KS1: include canals as part of a transport topic. An image search on google (www.google.com) will provide pictures of canals that can be used to develop geographical vocabulary (PoS 2a). Use the Rosie and Jim books and videos to bring the topic alive.
KS2: the Panama and Suez canals offer an ideal opportunity to develop the use of maps and globes. These could be used, for example, to work out the distance the canals save for selected sea journeys (PoS 2c).
KS3 and beyond: a range of activities can be developed to support development (PoS 6i) and environment (PoS j) topics. For example:
* draw an A3-sized map of the canal. Label its key features and the main events in its construction. Include sketches of places along the canal, such as the Miraflores and Gatun locks (www.pancanal.comengphotocamera-java.html);
* pretend you are a labourer on the French expedition. Write a letter home describing what Panama is like, where it is, why the canal is being built and how long it is taking. Include details about your living conditions and the day-to-day problems you're facing;
* write an account of the impact of development on the canal. Deforestation is a particular issue, because it is upsetting the hydrological cycle and affecting the natural supply of water to the canal system. Some excellent background material can be found at www.rose-hulman.edudelacovapanama-canal.htm.
A question for the end of term quiz: "If you sailed from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal, in which direction will you be sailing?" The answer is not the obvious one!