Dough Landforms Gallore!

Our final project – the WOW of our unit ‘Landforms’ took place this fortnight! This was application of learning. It was hands on geography! We were going to make maps out of clay. Initially, I was planning salt dough but then I was told by our art coordinator that air dry clay will be as effective, if not more!

Before we started, I thought it was a very ambitious project with 5 -6 year olds. At the end of it, I feel differently. The children accomplished more than I had envisaged.

I’ve outlined each step of the learning process.

  • Children were asked to choose the four countries (to enable work in partners or teams and also for efficient management) that they would like to create maps for. My class chose, India (host culture), United Kingdom, China and Australia.
  • I modelled for them what the clay map would look like using air dry light clay. I demonstrated how to spread the clay and how to change the shape to create mountains or rivers.
Air Dry Clay that we used for our project.
  • Maps were printed out on large A3 papers. I used THIS website for large map – related activities.
  • We worked in country groups. We had maps for reference on the interactive whiteboard. Before starting with the clay, we walked through the features and landforms that children most wanted, reflected on their maps.
  • After each child made the map, they were left out to dry for 24 hours.
  • We then painted the landforms, after having looked at a range of maps and the various colours used to represent features.
  • The most popular colours were brown, green, blue, red, yellow, orange.
  • We spent the last session creating a key for the map. Children learned about the purpose of a key and after engaging in a few interactive activities on symbols and keys, they went on to creating their own!
  • IMG_1137
    Key – United Kingdom
Key – Australia
  • My final goal was to present these maps effectively! A colleague, Priya Dhawan, suggested that I use the border from a photocopied map, to enhance the impact of the map!  Here they are!
United Kingdom

Do feel free to provide feedback or other ways in which we could further enhance or develop this unit!




This was my first year (out of 16) in Year 1. Some of the topics I’ve enjoyed this year were ‘Chocolate’, ‘Materials’ and ‘Senses’. With a deep need to challenge myself as a teacher and to make the learning process meaningful and interesting, I chose to introduce some additional units / themes in Year 1. These aren’t uncommon units but ones that seemed interesting and those that catered well to students interest and were above all, relevant and personally meaningful to learners (and myself)!

In semester 1, we added ‘Minibeasts’ and this semester it was ‘Landforms’. What compete fun I’ve had researching, planning and thinking about these units. The children, as always, never fail to amaze me with their ability to stretch their thinking and be open minded to new knowledge. This topic, ‘Landforms’ was a complete success from the start. How do I know it was a success?

Well, I believe that a learning experience is a success when children are able to make connections at a personal level and steer their learning forward.

  • They initiate activities and experiences by asking questions,
  • They think deeply about their previous experiences and provide examples from their own life,
  • They draw visuals and pictures of their learning during free choice,
  • They share new knowledge voluntarily with others,
  • They feel proud of their learning and are able to talk and explain their thinking,
  • They reflect on their learning,
  • They bring objects and activities for ‘show and tell’ that are linked to and relevant to the learning process! (A child brought the volcano experiment to show how new lands are formed on the surface of the Earth!)

In the words of a child from my class, “I like learning about landforms because it’s about my country and its true.”

We did not have any specific resources for this unit. With a globe in one hand and an atlas in another, we talked, shared anecdotes and learned interesting, sometimes new facts about the world, our world, the places where we feel we are locals! The children responded and learned Geographical terms easily e.g isthmus, peninsula, bay are just a few among the 20-25 that they can explain and provide examples of from the world around them.

The large world map that has brightened up my room!

I created a flipchart for a point of reference, which included the various landforms that would be useful to children in their future, when they travel, to make connections and to understand that there are many similarities and differences between places and regions. I included educational links for them to see real visuals and videos of mountain ranges, rivers, islands, bays, deserts, oceans etc.

Another purely specific reason for choosing this unit was my own passion and love for Geography. During my research, I also found some useful Montessori resources such as tactile landform cards and while we had teacher trainees from one of the Montessori schools in Delhi, they kindly volunteered to make these for us.

I created vocabulary cards which included visuals. Books for children to read, both non fiction and fiction were plenty and we borrowed them from our school library.

Vocabulary and Map display

Its been two weeks since this unit was introduced and the significant task yet has been creating clay models of landforms. Children have enjoyed sculpting and naming landforms (the advantages of naming places and regions specifically).

“The River Ganga”

Clay work

“This is what the mountains of Landour look like”.

Clay work

“The Island of Australia”.

Clay work

“Mount Everest”


Mount Everest with the flag of Nepal

One child made a number of mountains and described it “these are the mountains that go through 7 countries”. I asked him, do you mean the Andes? He said “Yes, in South America”.

Clay work

A few more …

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Once these sculptures have dried, children will be painting them and painting a new base sheet to reflect an island or cave etc accurately.

IMG_0594 IMG_0595 IMG_0596 IMG_0599 IMG_0600 IMG_0602 IMG_0604 IMG_0605 IMG_0607 IMG_0608 IMG_0610 IMG_0611

We also carried out a task where children were given a choice to draw landforms or match (picture to label or definition to picture).

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So much excitement has this unit brought to me, that I couldn’t resist creating a display on the last day of school, before mid term break!


To to keep displays interesting and participative, I love making them interactive.


Next week, we hope to carry out a comparison activity between two landforms and then create salt dough maps of children’s own country with various landforms, which can be painted later.

If you have any other ideas on landforms for my Year 1 class, do please share.