This post details two geography blocks. The first, was the second geography block of my daughter’s fourth grade year. The second part of the post will cover my son’s second geography block, done two years later than my daughter’s. Geez, I hope that makes sense. You can also check out my post on our first local geography blocks.
So, first, my daughter’s work:
Our second local geography block focused on our local county, and the great state of Texas. We had a guided tour of our county courthouse where we learned SO much about our local county history, about the materials used to build the historic courthouse and where they were quarried or acquired.
We took a good look at Texas and what forms the borders, then we painted the state with wet-on-wet watercolor. The next day, I asked her to take another good look, put the map away, and, from memory, draw the state with block crayons:
We talked about cotton and the railroads, and the effect they had on our developing community. We took a trip on a local historical railroad, visited a local historical farm and picked cotton. We brought our cotton home and found out just how difficult it is to pick out those seeds by hand!
She had one last page left in her book, so she decided to draw the state flag:
At some point in the block, we talked about orienteering. I had her make me a treasure hunt around the house, which she thought was a great way to get out of drawing and writing for the day! My son would have thought this to be torture, but my daughter loved it. So she made me this fabulous hunt, and at the end I found flowers and chocolate beautifully wrapped in a coffee filter. Perfect treasure!
We were blessed last year to have a man volunteer at our local nature center to teach our homeschooling students the art and skill of orienteering. It was wonderful! We learned how to orient ourselves in the wilderness with and without a compass. This enhanced our geography studies beautifully! Plus, it was loads of fun!
And now for my son’s second local geography block work:
We drew a map of Texas, and we learned about some of the different regions… the plains, the mountains, the coast, etc. We talked about regions that we have travelled through and what they are like, and I showed him picture of places we have not seen in person. As we moved through the block, we filled in more details on the map.
I found a great book that told the story of Cabeza de Vaca exploring Texas in the 1500’s: Explorers in Early Texas. He was shipwrecked near Corpus Christi, and spent eight years as an Indian slave, living off the land, and trying to find his way home. The story is wonderfully told by Betsy Warren in her book, giving details of his colorful and difficult travels, including the native plants and animals that kept him alive.
So after Cabeza de Vaca, more explorers came from Spain, looking for a land of gold and silver. The Spanish, fearing starvation on their journeys, brought cattle with them to feed the conquistadors. As they returned to Mexico, some cattle were abandoned or escaped to roam freely on the prairies for hundreds of years. When the settlers arrived in the 1800’s, the early ranchers rounded up the cattle to start building up the ranches. Tough men were needed to round up these wild cattle… thus, the Texas cowboy was born.
Another important aspect of the growth of our area was cotton. Since our climate is hot and dry in the summer, it is perfect for growing cotton, and lots of it! However, cotton is heavy, and it was difficult to transport by horse and wagon. When the railroads came, the industry boomed, as the great bales of cotton could be transported to the textile mills in the northeast United States as well as London. This also spurred the growth of the cattle industry, since the development of barbed wire fencing made it increasingly difficult to transport the cattle to the north via the great cattle drives.
And finally, we talked about oil. How it is harvested and processed, and the impact it has on our economy. We looked at old photos of oil drills, photos of new ones, and remembered the old pumps we still see from the highway from time to time. My son had listened in on our study of fossil fuels during my daughter’s geology lessons last year, so he was already somewhat familiar with the process.
A sampling of my drawings and paintings: