Mapping Wild Island: A Hands-on Project for My Father's Dragon

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Mapping Wild Island: A Hands-on Project for My Father's Dragon

In the book My Father’s Dragon, a selection of Sonlight’s HBL A, we follow along as a young boy named Elmer Elevator travels to the Island of Tangerina and makes his way across to Wild Island on a rescue mission to save a baby dragon from the animals who are holding him captive. The book itself includes a little map inside the front and back covers, showing the area Elmer travels, the animals he meets along the way, and the places he passes.

My two young girls, ages 5 and 6, were intrigued by the maps in the book and loved to follow along and guess where he would be going next. So we made our own three-dimensional map of the area to go along with My Father's Dragon.

Supplies for a Map of Wild Island

These are the supplies we used, but please be aware this project can be made much less expensively by making your own salt dough or homemade play dough.

  • 1 sheet of blue display board
  • pencil
  • black marker
  • the My Father’s Dragon book
  • air-dry clay (or salt dough)
  • kiddy dough (or salt dough or any type of children’s play dough)
  • kinetic sand (or any sand or brown/sand-colored dough)
  • rocks
  • assorted jungle animals, sea animals, plastic grass and trees
  • paper
  • tape
  • scissors
  • other supplies you might want: paint, paintbrushes, cut out paper animals

Mapping Vocabulary from My Father's Dragon

If there is one thing I can not resist, it’s adding educational details to whatever we do. Our My Father's Dragon mapping project made it easy! We discussed vocabulary related to geography as we created the relief map:

  • Ocean: the vast body of salt water covering about three quarters of the earth's surface.
  • River: a large natural stream of water flowing in a particular course toward a lake, ocean, or other body of water.
  • Island: an area of land smaller than a continent and surrounded by water on all sides.
  • Shore: the land beside an ocean, sea, lake, or river.
  • Beach: another name the land at the edge of a lake, ocean, or other body of water. A beach slopes gently toward the water and usually has sand or pebbles.
  • Jungle: land covered with many trees, vines, and bushes.
Mapping Wild Island: A Hands-on Project for My Father's Dragon

Making the Islands of My Father's Dragon

  1. We were able to create the ocean by using blue presentation-style display board as our base, but if you wished, you could use cardboard or posterboard painted blue.
  2. Using a pencil, we outlined the shapes of the landforms, using the book as a reference. Then we traced over the shapes using black marker.
  3. We used the air-dry clay (you can use salt dough) to create a base for our islands.
  4. Once the air-dry clay was set, we used kiddy doh in various shades of green to create the middle of the islands, laying it right over top of the clay. You can also use salt dough tinted with food coloring to create the shades you wish. We left the shoreline white at this point.
  5. Once we had most of the island covered with green to represent vegetation, we mixed kinetic sand with orange and tan kiddy dough. Once we had a blend that looked particularly sandy but with enough dough to stick to our map, we applied it along the shoreline to create a beach. We found it easiest to roll the sand mixture into snake shapes and then flatten it into place.

Creating the Jungle and Adding the Animals

  1. Using assorted plastic grasses and trees, we created a jungle for our animals to live in. We used one type of tree for the tangerine trees on Tangerina and the other type of tree for Wild Island.
  2. Using bits of kiddy dough as a bonding agent, we set small stones along a path for Elmer to hop across to Wild Island. We also affixed a whale for him to step on in the same manner.
  3. We added animals to our map, taking care to find as many that matched those in the story, but of course, we improvised at times. We added all those we could and had fun discussing whether or not other animals might be there, too. Animals in the story included a cat, whale, mouse, two wild boars, two tortoises, seven tigers, a rhinoceros, a lion and a lioness, a gorilla, six monkeys, and seventeen crocodiles. We let our imaginations make up the animals we didn't have plastic figures for although my oldest did suggest printing out paper pictures of the animals to substitute.

Finishing with Elmer and the Dragon

When we had finally finished our map, my oldest son reminded the girls and me that we had forgotten the two most important parts—Elmer and the dragon!

Using his LEGO bricks, he constructed an Elmer Elevator mini-figure while the girls and I located an orange toy dinosaur that vaguely resembled a dragon. We attempted to place air-dry clay wings on him, but they were too heavy to stay in place. Instead we cut out paper wings and taped them to his back. A thread around his neck for a string finished the ensemble!

We then added various sea animals to the board to make it look more full and realistic, and sat back and enjoyed the next chapter of our story.

Sonlight History / Bible / Literature A
My Father's Dragon is part of History / Bible / Literature A

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