Monday, January 24, 2011

GAPS update

My kids have LOVED participating in the Great American Postcard Swap.  It started back in May (2010), and it has been tons of fun.  Not to mention, educational!  (You can read my original post on the GAPS here.)  At first Joy was oblivious, but after observing multiple instances of great enthusiasm from Jax when a postcard was found in the mailbox, she began to come around a little more.  We have been placing the postcards on the wall in their toy room, along with a blank U.S. map.  We've been coloring in the states as we receive the postcard from each state.  (Side note:  we started out with the postcards in the kitchen entryway, where I usually display our beloved Christmas cards.  I thought the GAPS would be over by Christmas to make way for the Christmas cards, but alas, it was only mid-way through at Christmas time so the postcards had to be uprooted and relocated to the toy room wall).  Joy enjoys looking at the pictures and pointing out mountains, deserts, fields, and other geographic significances that she has learned to recognize in the pictures featured on many of the cards. Jax can recognize some of the state shapes and he knows the general vicinity of their location on the map.  He can recall geographic land types for many states, but not all.  Heck, I don't know if I could, either, ha!  Most of the cards have state history information on them, so we have reviewed those facts occasionally.
I originally joined the GAPS to help Jax understand maps a little better - they are still naturally an arbitrary idea for him.  We don't travel a lot, but I recognized last summer that he didn't understand anything about "states" other than traveling to any other than Mississippi meant "far away" and "long ride" for him.  This has been a fun endeavor, and I hope we'll get a chance to participate in another one perhaps when Jax is studying the United States in school.  Or Joy.  Or both!
To bring it all full circle, Jax got a U.S. puzzle for Christmas, and he was so excited about that.  But I can still tell that he doesn't fully understand, and that maps are still a tiny bit arbitrary for him.  I hope this exposure and practice will help him to develop an appreciation not only for maps, etc., but to also introduce him to basic directional skills (he knows how to read a compass!) and state identification, as well as foster a love for his own state of Mississippi and all the blessings we have here.
Did you know that maps are on their way out of style?  I heard a radio broadcast recently that said that our children will be unaware of such things as telephone books, letters, maps, cd's, and chapter books and libraries!  These essentials from my childhood years are being quickly replaced by the internet, email/social networking, g.p.s systems, mp3's, and electronic readers. WOW!  That is so true; I never stopped to think about it before hearing the broadcast. 

The GAPS is not over yet - we are missing a few states still - but we hope to have a complete set of postcards very soon, that we can look at over and over again.  Thank you to all of the GAPS participants - we have really enjoyed this project!!