There are certain subjects that seem to be glossed over in schools these days and geography is one of them. While I can not claim to remember all the geography I might have learned growing up, I can usually figure out which state is which when looking at an unlabeled map of the United States. My boys are not to that point, even after P spent a year on regions of the United States. Even though their geography is lacking a bit, they do recognize the states we have lived in or visited over the years as finding places on a map that hold a personal connection is fun.
In mid-November, a package arrived on the doorstep containing The Little Man In the Map with Clues to Remember All 50 States for the TOS Crew program. This colorful and fun to read hardback book is written by E. Andrew Martonyi, illustrated by Ed Olson and published by Schoolside Press.
Before I began to read through the book, I was wondering why they had the title as written. Where is this man in the map? The book starts by showing how the state of Minnesota looks a little like a hat, the state of Iowa looks a little like a profile, Missouri could resemble a shirt, Arkansas becomes pants and Louisiana being a boot. When put in their places on the map, you end up with a man. No one had ever pointed this out to me, but once shown it becomes so ‘clear’ when viewing a U.S. map now.
After the introduction of Mim (a magical elf that pops from the map to help the students learn their US geography), the students are shown different sections of the country with other clever rhymes and shapes to help remember the states. Thinking back to Schoolhouse Rock segments in the 1970′s, I remember how certain concepts or facts could be drilled into my head through fun, catchy tunes. Just hearing the words ‘I’m just a Bill” or “Conjunction, Junction” over 30 years later can get those tunes back into my head. I can see how the rhymes incorporated in The Little Man in the Map can help children remember the names, the adjoining states and eventually placement on a U.S. Map.
Schoolside Press sells the book for $19.95 as well as a nice, laminated wall map for $21.95 to coordinate with the book. They also bundle the book and map for $35.00. On the main page, there is a link for coloring pages to download. A teacher’s guide is also in the works which may help with using the book as a base for learning US geography.
My younger boys have enjoyed reading the book as a story with R noticing the geography being taught. Next year, R is slated to study the regions of the United States like P did in 4th grade and I know that The Man in the Map will be utilized throughout the year. Maybe this time around learning where the states are located will be a bit more fun than before. And, if it is available for sale the next book from Schoolside Press, Clues for the State Capitals, will be on my shopping list for the Fall.