Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling
As recommended by Mater Amabilis, we read this book in fourth grade. I planned for the girls to listen in, but they were usually otherwise occupied (babies and preted play and other important things for seven and five year olds), so I read it aloud to First Son alone and enjoyed every moment.
If you don't already know, Paddle-to-the-Sea explores the geography of the Great Lakes through the journey of Paddle, a carved Indian in a canoe, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The text and illustrations are enthralling on their own and also offer plenty of invitations to learn more about environments and industries along the route.
We roughly followed the lesson plans in Rea C. Berg's Literature Approach to Geography , which I found useful, but certainly not necessary. Mainly we focused on narration, a few notebooking pages and map work. The notebooking subjects, like one of how locks work, are easily found within the text.
I loved the map set. I put the big one up on the wall and colored it while First Son colored one I printed out from online. (I did not find a great map for him to color. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know.) We used our artist quality colored pencils and the end product is a map I'd be happy to leave on my wall for months to come except that I'll need to replace it with the next one in the schedule. (We spent the first eighteen weeks on Paddle and will be transitioning to Seabird.)
Every few weeks, we would look at the Google Earth file created for Paddle-to-the-Sea, which you can download for free here. This file allowed us to explore the areas even more. First Son loved watching the lines appear and peeking at a number of the pictures. For our Kansas family, the pictures of the locks were most interesting. We also augmented a little with YouTube videos. The kids all liked watching some of the travel videos on Niagara Falls.
When we finished reading, we watched Paddle to the Sea (The Criterion Collection), a short movie based on the book. It in no way replaces the geographical value of the book, but the children enjoyed watching Paddle run the rapids and go over Niagara Falls.
Note: Links to Amazon above are affiliate links. Links to Sacred Heart Books and Gifts are not affiliate links. I received my copy of Paddle-to-the-Sea from a kind member of PaperBackSwap.com. The other materials I purchased from a variety of retailers.