Category Archives: Social Studies

Recycled Ocean Bulletin Board {with how-to pics!}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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This fabulous idea was found organically (no pun intended) when my son’s pre-K class was learning about both recycling and the ocean. His {wonderful} teachers Lindsey Allman and Ariana Hull combined the two units in this uber-creative bulletin board, featuring an array of marine life made by the children out of materials pilfered from their recycling bins.

Check out the pictures below. This bulletin board is too cute not to share…and recreate!

How to build your own recycled ocean: 

The bulletin board was covered in white paper and then topped with crinkled blue cellophane wrap. Add a sandy ocean floor made out of textured scrapbook paper, white paper painted sandy tones, sandpaper, or a roll of craft paper. You could even get creative and have the children glue on dry grits: Paint white glue (thinned with a bit of water) over paper with a large brush, sprinkle on grits as you would glitter, allow to dry, dump off the excess, and hang.

The items can be attached to the board with staples, strong tape like Mavalus Mounting Tape, and/or a glue gun.

Add some yogurt-container ribbon jelly fish. The children loved painting their “trash!”

Check out the empty detergent-bottle Shamu!

Here’s how Shamu was attached…a little ingenuity, a little ribbon, and some staples. :)

How cute is this cardboard sea turtle with an egg carton head?

This empty container was inverted, painted, and given eight streamer tentacles with bead suctions. Adorable octopus!

A school of water-bottle fish is happily swimming in the corner. The bottles were cut by the teacher and their “tails” were stapled shut. The children customized their own fishies.

Some empty bottles cut into strips and painted green became seaweed. (Others were painted orange and assembled into coral.)

Paint and streamers transformed this drink bottle into a giant squid.

These three little egg carton clams may just be my favorite.

I like the idea of including a “what was learned” paragraph with the bulletin board, especially since this one is hanging in the hallway outside the classroom:

See why I had to share this idea? This bulletin board epitomizes a great culminating project: it combines two units of study, allows the children to utilize their creativity, and results in stunning student-made decor. Fabulous!

And…the class had loads of fun building this “recycled robot” out of their leftover trash:


Many thanks to Ariana Hull and Lindsey Allman with Primrose Schools for these awesome ideas. Your creativity is inspiring!

Click here for more ocean-themed activities, courtesy of The School Box.

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.


Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Decor, Science, Social Studies

Exploring the Great Explorers!

by Rachel Stepp, M. Ed.

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How was America “discovered” by the European world? Who sailed across the dangerous seas? How do we know what all they did? These are questions that your students might ponder when learning about the early explorers.

To help keep details straight and minds interested, students can keep an explorer’s journal. To complete this journal, students will need a composition notebook, glue, and large brown paper bags (like the ones used at grocery stores). First, students cover the front and back of their journals with the brown paper bag using glue. They can tear the edges of the paper bag to make it look more rustic and antique.

Once students have their journals created, it’s time to determine the content that will go inside them. Here are some options:

Explorer’s Journal Ideas

  • Taking Notes. 

Students can keep notes, research, and facts in the journals. This makes note-taking fun and relevant!

  • Keeping a Diary.

To make note taking even more creative, students can use their journals as an explorer diary. Each time the class studies an explorer, they use a page to record important information like dates, voyages, discoveries, and country of origin.

Then, on the next page, students write in the journal as if they were the explorer, including inferred emotions, but with a factual and believable context. They can elaborate on the facts, sharing, for example, how they felt when they discovered something new or how they survived the cold weather.

  • Writing Letters.

Students may also use their journals as a record of letters written between the explorers and their home countries. Students can write letters to their home country’s kings and queens to update them on their progress, and the rulers can write back with instructions, advice, or congratulations on discoveries.

  • Organization of Handouts. 

As more information is added to the explorer’s journals, students can glue in maps, worksheets and hand-outs. Maps can mark an explorer’s discoveries, and student-drawn illustrations can portray the explorers in action–transforming the notebook into an engaging scrapbook.

If you want a fun idea for exploring the explorers but don’t want to commit to a daily journal, try creating wanted posters or certificates of achievement for the explorers. (For example, a student might want to congratulate Juan Ponce de Leon on his discoveries in Florida.) Students can even present their awards to classmates dressed in costume!

However you decide to incorporate journals, one thing is certain: when students participate in hands-on learning, they will be more likely to remember (and enjoy) what they learn. Bon voyage!

Additional Resources

For more materials on the explorers, check out: 

For lesson plans and worksheets:

For teaching materials, maps and reproducibles:

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Filed under Academic Success, Activities, Art, creative writing, Social Studies, Writing

Awesome Interactive Bulletin Boards, Part I

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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So, you have this big bulletin board hanging on your wall. And it’s so tempting to cover it with paper, slap up a pre-made bulletin board set and be done with it. But, what if we shared a few EASY (promise) ideas that will turn your generic board into an interactive learning spot.

From reading to writing to social studies, the ideas we will share in our Awesome Interactive Bulletin Boards series combine disciplines and allow students to showcase their learning in a fun, student-centered way.

Literary World Travels

This clever idea, courtesy of blends reading and social studies.

Here’s how to create one in your room:

  1. Post a large, detailed map of the United States or world on a bulletin board, preferably near your classroom library.
  2. Next to the map, post a map key listing your students’ names, each designated with a different color or style of push pin.
  3. Every time a student reads a book, story or poem that mentions a city, state, or famous landmark, they pinpoint the geographic location on the map with their designated push pin.
  4. To keep the students organized and independent, give each student their own drawer filled with push pins of their designated color or style in an organizer below the bulletin board.
  5. Later in the year, the places “visited” provide an authentic springboard for a research project: Research the favorite city or country you read about this year.

Voila! Literacy meets geography! And, this board can stay up all year– how easy is that?

For more bulletin board materials and idea starters, check out’s online array here.

Stay tuned for Parts II and III in this series on Interactive Bulletin Boards, coming soon to A Learning Experience!


Filed under Centers, Classroom Decor, Geography, Reading, Social Studies

An Excellent (Edible) Geography Lesson

by Kelli Lewis

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Trying to help your child understand the regions in which they live? Why not engage them in a lesson that is hands-on and…not to mention, edible?!

Here’s an idea that your child is sure to be “screaming” for!

Edible Ice Cream Regions

In order to help your child understand the different regions of the United States, create an ice cream sundae. This activity could be used for other countries, as well–but may need to be modified according to how the regions are broken down. Each part to the ice cream sundae will represent a region.

For instance, here is an idea to get you started:

  1. Decide what you want the ice cream sundae to go in. Obviously the biggest part will be the cone/bowl in which the whole ice cream sundae is placed. This could be used to represent the continent.
  2. Who makes an ice cream sundae without bananas?! Try putting banana(s) in next, and these could be used to represent the country.
  3. Now, here comes the ice cream!!! On top of the banana(s), place the ice cream scoop. Go ahead, you can add more than one scoop (maybe side-by-side), as long as there is an understanding of what it represents. :) The ice cream scoops could be used to represent the state.
  4. No need to stop there! Ice cream scoops always need some toppings! Next, add some chocolate syrup. You can use any type of syrup flavoring, of course, chocolate is just my favorite choice. This could be used to represent the county.
  5. Now, what could be better than adding some whipped cream on top of the syrup? Go ahead and add a little squirt of whipped cream, and it could be used to represent the city.
  6. We’re almost there.  I bet it’s looking pretty good. In fact, it looks so good that I’d really like to eat it right now… “Pretty please, with a CHERRY on top?” Yep, that’s right! Time to top it off with a luscious cherry, right on the top! This could be used to represent your school/home, according to where this activity is taking place.

Here is a picture of what I had in mind:

Enjoy the sweet success of mastering regions!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia who often shares her wonderful ideas on A Learning Experience. (Lucky us!)

[UPDATE from mcornelia]:

YEAH! The wonderful folks at The Mailbox Book Company gave us permission to post the graphic Connie mentioned in her comments below!
Click here for the PDF:

This came from the original Grade 3 Superbook. It has been revised now (same title) and has some wonderful new ideas and can be found at your local School Box store on on-line here:



Filed under Academic Success, Assessments, Geography, Snack Time, Social Studies