A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Early Childhood: Where Learning Begins Geography--January 1999
How Do We Adjust To Where We Live?
How do people adjust to their environment? How do people change the environment to better suit their needs? Geographers examine where people live, why they settled there, and how they use natural resources. For example, traveling Bushmen in Australia carry water in ostrich eggs because water is so scarce in their environment. In other places we turn up the heat or put on a sweater when it gets cold. All people change something about the way they live in order to adapt to their environment.
Throughout early childhood, children become increasingly aware of how people and the Earth interact. They know and experience how the weather and climate affect their daily lives. Toddlers are just beginning to understand the world in which they live. Parents often try to get them to understand what they need to do to adapt to their surroundings, like wear a jacket when it is cold, or take off their socks when it is hot outside. By ages 4 and 5, children are beginning to learn what they can do to adjust, and they are beginning to see how people change the Earth to their own benefit.
- Toddlers think of themselves as the center of the world. The daily routines of dressing, eating, and playing are the basis for learning how the Earth affects them, and how they adapt to their environment.
- Daily routines help toddlers make sense of their world. With routines they learn that morning is followed by afternoon, and night follows day. As stable as their routines are, changes will occur. These changes occur because of rain, wind, storms, or other weather conditions. Point this out to them. ''We can't go out today because of the ice and someone could slip, fall, and get hurt'' or ''The weather is so nice today, let's take our lunch to the park and have a picnic.''
- Add a squirt bottle of water to the sand pile so children can become aware that they have some control over the Earth. Within limits they can adapt things to their needs. Show them how to make sand pies by packing containers with wet sand and dumping out a sand pie or cake. They can create mountains and then count them. Remember, they are developing an awareness of how to control their environment.
- When going through your neighborhood, name the different types of houses you find. Distinguish between 1--story, 2--story, and multi--story houses. You might see apartments, duplexes, townhouses, single family houses, trailers, or farm houses. When you go on a trip, point out dwellings that are different from those in your neighborhood.
- Animals need shelter too. Point out animal homes such as birds' and squirrels' nests, ant hills, beehives, and barns.
- Nearly everywhere people are building something. Stop to watch and observe how earth is moved and buildings go up. What materials are being used? Are builders using the stones that are found in your neighborhood, or are they making concrete out of sand and cement?
- Move the furniture around in your child's room and talk about how you are changing how he or she uses the space.
- Plant flowers in either a window box or a garden and water them together with your child. Talk about why the plants need water. What happens if you forget to water the plants?
- If you live in an urban area, try to visit a nearby farm. Some cities and states maintain farm parks for just this purpose. Call the Department of Parks or Recreation in your area to find one near you. Talk with your children about how farmers use natural resources--soil, water, and sun--to grow crops and raise livestock. How do they keep livestock from wandering off? How do they prevent crops from being eaten by birds or destroyed by disease?
- Spend the day outside with your children. If possible, go camping. It is easy to understand why we wear long pants and shoes when there are rocks and branches on the ground. In the woods, with no plumbing and indoor water, it will be clear why early settlers found it so important to be near water.
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