Today was the first meeting of Geography Club at a friend’s house, and it was Canada day. Twenty-one children 5-15 (and one toddler). Seven moms. I assisted with the 5-8 year olds, which included both Boy and Girl.
The teacher and I set up two tables for the kids. A discovery table with globes and things from and related to Canada: animals (polar bear, moose, snowy owl, arctic fox, seal, etc.), a little cloth igloo with Inuit figures and a dog sled, a Canadian $10 bill, a Canadian cookie box labeled in English and French, maple syrup (from the teacher’s family’s farm), and seal fur thimbles made by Inuit ladies, and given to me years ago as a gift. And a literature table with various books about Canada, heavy on the photography.
We also brought a variety of maps, including a map rug, so that we could learn about the directions of the compass, locate Canada, notice its shape and size, and look where it is in relation to other places. The kids had lots of questions about the maps, and told us many things that they knew and observed. Boy remembered that Canada is the second largest county in the world, smaller only than Russia. Boy remembered a lot of things about Canada from the book I read the kids this week, and also a lot from the book I read to them about Inuksuit, the stacked stones built by the Inuit to communicate information, give directions, mark meat stashes, and many other reasons. (Some inuksuit look like people, and have a special name. We focused on those today.)
Next I read them two books, a short picture book about Canada in general, and next a much longer story called Hide and Sneak, about an Inuit girl who goes to play hide and seek on the tundra close to her family’s tent. The tent is nearby an inuksuk, stones stacked to look like a person. The girl meets a spirit which her mother has warned her about, which hides children away forever. But the spirit seems so funny and friendly that the girl follows it anyway. It leads her far, far away from her camp, and when she demands that it take her home it disappears, leaving her lost. But the inukshuk on the horizon allows her to find her way home.
The kids had time to look at all of the books on the Literature table. Some of them had specific things they wanted to find out about (hockey, mounties, mountains), but others just picked a book that looked appealing (like my book of Inuit art, bought at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver years ago) and flipped through the pages. Next the kids colored a small compass rose, a Canadian flag, and a map of Canada: the first entries in the Geography books they will be making.
And finally, the kids got to make their own inuksuit out of boxes.
Then it was free-play time, and finally lunch. Pancakes with maple syrup, bacon, beaver tails, a meat pie, cheese and broccoli soup, various melons, and some small fried rolls made by the Inuit.
A storm came up out of nowhere, making moms gasp as all of a sudden the rain and wind hit the windows overlooking the marsh, and slightly wet children with wildly blown hair piled in a door from the back yard a moment later. Moms scurried to make sure all children were accounted for, then relaxed again for a bit before everyone left.
Geography club was successful. It was…merry.