International Day Makes Geography Studies Festive and Fun

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International Day is my favorite day of the year! 

(Well, at least it's one of my top 10!) You won’t find it on any public calendar, however, and the occasion usually floats around on the calendar I do find it on…

International Day is a festival sponsored and run by our local homeschool association, a cornucopia of cross-curricular studies featuring geography and food – no wonder it’s the best-attended event throughout the year!

Basically, kids/families/small groups choose a country, learn about it throughout the year and create a presentation, which serves as a teaching tool for others. Each country sets up their project on a table, along with artifacts, snacks-to-share, and a fact-and picture-laden tri-board (think Science fair presentations). There is a minimum standard of facts to include, which are compiled by a generous host each year into a scavenger hunt for the kids. One of the other “requirements” is to research foods from your country and bring a dish to share with everyone at the luncheon we enjoy together at the end.

How to prepare your own International Day

In advance:

  • Decide the date/location and establish a volunteer MC/host
  • Put together a sign-up. This can be online, or paper-and-pen at a general meeting. We let families choose their own country, but allow no more than 2 families per country (hey, it’s a big world!).
  • Prepare the scavenger hunt – When families register (which you can arrange online or in person), each one is given a list of 10-12 facts to fill in for their country. (Get your copy of the template we use below!)  Upon getting these back, questions are generated for participants to fill in by visiting the various tables and discovering the answers. So if an answer to the item “Famous Landmarks” was “the Leaning Tower of Pizza” (by the family studying Italy), that might generate the question: Where is the Leaning Tower of Pizza located? That information would be located somewhere on Italy’s display board and participants would be able to find it and answer the question.
  • Prepare folders for the kids – these include the printed scavenger hunt, as well as blank maps and/or short map activities to fill up the time for those who finish early. You can get some beautiful blackline maps from Bright Ideas Press.

International Day is a great opportunity for friends to learn together. Explore other countries and share your discoveries together. Add a meal...and you've got a terrific learning experience!
International Day is a great opportunity for friends to learn together. Explore other countries and share your discoveries together. Add a meal...and you've got a terrific learning experience!

Pin this for future reference and sharing!

The day of:

  • Set up tables for the presenters and decorate the room. Our association has been doing this for almost 20 years, so we have accumulated a bunch of decorations. You can use flags, travel posters (travel agents are a great resource for decorations and country information!), laminated maps (world, country, and State maps all count!)…the sky and your imagination is the limit!
  • Arrange some long tables near electric outlets (to make it convenient for those with crock pots) for the dishes people will bring in to share at lunch.
  • Near the door, arrange for registration and the distribution of scavenger hunt folders for each attendee. Make sure you include pencils for everyone!
  • As people arrive, ask one or two families if they will stay to help clean up after it’s all over. You will, of course, ask everyone at lunch to stay and help with this task, but it’s always a good idea to have a few people committed beforehand 😉

International Day Collage

Here’s the schedule of events, with a little more detail …

  • The host and volunteer helpers (bless them all!) get together the night before and set up tables for the participants and a staging area where the “Peace Talks” will be held. They also set up the International luncheon area.
  • Kids/families arrive and get their folders. Each person (adults are welcome, as well) gets started on his or her scavenger hunt!
  • Participants go around filling in their scavenger hunt sheet by finding out the answers to questions. They also enjoy listening to samples of music, tasting regional snacks, looking at pictures, seeing where the country is located on a world map, or touching and learning about artifacts included in the presentations.
  • “Time” is called and everyone gathers together as the MC goes over the answers to the scavenger hunt questions. Sometimes prizes are offered, other years not…
  • This leads into the Peace Talks section, where a representative from each country sits at the front table and is interviewed on pre-selected topics. The questions can be as basic as “What is the capital of your country?” to “Tell us about a famous landmark in your country.”
  • After each participant is applauded, last-minute comments, instructions, and a blessing are shared by the MC, and we all break for lunch, enjoying yummy foods from the many countries represented.

With a little planning and enthusiasm from the leadership team, this event can be a highly anticipated annual tradition for your co-op or support group, too.

Want to host your own International Day?

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What Are The Benefits of Hosting an International Day?

As I see it, they are 3-fold

  • helps develop an interest in and knowledge of other countries,
  • gives your kids a fun goal to work towards in their geography studies, and
  • minimizes the innate ethnocentric tendencies we all have at some point or another.

Oh, and you don’t need to worry about “selling” it to your group for too long, either. After the first go-round, you’ll have everybody bringing on their friends for years to come!

I hope you try this sometime soon! Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below…

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