focusing on is Florida. I chose Florida first because both of the girls and Andy were born in Florida. We recently moved away from Florida, but still consider it "home".
Today we focused on locating Florida on a map (which Arin has been able to do for many months, but it is always good to practice!) We bought her this USA Sticker Atlas at Sam's (just under $9). She loved putting the Florida sticker on the map. She also loves that we hung the map up in her room. After she placed the sticker on the map, we looked at the state of Florida in the book. We didn't do too much more than look at the state and name the bordering states. There are a few stickers that we will put on the state at a different time. Then, she located Florida on her USA placemat.
I checked out Freddy Goes to Florida by Walter R. Brooks from our library. It is our chapter book for this state. Arin will sit still and listen to about one or two chapters and then she is ready to be up and running around again, so we will read that much each day while we study Florida. This book is about animals who plan to migrate to Florida for the winter. I know that Arin loves animals, so that keeps a little bit of interest for her. Even though she is still young for completely comprehending a chapter book, I like to expose her to them. They help to increase her attention span and her vocabulary.
Florida's nickname is "The Sunshine State", so we read books, sang songs, and did a few activities related to sunshine. We read the following books.
Sunshine: A Book About Sunlight by Josepha Sherman
Sunshine by Gail Saunders-Smith
Sunny Numbers: A Florida Counting Book by Carol Crane
Sunshine Makes the Seasons by Franklyn M Branley
May There Always Be Sunshine by Jim Gill
John Denver's Sunshine On My Shoulders (this book also includes a cd with the song on it)
Then we sang "You are my Sunshine" and "Mister Sun".
We talked about the sun and how you should never look directly at the sun. Arin told me that if she wears her sunglasses, the sun will not hurt her eyes. I reminded her never to look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses on.
I gave Arin a dark purple sheet of paper. She felt the paper and decided it wasn't hot or cold. We laid it in the direct sunlight for five minutes and then felt the paper again. It was warm this time. We left it in the sun for about 10 more minutes and felt it again. The paper was much warmer this time. We talked about the sun attracting the dark colors.
Then, I took six different dishes - different colors and different materials that they were made out of (plastic, glass, etc.) Arin placed one ice cube in each bowl. I had her guess which ice cube would melt the fastest. She guessed the one on the black plate, although she didn't have a reason for guessing that one. We watched the ice melt. Arin's guess was correct. The ice cube in the black dish did melt the fastest.
Next we took three new black dishes (all at room temperature). We put one ice cube on each dish. Arin put one of the dishes on the floor inside the house, one outside in direct sunlight, and the third outside in the shade. Arin guessed that the ice outside would melt faster than the ice inside. She was correct. She also guessed that the ice in the shade would melt faster than the ice in the sun. She was wrong about that, although it was pretty close. We talked about how the sun heats up the air outside, so even though there was an ice cube in the shade, it would still melt faster than the one in the house due to the temperature of each environment.
We also tried to make sunprints. However, I used scrapbook paper instead of regular construction paper, so after being outside in the direct sunlight all day long, there was no fading. We will try this again laster using regular construction paper.
For our last sunshine experiment, we peeled and grated crayons. Arin put the shavings into three different cookie cutters - s, u, and n. I showed Arin how the sun's heat melted the crayons (good example of why we don't leave crayons in a hot car!). The problem was when I tried to remove the melted (then cooled) crayons from the molds, they broke. Bummer! Not able to use the new letter crayons, but the point of that activity was to show how the sun melts things, so it was still a success.