We all know that young children think literally and want literal answers. They learn by concrete examples until an age of theoretical knowledge is opened to them. My four year old grandson doesn’t understand the concept of The United States but he can point to a map and identify his home state of South Carolina because his father has shown him the concrete example of what his state looks like. Yes, he still doesn’t grasp the idea of a state or its context within the whole, but he has the first step in the mental diagram of putting it all together.
I think as teachers we often neglect that simple rule of teaching, to include concrete examples with the lesson. My own father was especially fond of maps and so from a very young age I learned where I lived in the whole of the globe and a lot about how to find other locations, read maps, get from point A to point B, etc. I thank him for that as it served me especially well in flight school and in doing a bit more traveling than many in my generation.
So let’s make use of this practice in teaching the basic Bible lessons. Students of the Bible should know where these events took place. Buy a good map of the Bible lands. You might also enlist the help of a good Bible Atlas for adding extra detail in your lessons, especially for older age groups. Plan to teach the life of Christ with at least ten lessons for the youngest students. Begin each lesson with a geography locating activity. Place dots, pins, flags, or even cut-outs that display a relevant item (such as a manger) glued to the pins. When you talk about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, place the manger pin on the map at the correct location. Of course, the terms Middle East or “the other side of the world” (if it is from where you are) may not mean anything to the child yet, but the concrete becomes the basis for the concept later. Another way to enhance this kind of learning is to make a puzzle from the map by cutting the map into various puzzle-like shapes, then putting the puzzle back together as you teach the geography. If you glue the cut out shapes to foam core or card stock and laminate them, you can use them for years.