Continent Boxes Add Excitement to Geography

A few years ago, I spent some time putting together a box for each of the seven continents. As you can imagine, I used card materials from my continent and country kits, but I also bought books, objects, and memorabilia to make each box special.

I think boxes like these are a great way to organize geography materials, and make it fun and easy to study each continent. Since many of you have asked me how I put the boxes together, I’ve taken pictures of all my boxes and their contents to give you some ideas.

(To see all my continent box pictures, full size, please visit my Montessori for Everyone Facebook page!)

1. The Boxes

continent_box1I decided to use photo shoe boxes for my continent boxes. I found one to match each continent color (according to the traditional Montessori continent colors) except for yellow (Asia). My Asia kit resides in a blue box. If you ever see a yellow photo box for sale online, let me know!

I printed two labels for each box, with the name of the continent on it. One to go on the front of the box (most photo boxes have little metal label holders) and one to go on the lid of the box.

I keep the boxes stacked on the lower level of my map cabinet, so that they are readily available when we use the wooden puzzle maps. An atlas and globe are also nice to have nearby.

2. Organizing Card Materials

sa_envelopes I like to put the card sets in envelopes that match the color of the continent. I print labels to go on the front of these as well. When the sets are large (like Asia flags), I divide them into two or more sets. I use the continent materials primarily in elementary, not primary, so I make the flags/places/animals/plants as 2-part cards, not 3-part.

For 2-part cards, I print only one set of the cards, the ones with the line in between the picture and label. I cut the cards apart, and then put colored sticker dots on the backs to color-code them.

When my kids use the cards, they match them as best they can, then turn them over to check (or to figure out any that they didn’t know on sight). I find this works well for elementary; using the control cards just makes it too easy. You could print the control cards and make them into a book, if you wanted. The children could get the control book after matching the cards to check their work.

3. Adding Books to the Boxes

africa_booksI was delighted to find two different series of books that have one book for each continent. You can find them at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or used on eBay. They are:

True Books – Continents by David Petersen

Rookie Read-About Geography Books by Allan Fowler

What I like about both types of books is that they are small enough to fit inside the photo boxes, and they give nice overviews of each continent. They are a starting point, naturally; most kids will want to do further research after reading these books, in which case a trip to the library is probably in order.

4. Adding Objects and Memorabilia

europeIt’s a longtime tradition in Montessori to add objects to geography studies. They stimulate a child’s interest and imagination. It can be hard to find things from each continent, though. I’ve had success on eBay, particularly, buying inexpensive things like:

paper money
rocks and minerals
CDs of global music (I love the Putamayo World Music CDs)

If you have friends and family who live abroad, or who are traveling, ask them to bring back some small mementos for you. I know of programs where Montessori schools or families in different countries become penpals, in which case you can exchanges items from each country.

There are quality animal figurines available from several manufacturers, including Schleich and Safari Ltd (Google to find sources) so that you can add a few to each continent box.

Larger items, like maps, posters, and flags, can be kept in expandable files or other containers and brought out whenever you study that particular continent.

5. Additional Resources

Here are some other great ideas for continent boxes and studies:

Continent Boxes Finally Ready from LaPaz Home Learning

Continent Boxes Redux from Sweetness and Light

World Tour: Care to Come Along? from the Seredipity blog

Continents and Cultures: Africa from the Serendipity blog – an unbelievable list of projects, book recommendations, and lesson plans for Africa

Continents and Cultures: India and the Middle East from the Serendipity blog – similar to the Africa post; a huge resource

Guides for the Montessori Classroom from New Child Montessori – the four guides, together, cover all seven continents and include songs, book lists, art projects, poems, and other resources for continent studies

Montessori ‘n’ Such – click on their “Cultural and Geography” category and you’ll find a great selection of continent items, including books, CDs, puzzles, pictures, coins, and even children’s clothing from various countries

Remember, you can view all my continent box pictures at my Montessori for Everyone Facebook page.

If you have any other ideas for continent boxes, or places that you can find continent books and objects, please share!

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20 Responses to “Continent Boxes Add Excitement to Geography”

  • Mandy said at August 10th, 2009 at 8:55 am :

    Followed you over from facebook — these are lovely! I’m a Primary Directress.
    I currently have folders with pictures from each continent. One of my goals last year was to create something just like this. Your photo’s have inspired me, yes, never got it done last year. I’m thinking a shoe store may be a good place to “ask” if they could give you some of their shoe boxes, and then decorating them accordingly.
    Thank you!! (Love your blog, and the facebook page!)

  • Lori Bourne said at August 10th, 2009 at 2:31 pm :

    Thank you, Mandy! I’m so glad you like the pictures. It’s a great idea to use shoe boxes and decorate them. Let me know how that goes!

  • PSmontessori said at August 10th, 2009 at 5:39 pm :

    This is an interesting approach. I have my continent folders in binders. In the binder are 5 Velcro-pouches. The first is always general and the subsequent folders are more specific – food, people at work, homes, animals, etc. If I have a good amount of objects, I’ll make an “interest table”. I like the idea of using boxes instead of an interest table, that way they are always available. Do you have separate folders or everything in the boxes? I’m wondering if I’d have enough space to do both.

  • marian said at August 10th, 2009 at 6:25 pm :

    I love your continent boxes and how you use them! This site specializes in Montessori style materials for South America, Africa and Asia.

  • Gigi said at August 10th, 2009 at 7:30 pm :

    Perfect timing! I am working on our Continent Boxes! One nice addition to mine were the Continent books that Chick-fil-A came out with this summer. Each one featured several children and what their life was like (school, home, etc). We loved reading those books.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 10th, 2009 at 7:38 pm :

    PSMontessori – I’ve never used folders, just the envelopes and boxes. But I’m only using card materials, not larger pictures, so that works for me.

    Marian – thanks for the link to your site! Your stuff looks great.

    Gigi – those books sound awesome! That reminds me of one of my favorite books: Children Just Like Me! from Dorling Kindersley. They describe a day in a typical child’s life for many different countries, in a way that makes it come alive for children.

  • Patty said at August 10th, 2009 at 9:48 pm :

    I painted my boxes using acrylic paints. I just put on a couple of coats. The boxes turned out nicely. I couldn’t find yellow or orange.

    You can see them here.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 11th, 2009 at 1:16 pm :

    Those look great, Patty! I like the idea of painting the boxes if you can’t find the right colors. I’m glad to know that acrylic paints work well for that.

  • Kylie said at August 12th, 2009 at 2:54 pm :

    Fantastic! I can’t wait to make my continent boxes, this will be a great help. 🙂

  • PS Montessori said at August 12th, 2009 at 4:27 pm :

    I just rearranged and set up my geography area today. It turns out I might have some space for boxes (eventually). You can see pics over at my blog. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Hayley Gulab said at August 14th, 2009 at 1:02 am :

    I used see through storage boxes for mine, then added a large Colour Coded label (as per continent globe) on the lid. That way the children can see into the boxes to encourage use. In the last nursery I worked for the boxes used to just sit on the shelf as the children did not see what they were missing out on!

  • Lori Bourne said at August 14th, 2009 at 5:41 am :

    Hi, Hayley! I love that idea. Easy to find the boxes (rather than searching for colored ones) and then, as you said, the children can see that something interesting is inside. Thanks for sharing!

  • Susana said at August 15th, 2009 at 11:28 am :

    Hi Lori! Yet again, another brilliant post. This is going to be very helpful to so many of us putting materials together before the start of the new school year. Thanks a bunch!

    Lori, do you think that continent boxes would be beneficial in the primary classroom as well? I’m hosting a Montessori 3-6 co-op in my home this year and was wondering about the boxes for them. I will definitely be making these for my 6-9 year olds though!

    P.S. I’ll have to blog about this one Lori! You are awesome!

  • Lori Bourne said at August 15th, 2009 at 4:54 pm :

    Hi, Susana! Glad you like the post. I never specified an age group because continent boxes can be used with all ages.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Sue Macfarlane said at September 18th, 2009 at 3:10 am :

    Hello Lori – I have been preparing continent boxes for our local mobile toy library here in the Highlands of Scotland. These have been on a larger scale since they also include ‘dressing up’ versions of national or traditional costume. The latest one to be completed is the Antarctic Box. It contains a felt map of Antarctica, simple reference book and story books, photos, snowflake-shaped cutters for making biscuits, an ‘aurora’ (multi-coloured silk banner, model penguins and whales (toothed and baleen), a child-sized penguin outfit and baby penguin, fish-shaped ice cube trays (for ice fish!) and a small rucksack with mixture of teddy/doll clothes to select for the trip to Antarctica.
    If anyone has any further ideas for an Oceania box, I’d be very greatful. Best wishes, Sue.

  • pearl delatorre said at January 1st, 2011 at 10:00 am :

    Wonderful idea…googled Montessori continents and got to your page, will add you to my favorites! I have a solution for your Asia box, why not buy yellow “contact paper” and cover it with that to turn it yellow. Another idea would be to paint it yellow with tempera paint, or other non-toxic paing and then finish it with a couple of coats of non-toxic lacquer.

  • Lori Bourne said at January 1st, 2011 at 11:11 am :

    Hi, Pearl! Glad you found me. Those are good ideas, but we’ve gotten used to our blue Asia box so I think I’ll leave it 🙂

  • Monica said at September 19th, 2011 at 9:52 pm :

    Hello. Thank you very much for all that info! You were saying that you bought postcards on ebay. So that is why I’ll invite you and other readers to join my yahoo group postcards around the planet. There are people from everywhere participating right now. It is free all you need is to join and start exchanging postcards! I got too today! Very exciting! here is the link:

  • Rachael @ Little Red Farm said at January 29th, 2012 at 4:02 pm :

    The cultural exchanges that I organise are a great way to collect bits and pieces for the boxes as well as to make friends around the world.

  • pletcherios said at June 17th, 2012 at 7:29 am :

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    hvem er konstant dukket for 酶verste niv氓 med andre folk