Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teach Geography

There was an article in our Dallas newspaper that reported that the latest testing of students in GEOGRAPHY found that only 20% of high school seniors are proficient or better and that it's not much better for eighth-graders at 27% and 21% of fourth-graders.

Wow.  That's pretty bad.

I have my own theories on this (which soap box I will not subject you to at the moment), but also thought that there must be simple ways to support the learning of geography at home.

Display a map of the world and a map of the United States in your home: kids love learning about places that are different.  How simple it would be to talk about the world on a regular basis if you have something up to start the conversation.  Even better, get the giant maps and then find pictures of landmarks, animals, people (especially family members) and put them on the map.  Give your children a sense where things are and how they connect to them.

There are blank outline maps for the United States and individual states located here.  They can be used for coloring or "building" the United States as you learn U.S. history - which states came first and how did the United States look at various stages of history.

Start a postcard photo album.  Every time you travel get a few post cards of that place and start a picture album to display them.  If you have family in various places or who travel a lot, enlist them to send some to you.  Every kid loves to get their own mail and when it's a cool picture of somewhere great it's even better!

Celebrate diversity by trying different foods.  That doesn't have to involve special grocery trips or even a lot of cooking.  If you like in a larger city there are always restaurants for different types of food but more and more the grocery stores carry basics that are staples to different cultures.

Find old copies of National Geographic and create world collages out of them.  Our local library has a for sale book nook that ALWAYS has old copies for 10 cents each!  And their pictures are always fantastic and go all over the world.  

And if all else fails, find The Animaniacs on YouTube because they sing the 50 states and nations of the world (which I'm sure is outdated by now), and even my 3-year old loves them.