Many people have questioned the education system for replacing geography and history with the more generic social studies. Geography and history are still taught but there are plenty of gaps. Here is an easy, hands-on geography lesson plan. Use this lesson plan in the general education classroom, homeschool and special needs classroom. Students of all ages enjoy this interactive geography activity.

Begin by mixing up a large batch of play dough. Make the play dough in class and use it for an interactive math measuring lesson plan. Here’s an easy play dough recipe:

1 cup hot water
1 cup white flour
1/4 cup salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons alum or cream of tartar
blue or green food coloring

Mix with fork or by hand. Adjust recipe for a larger group using a 1:1 ratio for water, flour and salt, a 1:2 ratio for alum or cream of tartar and a 1: one quarter ratio for salt. Measuring and mixing this play dough in class gives students practice in ratios, fractions and measurement. When mixed, separate into two balls. Color one ball blue (or green) for water. Leave one ball plain color for land. Give each student a paper plate, a plastic knife and a zippered bag of blue play dough and another of plain play dough.

Introduce geography terms and definitions used for landforms. Demonstrate the shape of the landform using play dough or drawing the landform on the overhead projector. Use black pen for land and blue for water. Students will use their blue and white clay to create landforms based on drawings from the board or overhead projector.

Geography landforms terms and definitions;

isthmus: narrow strip of land separating two large bodies of water and connecting two larger land masses (Isthmus of Panama)

small land mass in a body of water

atoll: a circle of islands
lagoon: shallow area of water surrounding an island

archipelago: chain of islands (Hawaii)

piece of land that juts out into a body of water (Florida, Michigan)

bay: inlet of ocean near a land mass

narrow strip of water, separating two large land masses and connecting two larger bodies of water


body of water larger than a pond, but generally smaller than a sea or ocean (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

narrow strip of water flowing in one direction from a higher elevation to a lower elevation (Missouri, Nile, Amazon, Mississippi)

delta: area at the mouth of a river where the river fans out in muddy marsh, silt or tributaries to meet a larger body of water

mountain: area of increased elevation rising to a peak

cliff: the edge of a piece of land that cuts away to land of lower elevation

a rounded area of land overlooking a lower elevation

hill: an area of elevation smaller than a mountain

steep narrow elevation, similar to a hill or mountain with a flat top

butte: an isolated rocky hill with steep, vertical sides and a flattish surface (Monument Valley, Death Valley, Grand Canyon)

waterfall: river ending with a descent over a rocky cliff

canyon: narrow corridor or pass between rocky elevations

gorge; similar to a canyon with a river at the bed (Snake River Canyon)

plateau: area of high flat elevation

tributary: narrow branches of a river

river basin:
area of land drained by a river

dune: sand hills along a lake

gulf: inlet of the ocean larger than a bay

key: islands

lake like landform formed by a river

  1. Land and Water Models

Materials:         The material consists of trays with clay models for the following: bay and  cape .island and lake, peninsula and gulf, isthmus and straight. A tray with a small bucket, jug, cloth, some blue dye, a spoon, and a sponge are also needed.

Presentation:    Have the child bring over the material and two tray models. Have the
child fill the jug 1/3 of the way full and show him how to put two drops of dye into it. Then stir with the spoon. Pour water into the first tray. Discuss how the water is all around the land. Tell the child that when water is all around a mass of land, we call it an island. Repeat in a similar way for the lake tray. Do the 1st stage of a Three Period Lesson. Pour out the water and dry with the cloth. Then have the child repeat. Do the 2nd and 3rd stage of the Three Period Lesson. The child can then work with the models as presented. And when the child has worked with one set, present him with the next set.

Purpose:To heighten the child’s awareness of land and water forms.

Age:3 1/2 (after pouring work)

How to Make Landforms From Molding Clay

Names of Geographic Things

A fun introduction to geography is learning about landforms. A land form is a unit that forms a part of the overall shape of the earth. A collection of landforms is called a landscape. A landscape is all the visible parts of an area of the earth.


  • Mountain — An area of land that’s drastically higher than the surrounding area. A mountain also has a distinct summit (top)
  • Hill — An area of land that’s somewhat higher than the surrounding land. A hill doesn’t need to have a distinct summit.
  • Plateau An area of land that is relatively flat and elevated about the surrounding land.
  • Plain A flat area of land, generally near rivers
  • Valley A low lying area of land surrounded by mountains, hills or plateaus.
  • Peninsula — An area of land surrounded on three sides by water.
  • Bay — A area of water surrounded by land on three sides by land.
  • Lake — A body of fresh water that is relatively still
  • Island — An area of land smaller than a continent that is surrounded by water on all sides
  • Isthmus — A narrow piece of land between two larger bodies of water.
  • Strait — A narrow body of water connecting two larger bodies of water.

Large landforms/landscape

  • Ocean — The salty water that covers most of the Earth’s surface
  • Land — Dry land surrounded by the oceans
  • Continents — Land is broken up into seven continents.
  • Layers of Earth — The Earth is made up of three solid layers: The core, mantel and crust. The core consists of a solid center and a liquid outer core. The mantel is mostly liquid. And the crust is the thinnest layer, we live on te surface of the crust and all the continental plates are made of crust. Above the crust is the atmosphere.