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We have been really enjoying our new textbook, North Star Geography. As we have begun formal geography lessons the kids inquired if we couldn’t also resume the geography co-cop as we had done when they were younger.
The Passport Club
As I began to gather materials, I discovered The Passport Club, a geography program designed to encourage students to learn some or all of the names of the world’s countries. It was first developed as an enrichment program for schools to encourage parent involvement.
The Passport Club program is operated by Chris and Bob Manning, with the goal of giving teachers and parent volunteers the tools and guidance to develop geographic literacy and a curiosity about the world within their students.
“What a wonderful way for us to learn about the world. This could easily be integrated into our geography co-op,” I thought to myself.
I am delighted to now share how we have begun to use the The Passport Club program in conjunction with the North Star Geography curriculum.
How Does The Passport Club Work?
Each student is issued a Passport Book that lists the countries or locations to be learned each month of the school year. The passports are the same for all grades and students. There are five levels for each month and the student can decide how many levels she wishes to study. Note that the levels are inclusive: if a student wants to study at level three, she needs to study levels one and two also.
Each month the student receives a copy of a world outline map as well as a regional outline map marked with the locations assigned for the month. Over the course of the month, the students study the locations assigned for the month in whichever way they feel comfortable.
Every hardback purchase of North Star Geography from Bright Ideas Press includes a free Companion Guide that includes reproducible outline and reference maps that are perfect for The Passport Club as well as many note-taking pages and graphic organizers.
The optional WonderMaps, also available from Bright Ideas Press, is a customizable collection of over 350 different maps.
The International Luncheon
The Passport Club is designed as an after school enrichment program but it can be easily adapted for home educators. In a homeschool setting, an International Luncheon – with food and presentations from each participating family – can be planned as a culminating celebration each month.
Families are encouraged to engage in Independent Study projects each month – a lapbook, a dance, a costume, a regional recipe, a 3-dimensional map, a poster of an animal in its native habitat, or a short presentation about the country. These projects could then be displayed at the International Luncheon and students can be given an opportunity to present what they have learned.
Families are also encouraged to bring a dish to share from one of the countries. Alternatively, one country could be assigned each month for a more focused study.
Upon arrival at the International Luncheon each participating student comes to the Passport Check Table for 5-10 minutes, bringing their passports with them.
Starting at level one, the checker (a parent or teen volunteer) asks the students individually if they studied the level, and if so, to point out each location on an unlabeled map. The students must pass a level in order to go on to the next one.
Tips :: In kindergarten and first grade, the students are coached through level one, so that they all pass level one.
If the student passes any levels, they then take their passport to the Stamp Desk. There they can pick a “stamp” for each level they passed, and it is pasted onto the Visa side of their passport page.
The “stamp” images utilized in the The Passport Club program are photographs, flags, or other graphics from the countries assigned that month. Alternatively, an assortment of cancelled postage stamps can be utilized and provide additional avenues for study (though these would need to be obtained independently by each family).
Where Can I Find the Passport Books?
Passport Books and “stamp” image pages are available for purchase from the The Passport Club website. You can also find book marks, inspirational posters, T-shirts, and more!
Where Can I Find Cancelled Postage Stamps?
You may be able to obtain free stamps from local philatelists or from the American Philatelic Society. At local and regional philatelic shows, there are tables of cancelled postage stamps free for children.
I’ve written extensively about using postage stamps in education and have contributed a chapter to the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas titled How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning. You may also be interested in my earlier post, Stamp Collecting and Exhibiting.