10 Cool Hands-on Geography Ideas for All Ages

Geography is a subject often neglected, which is a shame because it’s so easy to incorporate with other subjects, such as history, art, and language arts. Plus, geography is just fun to study on its own. Don’t believe me? Just check out these cool hands-on geography ideas for all ages!

10 Hands-on Geography Ideas for All Ages

Fun Hands-on Geography Ideas

1. Make a 3D Map

Our family loves making maps to help us better understand the people and places we’re studying.

We’d made many salt dough maps, but we also enjoy making edible maps. Cookie dough and crispy treats are probably two of the easiest mediums to use because they’re easy to shape.

You can then use icing or your favorite candies to mark geographic features, such as mountains, rivers, or capital cities.

2. Create a Diorama

Dioramas are fun and easy to create. We hoard up empty shoeboxes for simple projects like this.

Use a diorama to depict landform features, biomes, or places (such as the New York City skyline or the landmarks of London).

3. Design Costumes

Designing costumes based on the traditional dress of the people of a country or region is a fantastic way to combine life skills with geography and history. It gives students an opportunity to practice following a pattern (or design their own), choosing fabric, and sewing.

If you’re like me, you may have to enlist the help of a friend who has actually mastered those life skills. {ahem}

4. Take a Field Trip

Studying geography provides the perfect excuse to go places. We may think of extensive travel when discussing field trips in relation to geography and that is probably not feasible for many families. However, don’t discount the value of shorter local trips.

If you’re discussing lakes and rivers, go see the lake or river nearest you. Take advantage of what is accessible to you. We don’t have any deserts in our area, but there are plenty of mountains and valleys.

Look for local hands-on learning opportunities, even – or especially – those local spots you take for granted.

5. Prepare a Meal

I may get a little too excited about edible hands-on projects, but no one can deny the educational value of preparing dishes traditional to the country or people you’re studying.

Try making baklava from Greece or kimchi from Korea. If you’re not feeling so adventurous, visit a restaurant that serves the cuisine of the country you’re studying or take advantage of online ordering.

When we were studying Australia, we ordered vegemite online. I already knew I wasn’t a fan from my teenage years when a pen pal sent me a jar, but it’s something everyone studying Australia needs to experience.

6. Create a Homemade Game

When my kids were younger, we loved learning through homemade games. It’s easy to create a simple matching/memory or Go-Fish game with index cards. Try matching or Go-Fish games using geography terms and their definitions; states and capitals; countries and capitals; or continents and countries.

You can also repurpose a standard game. Pictionary makes a fantastic choice for practicing geography terms. We play it Win, Lose, or Draw style on the dry erase board. Include some of the more obscure geography terms such as archipelago, isthmus, or estuary along with those more common and easy-to-guess (and draw!).

7. Host an Around the World Day

Our local homeschool group used to look forward to our annual Around the World Day. Each family would choose a country to represent and spend several weeks preparing their displays.

Each display would include projects the family had completed while learning about their country, foods to sample, fact sheets for each visitor, and a passport stamp. Each student created his own passport book so that it could be stamped at each country he visited.

8. Go Geocaching

Confession: I have never gone geocaching. However, I’ve heard many families rave about how much fun they have with it, so I’d be remiss not to suggest it as an idea.

Geocaching is something of a real-life treasure hunt using GPS coordinates that appeals to adults and children alike with “treasures” hidden in cities around the world. It provides hands-on practice in using map coordinates and following directions.

9. Try Flat Traveling

For years, my kids and I loved swapping flat travelers with families around the United States and many foreign countries. Each family creates a flat traveler – a small paper doll or similar figure that can fit into a standard envelope – to swap through the mail with another family.

Host families take their visitor to see local sites, photographing and journaling their adventures. At the end of the visit (usually a week or two), the flat traveler is returned to its family with the journal, photos, facts about the place it visited, and fun souvenirs, ready to tell its family about all it learned and experienced on its adventure.

10. Find a Pen Pal

When I was in junior high and high school, I had pen pals from Australia, Canada, Japan, and England. I still have a shoebox stuffed with their letters on a shelf in my closet.

With the help of email and the internet, it’s easier than ever to find pen pals for your kids. Ask around with your Facebook friends or blog buddies to see if they have children who would like to exchange letters with your students.

There are so many creative, engaging ways to study geography with or without tying it into other subjects. What are you waiting for?

Kris Bales

About the author

Kris Bales and her husband of 25+ years are parents to three kids - one high schooler and two homeschool grads. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.

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