The View from the Classroom Window

Friday, January 9, 2009

Global Laundry

Hi Everybody!
I hope you are all doing well as we plunge into the new year. If you are like us, sometimes you think you are getting the hang of this homeschooling thing and other days you feel like everybody else MUST be doing much better than you are. We definitely have our share of ups and downs, but I think that's normal. Anyway, I am offering you the fruit of one of our good days from sometime before Christmas. If I've already gone on and on about this with you, please ignore the following. It was one of those wonderful things that just "happened" and took on a life of its own! We've "played" it twice now, with Katie and Claire leading the way both times. Here's how it goes:

1. Wait til' you've got a load of laundry to fold AND it's time to do school. Don't panic! You can do both at once! Start with a colorful children's atlas on hand if you have one, or a globe.

2. As you sort the laundry, have your little helper(s) find the tag and read where each item was made.

3. Together, locate each country you discover in the atlas or on the globe.

4. Make a stack for each country, labeled with a sticky note. If you have a little bit of room, lay out the stacks according to their general geographic location (Honduras is down there by the coffee table, China over by the television, etc.)

(You could just stop here and have done a great geography lesson... but here are some things we did that further incorporated social studies, writing practice, math, map reading, and responsible shopping).

5. We tallied up the final count for each country represented, and made a graph (math skill!) with a sticker representing each item of laundry. This makes a great visual of each country's representation in your load of clothes and towels. (Pakistan came out ahead in our first round).

6. I shared with Katie and Claire some parts of a magazine article i had just been reading on fair labor practices and responsible buying (Relevant Magazine 10/08). I can't find it online or I would share it with you. But you don't need an article to discuss the basic idea with your kids.

7. We then chose one company/location to investigate online, which was Fruit of the Loom in Honduras. (This is where they make the girls' My Little Pony underwear and Daddy’s T shirts ). We found out that they’ve closed the factory in Honduras because workers wanted to form a union, and now the entire community is suffering because of the loss of jobs.

8. I printed out an unlabeled map of the Eastern Hemisphere and one of the Americas, one for each daughter. http://www.eduplace.com/ss/maps/world.html The girls each made legends for their maps, designating a color for each country, and then filled in each country represented in our laundry. It's so educational (for me too!) to figure out which country is which. Could you find Cambodia on an unlabeled map? I couldn't either. Now I can! (Ali, you don't count!)

9. We have agreed that the next time we play Global Laundry, we will find a recipe and cook the "winning" country's cuisine for dinner :) There would probably be a zillion ways to become better aquainted with the people and places that produce your family's clothes -- and build an understanding of how interconnected our world really is. We have a great book by DK called Children Just Like Me about kids around the world that really fascinates Katie and Claire, and this is a great investigative tool!

Save the maps, charts and sticky notes, and put them in a Global Laundry folder. Next time, see how many more countries you can color in. Make a new chart and compare it to the last one(s). It really is amazing to see how many different nationalities have a hand in making the things we wear and use ... and disconcerting to wonder how many of them are underpaid or under-aged.

Anyway, I encourage you to try some form of Global Laundry . . . and the best part is, it evolved on a day when I was feeling so discouraged and disorganized and dis-everything, and it felt like God just wanted to give us a boost. I love those occasional days when school feels natural and easy and full of curiosity... and the laundry gets done at the same time!

2 comments:

Blessed said...

This idea gets the creative idea of the month gold star! how awesome! and that is exactly how my mind works too--take an idea and see how far you can run with it. i can't wait to try it. : )

McNabb Clan said...

such inspiration! keep em coming Beck!!