Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our Continent Bags - North America

As promised, I'll be sharing all seven of our Continent Bags over the next several weeks. In Montessori, when you begin introducing continents to a child you always start with the continent you live in. So, first up, is North America...

I should point that not all of these things will be available in the bag at the same time - I'll rotate things in and out so as to keep the bag new and interesting.

Here's what's inside:
Books, maps, and cards. A North America True Book (I have one of these for each continent - they're great!), some landmark cards, a North America fact sheet, and two maps - one is pre-colored and laminated and the other is blank and ready for James to color. One annoying thing about maps of North America is that they often omit Bermuda. A good Atlas will show it, but in general I find I have to add a little dot to the map and mark it.

Various stickers and a Bermuda flag patch. I have a huge sticker collection from my scrapbooking days. You can find state and country stickers like these in the scrapbook section of any major craft store or you can buy online here.

Miscellaneous souvenirs. I collected these things during my travels over the years. Most are from the United States, but some of the small pins are from Canada and Bermuda, the little shoes are from the Dominican Republic, the woven mat is from Belize, the necklace is from Mexico and the small tiki pendant is from Honduras.

Music and artwork. I'm really excited about the artwork as I put a lot of time and effort in hunting down just the right portraits. I created a collection for each continent and my criteria was that the artwork needed to represent the region by showing either people, animals or landscape. I also preferred for the artwork to have been created by an artist native to that region. As for the music, the first CD, Matriarch, is performed by a Native American and it's just lovely. There's also some Bob Marley to represent the Caribbean (Jamaica specifically).
I ordered this Putumayo Kids CD, which my niece is bringing with her when she visits later this week. I love Putumayo's music collections and I'm looking forward to hearing this one - it received great reviews.

The red dirt in the baggie is from The Grand Canyon (Arizona, USA), the rocks are from The Rocky Mountains (Colorado, USA) and the dreamcatcher is a representation of Native Americans.

Rubber stamps, maps, brochures, and lots of postcards. This is very small taste of my North American postcard collection. Some of these are from the postcard swap we participated in earlier this year, some are from my travels, and quite a few are from my childhood collection. I started collecting postcards when I was 8 years old. Whenever a friend or family member traveled anywhere they'd always send or bring me back a postcard or two. I unintentionally (but thankfully!) brought my entire collection with me to Bermuda. It's a real treat to now share these cards with James.

Spoons. Another collection of mine. I pick one up from wherever I travel to. Yes, I know collecting spoons is a little "old lady-ish" :), but what can I say? Again, this is just a small selection from a much larger set. I pulled out a variety that I felt represented North America as a whole. I have quite a few from the US, which we'll use when the comes time for us to focus on just America.

Three part cards and pictures. You can read more about my pouches here. After much deliberation, I bit the bullet and purchased the entire continent kit from Montessori For Everyone. I am SO glad I did - not only is the kit absolutely wonderful, it saved me loads of time in hunting for the photos and information on my own, not to mention the time it would have taken for me to design and format everything. It did, however, take me a long time to print and cut everything (thanks, hubby, for helping me!), but now that it's all said and done I can say the kit was, without a doubt, well worth the time and money. The quality can't be beat - I highly recommend it.

Animals. I just love that big moose. :) Safari Ltd. makes some really awesome Toob collections that are great for continent boxes.

Money and stamps. One thing I didn't bring to Bermuda with me was my foreign currency collection (yes, another collection!). I am SO bummed about not having this because it would be perfect for our continent bags. For some reason, though, I did find some Canadian money in our house! I'll be adding some Bermudian and US money to the bag at some point. I also plan on printing out some fake currency from other North American countries. I'm not sure where those extra large US bills came from - I've had them for ages. Some of the stamps are real, others are images I found on Google.

Some day, we'll be focusing on just the United States and when we do I'll have plenty for that bag. (I plan on making a bag for Bermuda, too.) The Which Way USA book and map are a part of a monthly subscription I receive - these are GREAT. The tags are from my scrapbooking days.

I can't wait to see this Kids Around the World cookbook in person - my niece is bringing this down for us, too. I thought it would be such fun to have the opportunity to "taste" a continent. James loves to help me cook and I think he'll really get a kick out of this. In addition to this book, I have some authentic recipes - dishes that are specific to the region - for the US and Bermuda. If any of you have an authentic and kid-friendly recipe (meaning it's not too complicated to prepare) that you'd like to share, please email me at countingcoconuts1(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks!

Flags. I couldn't afford to purchase flags for every country, so I tried to choose a flag that represented each of the major areas within North America. I chose Bermuda (of course!) for the Caribbean (even though we're not technically located in the Caribbean) and Cuba for Central America. I just realized I should have gotten one for Mexico... oops! The MFE continent kit came with 3-part card sets of flags for each continent, but I'm too lazy to print them waiting to print them until James is a bit older. ;)

I hope you've enjoyed this photo tour of our North America Continent Bag! You might also enjoy these other posts from my Continent Bag Series:
Our Continent Bags
Our Continent Bags - Storage
Our Continent Bags - Asia
Our Continent Bags - Antarctica
Our Continent Bags - Europe
Our Continent Bags - Africa
Our Continent Bags - South America
Our Continent Bags - Australia

Also check out my Continent Bags photo album on the Counting Coconuts Facebook page.

Here are a few links to some awesome blogs where you'll find even more continent box ideas and photos:
Sunrise Learning Lab
Montessori Tidbits
Child and Me
LaPaz Home Learning
If you've blogged about your continent box, feel free to add your link the comments section.

I'm linking this post up to The Preschool Corner and Montessori Monday.

~Thank you for your comments!~


Sippy Cup Central said...

Way to go! You did a fantastic job with the bag. Can we come learn at your place. Karen
Sippy Cup Central

Anonymous said...

wow you have tons of great things in the North America bag! I love your spoons!

Eva said...

wow fantasic collection, I will have to get to work on creating something similar, thanks for sharing :)

AKELA said...

Hello from spain!!!
I will wish had so many imagination as you.
Everything that you publish is great!!!,easy to do and very originally
thanks yor for sharing it with the world

Corrie said...

Great job! I love the variety of things you have. Whenever I've seen something similar, people don't focus on the whole continent, just the US. So, great job!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Fantastic - you could probably extend your North America study by a year using all this wealth of materials. Also congrats on Homeschool Awards win - you and your blog absolutely deserves it.

montessori_lori said...

So glad you liked our continent kit! Thanks for the great post - love the pictures!

Deb Chitwood said...

What a wonderful collection of items to represent North America - and so nicely organized and presented as well! Thanks so much for sharing your lovely photos and great links!

Debbie said...

Looks wonderful! I can see I need more stuff for my's a work in progress. I collect a lot of different things too, and most of my collections are in storage. When I was in the US a few months ago, I went through my coin and stamp collections and also my souvenirs and brought back some items. I'm looking forward to seeing your other boxes!

The girl who painted trees said...

What a wonderful collection. Our fullest box is Asia as I spent a lot of time there and collected many goodies. I'm still working on our other boxes. They are mostly just landmark cards and animals right now and I have been considering the kit from MFE. Good to know your opinions of it.

Cara said...

What an amazing collection! I'm looking forward to hearing more about what James' favorite part of these continent bags is.

Also, I have a good friend (age 29) who also collects spoons. So neat to have a collection of something!!

Maureensk said...

Wow, you collect a lot of things! And you must have traveled a lot too. I sort of collect spoons, my grandmother started the collection for me when I was an infant. She died when I was very young, so the spoons hold a special place in my heart. I have been considering trying to add to the collection on my own, but we don't travel much. I used to have thousands of postcards, but after one of the many moves in our early marriage, I got rid of them. Now I'm bummed... Thanks for sharing, that is a very inspirational bag you have.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Your continent box looks amazing! My most extensive box is Europe. I do have some free downloads about van Gogh and da Vinci on my blog if you would like to add those to your Europe box too. : ) Here's the link:

Oh, and I had one other thought I wanted to share. I visited Bermuda once, a long time ago. (I am so jealous of you getting to live there. How fabulous!) But after that trip, I designed a set (for a class) for a performance of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." I learned, while we were in Bermuda, that some scholars believe Shakespeare meant for The Tempest to take place there. I therefore, designed my set with Bermuda's natural arches. It was so fun! I guess your James is still a bit young for Shakespeare, but maybe that would be fun information for later. : )

Sorry to make my comment so long. I love your blog and all your fantastic ideas! Happy Thanksgiving!

mariviki78 said...

Hola Mari_Ann, te escribo de España. Estoy estudiando Educación Infantil y tu blog me parece muy interesante a la hora de buscar recursos de aprendizaje. Bye

Yolanda Q. said...

Hi I'm Spanish. I like your blog. I find it very interesting.

Unknown said...

Thanks for mentioning my blog Mari-Ann! I really need to organize my 3 part cards better, and you've inspired me! I think I'll spend some time working on my continent boxes again!

mireiagp said...

Hi I'm from Spain, your website is very interesting!

JuLia said...

hi Mari-Ann
I love your blog. you have amazing ideas.
will come to your blog more often.
Greetings from Spain

JuLia said...

hi Mari- Ann!!
I love your blog. you have amazing ideas.
will come to your blog more often.
Greetings from Spain

Unknown said...

Congrats, Mari-Ann, on winning the best crafts blog! So excited for you!

Unknown said...

Your continent box is really nice. I love, love the spoons!! Thank you for sharing.

Esther said...

Hi from Spain!!
I like your website very much

Maria said...

Hi Mari-Ann, I like your blog because it is very creative and interesting.
Congratulations from Spain!

melania said...

hello greetings from Spain
This blog seems very interesting because it has many activities to do with children very ingenious

Luciana said...

¡Hola desde España! ¡tu página me parece muy interesante! ¡un saludo!

carolina said...

hola soy española y me ha parecido my interesante tu blog porque me da muchas ideas para practicar con los niños en mi futura aula.gracias!

Jackie Higgins said...

That is so cool.. and a lot of hard work!

XYZZ said...

Simply great. I love those little flags and will have to get some for our boxes too. Thanks for linking to Montessori Monday!

The Sunshine Crew said...

Love your continent just getting caught up with reading blogs, as we went to Chicago for Thanksgiving.
Very cool items in your bags...can't wait to see the rest of your bags...also, we followed your lead and made a bit of a snesory thing for December. Will have to send you a photo of it, although we won't be using it tomorrow...the table is on our lanai and it is supposed to get down in the 30s tomorrow...pretty chilly for South we will have to wait until it warms back up to have fun outside.

Have a good one,
Colleen :)

The Sunshine Crew said...

Also, forgot to mention that it is awesome that you won the award! You totally deserve it...I for one just love, love, love your blog:)

e-Expeditions said...

These are absolutely fantastic! They must be so, so fun to learn with. :)

Marnie Craycroft said...

Hi Mary Ann,

How long do you focus on each continent? Or does the bag/box and the rotating materials remain in your classroom?


Counting Coconuts said...

Thanks so much for your kind comments!

@Marnie: We started with North American and focused on parts of the bag for about a month. Some aspects of the bag are a bit advanced for James (read: his attention span is short!), but I know we'll get to them someday which is why I included them in the bag. Anyway, I have no real set time limits with regard to how long we work with any one bag - just how ever long it holds our interest and/or coincides with our theme for the week or month. I keep portions of the bag out (on a tray) on our classroom shelves so James can work with it whenever he likes. HTH!


Deb Chitwood said...

Hi Mari-Ann! I realized your continent bags would be great for activity bags when traveling, too. I featured your continent bag posts and North America photo in my Traveling with Kids - Montessori-Inspired Activities post at

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful! Your ideas are not too overwhelming and I LOVE your organization system! Thanks so much for taking the time to share all of your bags!


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