Imaginary Island – Week 1

What is Imaginary Island? It’s often a year-long “capstone” type project for 6th year Montessori elementary students. Over the course of a year they design an island with realistic land/water forms, place the island on the globe and determine realistic weather, biomes, plant & animal life, and natural resources for the island. Students can also create a civilization for their island, decide how their culture meets their fundamental human needs, create infrastructure and systems of government, or make creation myths for the culture. There are so many avenues to explore and skills to learn.

I’ve thought about doing Imaginary Island work the last couple of summers because I always have a friend’s kids join us for “summer school,” but it’s just too big of a project to do in 4 or 5 weeks.

For the past 3 years we’ve done weekly science and art co-op classes with our homeschool buddies. Last year all the kids started taking a local homeschool science class and so our co-op science fell a bit flat. This year they are all taking visual art and ceramics classes, so another co-op art class feels like overkill – this ended up being the perfect opportunity for my friend and I to switch things up. She’ll be teaching an intro to philosophy, and I’ll be leading imaginary island! We’ll be spending about an hour a week on this. Eventually each kid will create their own island, and we have one Kinder kid, some upper elementary kids, and some middle schoolers.

I started our first session introducing the project with a brief overview just like the first paragraph above. I let them know that first we’d be designing the outline of our island, so we needed to learn about coastal land and water forms.

I had prepared large paper versions of the Montessori land/water form images. We discussed each one (island, lake, isthmus, strait, archipelago, system of lakes, bay, cape, peninsula, gulf) and noted that the images made up opposite pairs. These images are often introduced at the primary level, but at this age of course we moved quickly. I was really impressed that they were already able to give examples of most of the land/water forms – especially Panama as an isthmus!

Next, I printed a large realistic image of each land or water form. These images are from Modern Montessori Guide‘s Imaginary Island Bundle. I gave one picture to each kid, and they had to determine which land/water form they were holding. Everyone then grabbed a map (I had the Pin It Maps land/water form control maps) and tried to find one or two examples of their land form. The older kids worked together or independently, while some of the younger ones had a little help. I only gave them about 10 minutes to look at the maps, and then each child briefly shared what they had found. The told us the type of land form they’d been given, on what continent they had found an example, and named the example if they could.

Finally, inspired by Carrots are Orange, we moved to the table to create some torn paper art. Each student got a sheet of blue and a sheet of green construction paper. They ripped up the green paper to create a map with as many of the land/water forms as possible, and then labeled their map. My daughter even created names for her geographic features! I had smaller versions of my land/water form cards on hand for reference. The smaller cards and the definition cards are from Research Parent.

It was a nice start to the project. Next week we’ll either look at advanced land and water forms, or start drawing the outline of our island. I haven’t decided yet!