14 January 2010 10:19 AM

Learning About Geography

by Dr. Rick

It may be funny when talk show hosts interview seemingly adult people who don’t know the difference between Iowa and India, China and Chattanooga, or Japan and Jerusalem, let alone Iraq and Iran.  Some of these people even laugh at their own ignorance.  Imagine.


But it’s not so funny when our children see this spectacle and learn, indirectly, that it’s okay to be dumb about the world, its countries, citizens, and global relationships.  Those folks on TV don’t know anything, why should I?


Don’t we want our kids to know the location of places – local, regional, and global – and the characteristics of those places?  To recognize the increasing interdependence of these places?  To develop an understanding of their community, their state, their country, and their world?


As young adults of voting and military age, don’t we want them to have informed opinions and make sensible decisions about such questions in their lives as politics, wars, population growth, alliances, security, and the economy?


Some schools may be placing less emphasis on the study of geography (shame on them), but that just means we should insist on its important place in our kids’ learning.


There are some things we can do at home, too.

  1. Have maps and globes at home.  These make great gifts.  Kids love maps in their rooms, and there are lots of fun things maps can lead to.  Point out sports teams’ cities and countries.  Pinpoint news stories.  Show where favorite animals live and where dinosaurs roamed.  Locate places they’d like to explore.  Find where your family’s ancestors came from.  Locate the places where far-away relatives and friends live.   Look for places where famous sites are found – the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, the tallest building in the world (Dubai), the fastest train in the world (China, Wuhan to Guangzhou), Niagara Falls, your own city.

  2. Quiz each other.  Have family Scavenger Hunts to find on a globe or map things like countries, capitals, oceans, seas, mountains, deserts, and distances and directions from one place to another.  Talk about what these places must be like.

  3. Play the license plate game.  Collect as many states as you can as you drive.  Trucks are the richest source of place names.  Pinpoint those states on a map back home.  Strive for all fifty states.  Agree on a fun prize or family experience together when you get them all.  Other countries are bonus points.

  4. Teach directions.  Kids should know about north, south, east, and west, just as they should know their math facts and reading skills.  Who knows what interests and discoveries will follow?  Astronomy, travel, environmental curiosity.

  5. Make maps.  Make maps of his bedroom, classroom at school, neighborhood, places in favorite books, even imaginary realms.

  6. Make sign posts.  Create a graphic – with her in the middle – that shows with arrows the position of various people and sites.  From her seat in the classroom, where’s her best friend’s seat, the chalkboard, the teacher’s desk, the window wall, the cafeteria?  From her bedroom, where’s the living room, older sister’s room, the back yard?

  7. Check out games and websites.  There are lots of geography-encouraging games and websites out there.  Check them out.  “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” is one of the best.

  8. Take virtual world tours.  Check out the websites of favorite sports teams and their cities, potential vacation dream places, and the settings of favorite movies, TV shows, and even book settings. Find famous museums from all over the world.  They all have colorful, engaging websites, most with kids’ sections.  Take a national and international museum tour on your computer, then pinpoint these cool places on the map.

  9. Explore careers.  As kids get older, explore with them new interests and occupations like oceanography, ecology, environmental and landscape geography, human geography (the study of cultural, social, religious, and political geography), cartography, urban planning, transportation, tourism, and, of course, GPS technology.  Careers of the future.

  10. As with everything we want our kids to learn, be a good role model.  Show an interest in the world, its current events, its history, its interconnectedness.  Talk about local, regional, national, and international news and how these events affect us.  Give your kids the gift of an informed and curious worldview.  It’s their future we’re talking about here.




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