I am at home in Europe


  • To develop a feeling for distance
  • To respect each other
  • To become aware of all the different characteristics of Europe as a continent
  • To grasp the concept of spatial relationships by seeing where they come from
  • To understand that Europe has a variety of characteristics
  • To reflect upon the fact that Europeans have some things in common but are also very different from each other

Source of the activity

Derived from “Growing up in democracy”

Type of activity

Pair and group work

Competences targeted by the activity

  • Civic mindedness
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Tolerance of ambiguity
  • Skills of listening and observing
  • Respect
  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the self
  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the world


The students build a map of Europe in the playground of their school. They work on countries they did research on.
They start off with positioning a blank map of countries they did research on at home in the playground in order to build the map of Europe. After this, the students continue with indicating capital of the country, colouring the flag, and drawing characteristics of landforms. They lay out rivers, mountains and other important things on the physical map. At the end, the teacher engages them in a discussion about similarities and differences in a) a geographical context, and b) a social context.


  • Printed blank copies of European countries, map of Europe as templates, country portraits, coloured paper, atlas, blackboard or flipchart

Group size

Whole group

Time needed

(Collecting suggestions from CT)


(Collecting suggestions from CT)

Step-by-step instructions

  • The students bring to the lesson the country portraits and all the information they have collected about the countries they did research on at home.
  • The whole class gathers in the school playground.
  • The teacher sets the framework of the map by defining the area in which the students can work.
  • The teacher instructs the students to build a physical map of Europe. Teacher provide students with a large blank map of European countries (A3) they focused on at home.
  • Then, individually, they can indicate the capital cities and the flags on the layout (each student works on the country he/she did research on at home).
  • After having laid out the capital cities and flags, the students continue to work on the rivers and landforms. Not all students will be busy as not all countries will have major rivers and landforms.
  • The teacher might possibly wish to ask these students to help other classmates or to assign students who have already finished with their country to other classmates.
  • The students can use different materials, such as textiles, paper, etc., to lay out the rivers and landforms.
  • The students can also add other things to the physical map, but this should be voluntary.
  • Students should position the large map of the country they worked on, on the playground. As in a puzzle, they should follow the image of Europe they built in Lesson 1 to create their own European map.
  • The students have to make sure that the right countries are next to each other.
  • Having done this, every student should stand in his/her country and begin a dialogue with the student in the neighbouring country.
  • They should exchange information about each other’s countries. Invisible barriers might arise, such as having to speak a foreign language.
  • As a result of the country portrait that every student has filled in, it should be possible for each student to exchange a few words with one another in “their” country’s language.
  • The rest of the dialogue can take place in their mother tongue.
  • The students should try to have as many dialogues as possible with their classmates in neighbouring countries.
  • When the physical map is finished, photos are taken. Ideally, the map should be photographed twice – once with the students standing in “their” countries and once without the students, so that all the landforms, rivers, etc., can be clearly seen
  • The students sit in a circle around the map.
  • It is the students’ task to look at the map and think about the similarities and differences on the map. They should try to answer questions such as:
    • Which parts of Europe have high mountains?
    • Where are the longest rivers?
    • Which countries have similar landforms?
    • In which countries do people speak the same language?
    • Which countries share a sea?
  • As a second step, the teacher introduces another set of questions to start a new discussion. Apart from natural and geographical similarities and differences, there are other differences in Europe, such as social differences or phenomena like prejudice.
  • The teacher motivates the students to voice their thoughts about the social differences in Europe by raising questions such as:
    • Are there rich and poor countries in Europe? Which are rich? Which are poor?
    • Is life more difficult in some European countries than in others? Why?
    • Why do many people leave their country to live somewhere else? What are the reasons for this?
    • Teachers take note on flip boards and guide the discussion by also stimulating possible solutions to some social problems.

Debriefing and Evaluation

Debrief the activity with “The telegraph”.

Tips for the teacher

The term “physical map” is used in two different senses. Firstly, a physical map in the context of cartography describes a map which shows identifiable landmarks such as mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans and other permanent geographic features. Secondly, the term physical map is also used in the context of genetics, where it describes how much DNA separates two genes and is measured in base pairs, as opposed to a genetic map.

In the context of this series of lessons about Europe we use the term “physical map” in the cartographic sense but also in a very active sense – with the students “acting out” the maps themselves.

Only by doing so can the difficult spatial relationships, the concept of borders, the length of rivers and the height of mountains be grasped by students at primary level. This also helps students to understand the social aspects of living together on the European continent. By actually building and then “standing in” the countries, the students can physically perceive their neighbours and can understand boundaries and barriers such as foreign languages, culture and other country related differences more easily. The concept of building a physical map ties in to aspects of learning by doing and concrete experiences.

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.