Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Importance of Geography

011Yesterday I watched them move a house in my neighborhood. It was fascinating and took hours. Another fascinating thing was that everyone in our little town must have come to watch this event. People brought blankets and chairs. During lunch time, families had picnics while they watched the progress. I was able to see neighbors and friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and catch up on latest happenings. The other amazing thing is that this house is only being moved 2 blocks away.
I started thinking about my students and how many had dreams of going places. Unfortunately many of my students had never been out of our county and had no idea what was out there outside of their own little world. Many of my students remembered studying our state and the other counties in our state but since they never used this information, a lot of it just became a distant memory.
So, I took my students on a trip to Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, NC. It was a Saturday trip and not school sanctioned. Most of my students carpooled with each other and even parents were invited to join us. It was thrilling to see many of my inner city students see mountains up close for the first time. When we hiked up the mountain at the Sandburg’s home, we talked about topography and land features. My students were able to see in real life what I was trying to teach them.
Since my husband and I love to travel, we took lots of pictures as we drove through different states. When I had my students memorize the names of the 50 states and actually locate them on the US map, it was helpful to show them pictures of the different states. It even helped them remember it better when they saw my husband and me in the picture. I enjoyed reliving the memories and they enjoyed seeing us on our travels.
When I teach current events, many different countries are mentioned and we find them on the map. Then we try to figure out the distance in miles and flying time from where we are located. It also helps to learn what the local time is compared to our local time.
Without this sense of geography, many of the things I was teaching didn’t seem to mean much to my students. Once they had a point of reference, it made learning so much easier.
It is a shame that they have stopped teaching a course in geography. Now they have incorporated it in with other Social Studies courses but I don’t believe that is enough. I’m not sure the students get enough exposure to geography in addition to all of the other content information they need to learn.
What do you think about how geography is taught in schools? How do you use teach it? Please share.

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