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Book Review: Geography Crafts for Kids

Book Review

Geography Crafts for Kids: 50 Cool Projects and Activities for Exploring the World by Joe Rhatigan and Heather Smith (Lark Books, 2002).

Geography Crafts for Kids is a beautifully produced and occasionally fascinating hands-on introduction to geography. It successfully carries the message that geography is more than knowing the names of countries and capitals. The projects seem appropriate for kids in upper elementary grades or older.

The book is at its best using interesting facts and compelling stories to entice kids to explore geography. Did you know, for example, that in Middle Ages, cartographers just made up parts of the map no one had explored? Maps showed things like the land of "dog headed people ruled by a dog-king."

Where the book seems to fall short is in the nitty-gritty of the projects themselves. The first project in the book, making a navigation instrument called an astrolabe, requires drilling a hole through a 5" x 1" x ½" block of wood (have one of those lying around?). Since the rest of the astrolabe is made of cardboard, one has to wonder if there wasn't an easier solution. This is a problem with several of the projects - they seem overly complicated for what you get out of them.

Still, this is a great book to at least borrow from the library, because there are several great projects in it that seem easy to do, and lots of interesting facts and pictures to browse. One of the more clever projects is, "Make a Contour Map of Your Friend's Face." Kids paint heavy, concentric circles around the high and low points on the friend's face, such as around the forehead and nose. Then they press paper against the wet paint to make a print. My favorite image is a composite of satellite photographs yielding a panorama of both hemispheres of the Earth at night. You can see the cities densely lit up, the rural areas sparsely dotted, and the dark wilderness.

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