Globes offer the most accurate map of the Earth that man can make. They capture the placement and size of the continents and oceans in nearly perfect scale. They also allow you to see how the Earth moves on its axis. Though they are not practical for travelling, most classrooms and many scientists have at least one for educational purposes.
Making your own globe could be an entertaining educational activity, especially with the help of a child. With a ball of any size as the core, you can create a globe with accurate representations and 3-dimensional geographic forms. The process is requires a lot of time, but have patience; the result is worth it.
Clean the basketball thoroughly with spray cleanser and towels. This helps the glue to stick fast later on.
Print a globe template from NMM in the References below. You may print it in black and white to save coloured ink. Wrap it around the centre of the basketball and tape it to hold it in place. Smear white school glue on each curved point and smooth them down against the basketball. Allow the glue to dry overnight.
Mix 2 cups sand, 1 cup cornstarch, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 1 ½ cups warm water in a large bowl. Stir with your hands until the mixture forms a thick, gritty dough.
Smooth lumps of dough over the continents in 1/8 inch thick layers to raise them up above the oceans. Spread paper-thin layers of dough over the oceans to give them texture. Use a pencil to dig into the dough and make rivers, lakes and fault lines.
Pull off lumps of dough and pinch them into pointed ridges to make mountains. Stick the mountains onto the globe to represent the Rockies, Appalachians, Himalayas and other ranges.
Paint the mountains purple with white tops. Paint the Arctic and Antarctic white, too. Paint deserts yellow and the rest of the land green. Paint the oceans, river and lakes blue. Allow the paint to dry for an hour and label the countries and geographic forms with permanent marker.
Make mini-globes with tennis balls by using the template provided by Challenger in the References. These may be more appropriate for younger students.