K-3, Unit One, Activity 1: "The Big Circle"

Students will develop classroom poster showing where they are in relation to their region, using a succession of concentric circles.

Grade Levels: 2 - 3
Time required: two 1/2-hour sessions
Subject Areas: geography, language arts, life science

Teacher Background:

Students will help you construct a set of concentric rings with themselves in the center ring, and the world around them in increasingly larger circles (e. g. their desk could be the second circle, their classroom, the third, etc.). Depending on the writing and spatial skills of your students, either you or they could write the descriptors in the circles. This is a good permanent display (rather than written on the board), because they can write in the location and range of new things throughout the year.


large piece of poster board

tack and string (to make circles)

different colored markers, wide and narrow-line

cut-outs of animals and plants (from magazines -- optional)


  1. If you ask students where they live, they will most likely reply "Kalispell", or "Pincher Creek" -- or some other human community. But they also are citizens of the natural world, a world defined not by artificial boundaries, but by things which really exist -- in the physical world. Their school is real to them, as is their house, the rivers and creeks nearby, and the valleys and mountains they see at a distance. This activity is about their "address" in the physical world. You may wish to pre-draw a series of concentric circles about 2 inches wide each (see below). Students will have a difficult time drawing these free-hand.
  2. Who is in the middle of your world? Who is it that sees, hears and smells your world better than anyone else? (Me!) Have students write ME in the center of the smallest circle. From there, have students write in the next bigger world around them (their desk, their classmates and their desks, etc. The increasingly larger circles should contain school, school yard, the area of their walk or bus ride, home, their nearby creek, their valley/foothills. the nearest mountains -- leading outward to the Crown of the Continent (COC -- roughly from Missoula to Pincher Creek), the Northern Rocky Mountains, North America, Western hemisphere, the Earth, Solar System, Milky Way and the Universe. The idea is to give them some idea of how big is the "Big Circle" and where they fit.
  3. After you feel they are beginning to understand this physical relationship to the world, ask if they know where the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park fits in the circles (Crown of the Continent). Ask them to pretend that they are WGIPP. Draw a small circle in the COC to represent WGIPP. Draw concentric circles around WGIPP circle which include the name of the circle and work back toward "ME" in the original center. Is the Park a part of your world? Are you a part of the Park's world?
  4. How are you connected to the park? (They may need a bit of coaching here. Ask them if they think the water they drink was in the Park once upon a time, etc.) Using a wide "highlighter"-type marker, draw a wide line representing water from WGIPP circle to the "ME" circle. Other examples would be air and roads. Are there bears, wolves and elk in WGIPP? Do they ever come out of the Park? Where would they go in these circles? (Draw lines of other colors to represent where animals are in the big circle.) Doe the bears ever come and sit at your desk? Do elk play baseball on the playground? How close do they come to you in your circles?
  5. Have students write their complete physical world address (keeping in mind their writing skill levels).

Variations and Extensions:

You may wish to use this same process to have them examine their political world, using the political geography (street address, city, county, state/province, country, etc.) This will also give them some idea of the differences between these two worlds.


Have students add new discoveries about locations of things in their big circle on an ongoing basis, throughout the year.

Last updated: November 3, 2017

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