Monthly Archives: August 2013

Geography Awareness Week

I am a Geographer.

In fact, I am currently serving as the Geographer In Residence for the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, but that is another wonderful geo-related story that I will have to tell later on. 🙂

Do you know what Geography is? So many people have it in their heads that Geography is all about memorizing states and capitals, or being able to name all of the major rivers in South America. (Editor’s Note: By the way, the Amazon River is not the longest river in the world – that’s the Nile River in Egypt. The Amazon, however, does carry the most water by volume of all rivers in the world)

Geography includes the people, the land, and how the two are related spatially, and how the two interrelate with one another. Geography teaches people critical thinking skills and allows people to make educated decisions based on their analysis of the world around them.

As a Geographer, I go to conferences where I can learn more about the field and how to share my passion with educators and students that I encounter with my work. This time I attended the National Council on Geographic Education [NCGE] meeting in Denver, Colorado.

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I went a day early to attend a day-long training regarding Geography Awareness Week (November 17 – 23, 2013). This year’s theme is “Geography and The New Age of Exploration” which goes right along with celebrating National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary. What other group of modern-day explorers are as notable as those associated with National Geographic? We are getting away from specific themes, like last year’s “Interdependence”, and others from the past like water, individual continents, and so on. We are getting back to the real nuts and bolts of what Geography is at its essence.

As the Operations Manager for the South Dakota Geographic Alliance, I put together as much as I can to celebrate Geography Awareness Week. I work with grad students from South Dakota State University’s Geography Department who go into local classrooms to teach kids about Geography, I meet with elementary school kids and do some fun stuff in their classrooms, and I try to bring in a notable guest speaker to SDSU to speak to the public. Each year I try to add something different from the year before, and I’m currently in the process of putting this program together so that there are a number of Geography-related offerings in South Dakota that week.

[GAW 2011: SDSU Geography students created the “Wheel of Geography” trivia game and set up in the Student Union to quiz their fellow students.]

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There are a ton of Geography Awareness Week resources online that are free and easily incorporated into the classroom. I used the “Global Closet Calculator” interactive game in classrooms over the past year – a game that has students look at the tags in the back of their shirts and other clothing items to teach them where their clothing comes from. There were some surprising reactions in the classroom – many kids had no idea that their clothing doesn’t come from the United States – after all, their clothes come from the mall, or Walmart, right? This program maps out the class’ clothing right there in the classroom. I had some classes that didn’t have a single garment from the U.S. I have used this game with 2nd and 3rd graders, and they really get into this exercise.

There is also a great link called “10 Ways to Give Your Students the World”. This page features all kinds of links and ideas that will help educators bring more Geography into the lives of their students. This page asks the educator if they are giving their students enough to live in our increasingly global world, and encourages us to tap into our student’s natural curiosity about the world in which they live. There are suggestions like having a Geography Family Fun night at your school, or creating a Geo-Club for students. There is a lot to think about on this page.

Then there is the Mission Explore website where the theme is “It’s an Adventure…But Not As You Know It”. This site is full of missions that are great for students, classrooms, and families, and are all about exploration. Pick a mission, go explore, and collect points to unlock rewards. This website is AWESOME!! If this won’t interest your students, I don’t know what will.

These are just some of the ideas that we talked about. The beauty of Geography Awareness Week is that each state, group, school, classroom, WHOEVER, can do whatever they want. Exploration is all about discovering new things about the world in which we live. National Geographic and others provide a ton of tools to help you learn more about Geography. Go. Explore. DO STUFF.

Emily,

Doer of Stuff

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