Fourth grade is a time for learning long division, fractions, the history of our great country and writing book reports. If you happen to live in Tennessee, fourth grade also means making a Tennessee Salt Map.
The map is designed to teach the children the geographic make-up of their home state and the locations of all the major cities and rivers. It is the biggest project of the year and is intended to be worked on over the course of several weeks. From what I can tell, kids love the project but it's one that many parents hate.
Before the boy began work on his map, I decided to get some advice from my neighbor, a mother of three older girls and seasoned salt map maker. I feel so thankful to have friends who have gone before me and are willing to point me in the right direction.
While she had plenty of wisdom to share, her best piece of advise was to ignore the recipe provided by the teachers. It apparently called for too much water which prevented the dough from retaining it's shape. I have no doubt that countless hours of frustration and tears were averted thanks to her handy tip.
With all of the advice and a sheet of foam board in hand, we were ready to get started. My boy, of course, wanted me to whip up a batch of dough so that he could hurl it onto the board and start molding the great state of Tennessee. I knew that he would benefit from a little bit of planning, so I insisted that he slow down and draw things out ahead of time.
To make things a little easier, I pulled out an old Tennessee map and had the boy trace around it onto the foam board (he just pressed really hard with a pencil). Next, he used a Sharpie to go over the lines so that they were clearly visible. The last thing he did was to draw in all of the landforms and rivers.
Once I had mixed up the dough, my boy slowly began building his state map one section at a time. He started in the west with the West Tennessee Plain/Gulf Coastal Basin. He then made his way east, building each land form at the appropriate height and using a toothpick to mark where the three major rivers flowed.
We then set the map aside to dry. This spring has been especially rainy and humid so the map took an eternity to dry. By eternity I mean over a week. Then it was time for the fun part... paint.
Most of the students paint there map three distinct colors marking the three regions of Tennessee, West, Middle and East. The boy had other plans. He wanted to paint his salt map so that it looked more like a satellite image. It took several shades of green, brown and black to get everything just how he wanted it. I think he did a wonderful job.
Leftover fabric paint from the Quiet Book was used to make the rivers. Push pins, hand-numbered with a Sharpie, were used to mark the cities, rivers and landforms. The boy decided to print out his title and map legend so that the project would look nice and neat. I was actually blown away by how great it turned out.
The project was so much fun that I'm a little bummed out I won't get to do this again with another child. Maybe we could make salt maps of other states, just for fun... I'm sure the boy would think that was a great idea.
For those who asked, the recipe for Salt Dough is as follows:
1 c. flour
1 c. salt
1/2 - 2/3 c. water
Combine the flour and salt. Add the water, starting with about 1/2 cup, adding more until the dough just comes together. The dough should be pliable but not sticky or crumbly.