When my kids got to kindergarten, a friend on PTO asked if I wanted to re-start an International Club at our school. I dove in, presenting a Chinese New Year program in kindergarten, and leading an International Week during March. I wanted to expand the lessons on global and cultural awareness (beyond what the teachers were also doing in their classes), so my second year I started a Geography Stars program, to get kids interested in geography. Every year we tweaked the project, added different concepts, and developed a program that would be easy to implement in different schools. It was so much fun, and the kids loved it!!! I understand that many schools have a Geography Stars program, and each are slightly different. Here is how we do it- feel free to adapt it for your needs!
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We started our small, 6 week program in January, and scheduled it so that it would end the week before Spring Break in March, which is always our International Week. We sent out a list of the countries the kids would need to learn about (2 countries per week). Parent volunteers came on Tuesday mornings and asked the kids 5 questions about each country: 1) its location (kids had to point it out on a blank world map) 2) its capital 3) its continent 4) its hemisphere (north or south) and 5) one of its official languages. The kids got one point for each question they answered correctly and during our international week, all participants earned a geography-themed prize (like a world map placemat I made out of a laminated map, or these inflatable globes). This picture is from 2013, the first year I gave out “prizes.”
Later, I expanded the program into a year-long, weekly geography program that schools can purchase. Whether you can only do it for a shorter time, a semester, or a year, the children will increase their global awareness, and learn fascinating cultural information and geographic facts. This program helps change the stereotypes about countries that kids might only have heard through negative news stories.
I have talked to schools who focus on a different continent or region each year, while other schools mix it up. Some language teachers will focus on all French-speaking countries, or all Spanish-speaking countries. In my extended Geography Stars program, I include a power point with cultural information, facts, and guided research for each of 35 different countries (see below). Kids learn to locate the countries using maps and with their own continent map book, and after answering the questions, they earn an authentic passport stamp for their passport booklet.
The powerpoint (see examples above) contains one slide about each of the 35 countries. Each slide contains the name of the country, the flag, and 3 interesting, age-appropriate, cultural facts about the country that might include information about:
History ** Cultural Traditions ** Geography and landforms ** Famous people (artists, scientists, peacemakers, inventors, etc) ** Politics and government ** Unique facts ** Wildlife ** Festivals ** Sports and activities
After the teacher presents the information, the students will need to research the following 5 questions about the country assigned for that week:
** Locate country on the map.
** Identify the continent.
** Name the hemisphere.
** Name one language spoken.
** Identify the capital.
Geography Stars is a great way to introduce world cultures and geography to kids, that only takes a small amount of time each week! Because there are so many aspects that are customizable, you can set it up to fit your needs. There are materials for bulletin boards, maps, and passports for kids to keep track of their progress. Such a fun way to teach kids about the world beyond our local communities!
For the passports, my amazingly talented sister drew passport stamps that are authentic and detailed. To make it easier, the passport stamps are perfectly formatted to be printed on these #6570 Avery labels (click here) OR can be printed on regular paper and the students can cut out and paste them into the passports. We made them in grey scale, for kids to color, but also included a color version if you have that option. The passport booklet is authentic, appropriate for students in any country (“Citizen of the World”) with a realistic, trilingual identification page to allow students to personalize their passport. On the “visa” pages, we have inspirational quotes from around the world about diversity, kindness, friendship, and making the world a better place, from leaders like Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and more.
Our Geography Stars Program Includes these Countries (with blank stamps for you to add more!)
(I am linking the countries for you to find more kid-friendly activities to learn deeper about the cultures and geography!)
Asia (includes Middle East):
Australia and Oceania
There are bulletin board materials to feature the country of the week, and complete instructions on the multiple ways to personalize and change the program to fit your needs. We have included parent letters (sample and editable template) and an editable certificate for students completing the program. Geography Stars for kids has been successful within the Social Studies/Geography curriculum and as an extracurricular program run by parent volunteers.
Included in this Geography Stars packet are:
Detailed Teacher Instructions ~ pages 4-8
Country List ~ page 9
Letter Home: Sample, Template ~ pages 10-13
Country Presentation Powerpoint ~ pages 14-49
“Country of the Week” Posters ~ pages 50-53
Student Sheets and World Map~ pages 54-57
Continent Booklet ~ pages 58-64
Teacher Answer Key ~ pages 65-99
Passport Booklet ~ pages 100-106
Individual Set Passport Stamps, Color ~ pages 107-108
Individual Set Passport Stamps, Black & White ~ pages 109-110
Full Page Set Passport Stamps, Color ~ pages 111-154
Full Page Set Passport Stamps, Black & White ~ pages 155-198
Full Page 8.5×11” Stamp Posters ~ pages 199-242
Certificate of Achievement ~ page 243
I loved creating this program, and volunteering each week before school at my kids’ school! Whether you are in the PTO or a teacher, I hope that you enjoy teaching geography to kids with the Geography Stars program! Let me know if you have any questions- I have helped other schools implement it as well!