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International Geography Quest Project Pack Review by Cindy West

Katie Kubesh, Niki McNeil, Kimm Bellotto
Hands of a Child
3271 Kerlikowske Rd.
Coloma, MI 49038

Hands of a Child is a company that develops learning units whose activities are completed, for the most part, using mini-books and mini-projects. All of these projects are meant to be contained in a series of file folders that are attached to one another so that you have a neat and thorough record of the unit contained in one place. These units are called Project Packs, but many people may be more familiar with the term "lapbook."

All the background information, templates for mini-projects, and directions for completing the units are included in the spiral-bound hardcopy or e-book you choose to buy. Maybe most importantly for some of us, color pictures are included to show what the final project should look like!

The units begin with a table of contents, followed by a research guide. This research guide is where you or your child will find the background information needed in order to complete the activities. In other words, all the info you need is included! There is no need to run to the library for further research, unless you desire to add books for supplemental reading. Depending on the ability of your child, you may choose to read the information from the research guide to them or have them read the information themselves. Information needed for each activity is clearly marked and written with thorough yet concise explanations.

A list of core concepts covered in the unit is found next, with the activities following. Templates for the mini-books, graphic organizers, and other activities are included with clear directions on what to do and how to put together the pieces if necessary. Each of the activities asks your child to take something they read from the research guide and show what they learned. They might be asked to cut out a series of cards on which to write definitions then create a pocket in which to store the cards. They might be asked to cut out pages that will be stapled into a little book where the steps of a certain procedure are to be written. The activity ideas are varied and almost endless.

Many of the templates include little pictures that add visual interest to the activity. You can also often find extra clip art here and there that your child might use for decorating their file folders. The templates are made so that it's very clear what is to be cut and what is to be folded so no (or few) cutting mistakes are made. As a side note: I've found that my younger children struggle a bit with all the cutting involved with the activities. I have opted to cut their pieces out for them so that more learning occurs in place of cutting frustration.

You are expected to copy the activity templates, so a copier or a copy shop is necessary--unless, of course, you buy the e-book version, in which case a printer would be necessary. It is suggested the copies be made on 24# weight paper or cardstock for more durability. You'll find having lots of colored paper on hand enhances the look of the projects too. Other supplies needed to complete the unit packs include file folders, coloring tools, tape, glue, a stapler, and scissors.

At the end of the book, you will find directions for putting together the folders that will house all the projects, as well as color pictures showing an example of the final product. There is also a note-taking page for your benefit as you plan your unit. The units are very thorough, but you may occasionally decide you'd like to add something yourself or even take away one or more of the activities. As with any unit study, these are very adaptable to whatever suits your family's needs.

The International Geography Quest Project Pack is geared for children in grades 3-8. In the unusually large 112-page book, you will find a wealth of information about geography, including the five themes of geography: location, place, human/environment interaction, movement and region. You'll also find information about the history of geography and maps, different types of maps, latitude, longitude, and time zones. But that's not all! There is also a section of information about the physical world (landforms, water, air, and weather) and a section on wildlife. You'll also find a section about people, including information on population, culture, careers, economics and more! Whew! This is one thorough unit!

A large vocabulary glossary and list of related books and websites is also included. And that's just the first half of the book! Activities and templates are included to complete a file folder book on the above themes. If you stop here, your child will have gained an enormous amount of information.

The second half of the book is a sort of generic set of activities and templates for studying a particular country of your choice. In researching, your child will find out things such as neighboring countries, the culture, the lay of the land and bodies of water, the government structure and economy of the country, and much more! It is helpful to complete the first section of the unit before attempting this one, but there is really no reason you couldn't choose to do this project without completing the first.

This is an unbelievably full and complete study of geography. Personally, I would recommend it for 5th grade and above just because of the amount of information covered. Overall, though, I give the developers at Hands of a Child a great big thumbs up and highly recommend the study!

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2008