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Mapping the World with Art Review by Kathy Gelzer

Ellen Johnston McHenry
Ellen McHenry's Basement Workshop
532 Pike St.
State College, PA 16801

This intriguing and unusual product, which comes in a three-ring binder and is intended for fifth through tenth graders, focuses on geography through the vehicle of cartography. The first part of the book is an illustrated history of map-making and historical exploration from ancient history to the discovery of Antarctica. Each of these 30 chapters is two pages long and includes small illustrations. These narratives are well-written, interesting, and easy to follow. Pronunciation is included for difficult names, as well as plenty of fascinating etymology. It would be interesting to know the author's source material for these chapters.

Thirty map-drawing activities form the next section of the book. Each step is described in text and illustration. These lessons can be demonstrated by the teacher, or the pages can simply be copied and given to the students. The maps are basic and do not contain every geographical feature or country or city. "The main purpose is to give the students a very basic knowledge of each area, and the ability to draw it from memory." These lessons are also on the DVDs that come with the text. On the videos, some of the initial pencil sketching is difficult to see until the author/artist darkens it in. If new videos are ever created, perhaps a darker pencil or softer lead could be used.

After completing all of the mapping activities, the student will have drawn practically every area of the world, including many of the Pacific islands and Antarctica! Many of the drawing exercises show how the lines being drawn imitate an animal or familiar shape. This makes the drawing fun and easy.

Thirty activities, including board games, research assignments, video recommendations, and hands-on projects, are optional except for the map review activities. Please note that these activities are way above par. No busy work here; these activities are truly educational and appropriate to the target age group. History, geometry, art, and culture are integrated into these projects. Although it doesn't say, there are enough readings, map drawing exercises, and activities to do approximately one each per week, with time to spare if you need to take more than one week for some of the projects. Certainly, parents and teachers can tailor this fun curriculum to meet their needs.

The readings, map drawings, and activities are thoroughly integrated so that when you are reading about Jacques Cartier, who explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence, you are also drawing a map of the gulf and Labrador, learning about Ile d'Anticosti, and watching a video about Cartier. Ellen McHenry has spent a lot of time creating a very thoughtful program. The Final Project, which deserves a drum roll, is the creation of a world map. Several ways of doing this are explained, and several photos of student projects are included. Plenty of helps are available.

A tools and materials page at the beginning of the text lists necessary supplies with recommendations. Each student will need a ruler, compass, protractor, pencil, eraser, black waterproof pen, and paper. This page also lists extra art supplies needed for some of the special projects.

Mapping the World with Art is a full geography course all on its own, or it can be a beautiful supplement to your existing history and geography studies. Perfect for homeschoolers or classrooms, this would also be ideal for a few families to do together or for a co-op class. Drawing maps instead of simply filling in black-line blanks increases your knowledge and builds retention. After all, don't we all want our children to not only learn but also remember what they learn?

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010