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November 18, 2016

Promoting Geography Awareness

By John DePasquale
Grades 6–8

    I’m not usually one to brag, but one of my proudest accomplishments in life is winning the National Geographic Bee at my school as an eighth grader. Although I may have peaked early, winning the bee set this once geography obsessed, nerdy middle schooler on the path to becoming an even nerdier geography obsessed adult. This lifelong passion is the reason I try to weave a range of geography themed lessons and activities into my classes.

    In honor of Geography Awareness Week, I would like to share a few quick and easy ideas you can use to teach geography skills in your classroom in order to expand your students’ global geographic perspective!

    As I’m sure you know, there is more to geography than just simply locating points on a map.  Geography also includes exploring the relationship humans have with the physical environment. To study this relationship, geographers investigate various ways the natural world influences human societies and cultures, and different ways the actions and behaviors of humans, in turn, impact the environment.

    To get started, I recommend visiting this link to the National Geography Standards in order to pull together ideas to teach the multiple aspects of geography. These thoughtfully written and comprehensive standards include the skills and content knowledge students need to be geographically literate. The standards also reflect the major themes, or big ideas, of geography. The five major themes of geography are:

    • Location

    • Regions

    • Place

    • Human-Environment Interactions

    • Movement

    I find it helpful to consider these five themes as I plan classroom activities because they provide me with a framework to organize my thinking about the geography skills I teach. 

    Here are a few strategies I use to teach some of the major themes of geography.

    Location: Mapping the News

    Location, as a theme of geography, is defined as where on the earth specific points or places are located. Understanding location includes reading and using maps to show where a place is found.    

    We reserve class time on Mondays of each week to study current events. This also provides us with a perfect opportunity to learn about different locations around the world. Each week we read and discuss news articles related to current events. These article cover a range of topics and are a mix of both national and international news. My students map the news for each article they read. On a bulletin board with pushpins and yarn, we link the articles to points on a map to show the specific locations where the events occurred.

    If you’re looking for current event articles to map the news, I recommend "National Geographic News" and the "The New York Times Learning Network."

    Regions: Creating Texture Maps

    Regions are areas of the earth that share a common physical, political, or social characteristic. National borders divide the earth into regions. Additionally, mountain ranges and deserts that stretch across political boundaries can also be described as regions. 

    Texture maps are a fun and creative way to teach students about different regions. To make a texture map, student choose different textures to represent separate regions of an area. Any flat object that does not have a smooth surface can be used to create textures. For example, I’ve used sandpaper, the back of rug samples, and even tiles or grates from a hardware store. Students simply place a piece of white copy paper on the textured surface and use a crayon to create a rubbing of the texture on the paper. Use different colors to represent the various regions then cut them out and glue them to one piece of paper to create a single map. Using different textures and then piecing them together into a single map, helps students to better understand various regions that can be found in an area. 

    My students recently created texture maps to represent the geographic regions of the Nile River in Egypt. The different regions of the texture maps included the Nile Rive delta, the fertile land near the banks of the river, and the desert that surrounds much of the area. We also glued tissue paper balls to the maps as an added feature. 

    Place: Virtual Field Trips

    The geographic theme of place refers to the characteristics of a location that make it unique. Place includes both the natural and human created aspects of a location. It also refers to how a location looks, and the best way for students to learn about how a place looks is by actually being there on a field trip! 

    Virtual field trips are an easy, cost-effective way to travel with your students to different places without ever leaving the classroom. Scholastic’s Plimoth Plantation Virtual Field Trip is now a Thanksgiving tradition in my classroom. I virtually travel with my students to a very unique and important place. From touring a model of the Mayflower to seeing the day-to-day life of the Wampanoag Nation, the videos and images that are part of this field trip make the students feel as if they’ve traveled back in time to the place of the First Thanksgiving. 

    I also recommend Scholastic’s Virtual Field Trip of Ellis Island. As a New York City teacher, I’ve traveled to Ellis Island with students both on actual field trips and virtual field trips. Regardless of how we got there, both types of trips help students learn more about the characteristics of this significant place.   

    Additional Geography Resources

    For even more ways to deepen your students’ geographic knowledge, visit these Top Teaching Blogs:

     

     

    You can follow me on Twitter @johndepasquale_.

    I’m not usually one to brag, but one of my proudest accomplishments in life is winning the National Geographic Bee at my school as an eighth grader. Although I may have peaked early, winning the bee set this once geography obsessed, nerdy middle schooler on the path to becoming an even nerdier geography obsessed adult. This lifelong passion is the reason I try to weave a range of geography themed lessons and activities into my classes.

    In honor of Geography Awareness Week, I would like to share a few quick and easy ideas you can use to teach geography skills in your classroom in order to expand your students’ global geographic perspective!

    As I’m sure you know, there is more to geography than just simply locating points on a map.  Geography also includes exploring the relationship humans have with the physical environment. To study this relationship, geographers investigate various ways the natural world influences human societies and cultures, and different ways the actions and behaviors of humans, in turn, impact the environment.

    To get started, I recommend visiting this link to the National Geography Standards in order to pull together ideas to teach the multiple aspects of geography. These thoughtfully written and comprehensive standards include the skills and content knowledge students need to be geographically literate. The standards also reflect the major themes, or big ideas, of geography. The five major themes of geography are:

    • Location

    • Regions

    • Place

    • Human-Environment Interactions

    • Movement

    I find it helpful to consider these five themes as I plan classroom activities because they provide me with a framework to organize my thinking about the geography skills I teach. 

    Here are a few strategies I use to teach some of the major themes of geography.

    Location: Mapping the News

    Location, as a theme of geography, is defined as where on the earth specific points or places are located. Understanding location includes reading and using maps to show where a place is found.    

    We reserve class time on Mondays of each week to study current events. This also provides us with a perfect opportunity to learn about different locations around the world. Each week we read and discuss news articles related to current events. These article cover a range of topics and are a mix of both national and international news. My students map the news for each article they read. On a bulletin board with pushpins and yarn, we link the articles to points on a map to show the specific locations where the events occurred.

    If you’re looking for current event articles to map the news, I recommend "National Geographic News" and the "The New York Times Learning Network."

    Regions: Creating Texture Maps

    Regions are areas of the earth that share a common physical, political, or social characteristic. National borders divide the earth into regions. Additionally, mountain ranges and deserts that stretch across political boundaries can also be described as regions. 

    Texture maps are a fun and creative way to teach students about different regions. To make a texture map, student choose different textures to represent separate regions of an area. Any flat object that does not have a smooth surface can be used to create textures. For example, I’ve used sandpaper, the back of rug samples, and even tiles or grates from a hardware store. Students simply place a piece of white copy paper on the textured surface and use a crayon to create a rubbing of the texture on the paper. Use different colors to represent the various regions then cut them out and glue them to one piece of paper to create a single map. Using different textures and then piecing them together into a single map, helps students to better understand various regions that can be found in an area. 

    My students recently created texture maps to represent the geographic regions of the Nile River in Egypt. The different regions of the texture maps included the Nile Rive delta, the fertile land near the banks of the river, and the desert that surrounds much of the area. We also glued tissue paper balls to the maps as an added feature. 

    Place: Virtual Field Trips

    The geographic theme of place refers to the characteristics of a location that make it unique. Place includes both the natural and human created aspects of a location. It also refers to how a location looks, and the best way for students to learn about how a place looks is by actually being there on a field trip! 

    Virtual field trips are an easy, cost-effective way to travel with your students to different places without ever leaving the classroom. Scholastic’s Plimoth Plantation Virtual Field Trip is now a Thanksgiving tradition in my classroom. I virtually travel with my students to a very unique and important place. From touring a model of the Mayflower to seeing the day-to-day life of the Wampanoag Nation, the videos and images that are part of this field trip make the students feel as if they’ve traveled back in time to the place of the First Thanksgiving. 

    I also recommend Scholastic’s Virtual Field Trip of Ellis Island. As a New York City teacher, I’ve traveled to Ellis Island with students both on actual field trips and virtual field trips. Regardless of how we got there, both types of trips help students learn more about the characteristics of this significant place.   

    Additional Geography Resources

    For even more ways to deepen your students’ geographic knowledge, visit these Top Teaching Blogs:

     

     

    You can follow me on Twitter @johndepasquale_.

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