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In the Lower Elementary classroom, students have been learning more about what our earth looks like as a globe and a flat map, and its seven continents and five oceans. Using Montessori materials including a globe and corresponding flat map puzzle, students get to know the continents through color (each continent is represented by a different color) and song (view video below).

Armed with that knowledge, the students are challenged to create a continent book, featuring facts and punch-out pictures of each continent. It's a classic Montessori lesson designed to teach children about our earth's physical geography while helping them to hone their pincer grip and project planning skills.

To assemble the book, students use the puzzle pieces from the map, trace around the shape of each continent and use a stylus or push-pin tool to create a perforation along the continent's perimeter. Then they punch out their shapes, paste them onto separate pages and arrange them in the same order as they sing the continents in the Continent Song.

To account for various age and skill levels, students are asked to produce slightly different versions of the continent book. First-graders begin by simply labeling the continents in their books, while second-graders provide one fact about each continent and third-graders provide at least two facts. 

"That's how a teacher can take the same lesson and raise the bar for each age level," said 6-9 lead teacher Melissa Connelly. "There is tremendous pride for third-graders when they finish that higher level of work."

This continent lesson sets the stage for the 6-9 students' future studies about specific continents - this year they will focus on Africa, Asia and Australia. 

"You start with the big picture and move inward, and then you make the connections," Melissa said. 

Next up for the Lower Elementary students' continent work is a globe project with 6-9 lead teacher Carol Lettich. She'll guide them through a lesson on cardinal direction and the hemispheres, and they will revisit their continent shapes as they stencil them onto both sides of a circle, representing the eastern and western hemispheres.