Kids Geography: Why It’s More Than Locations And Names
The rise of global communications and travel is making geography a more important area of learning than ever before. But research shows there is a serious lack of understanding about geography among children, parents and even teachers. In a recent article on the Education Week website, US research professor Phil Gersmehl says it’s important we develop more awareness of what geography actually is and how it can be applied to our lives. He explains that the public idea of geography classes is “of a subject that consists of mastering the skill of using technology to find a picture of any place in the world.” But actual geography, he says, is much more complex than finding and remembering locations. “To a geographer…a picture of a place is the equivalent of a note in an appointment calendar to a historian,” he says. Gersmehl adds that a comprehensive study of geography should cover “a host” of physical, biological, economic and political processes, and is also important for developing critical thinking and life skills that people will use beyond any formal classroom.
What Is Geography?
So beyond points on a map and names of countries or cities, how do we actually define geography? The Oxford Dictionary definition outlines two core areas for the subject:
- The study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere; and
- The study of human activity as it affects and is affected by the elements above.
It says geographic study should include “the distribution of populations and resources and political and economic activities”. All of these things could play a role in our daily lives, whether on a minor or a major level. As the Education Manager for the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Dr Joseph Kerski, put it in an article about why he values the study of geography: “Geography enables students to understand their world locally to globally, make wise decisions about the planet and its resources, and become critical thinkers,” he says. “It underpins, in my view, the critical-thinking skills, technology skills, citizen skills, and life skills that underpin all other disciplines.”
Education On A Plate’s Commitment to Making Geography Fun
[caption id="attachment_727" align="alignleft" width="200"] Natalie's son Timmy with the Map Plate.[/caption] When Natalie Simon started developing Education on a Plate, she couldn’t help but think of her own experiences at school. The proud mother of three says that she struggled academically during her early school years, with subjects seeming to “come and go before I really had a handle on them”. “Growing up, I often wished that education was just provided to me on a “silver platter”– so to speak. I always longed for things to be presented to me in a clear and precise way so that concepts were easier to learn and understand.” While some subjects are focused on throughout school years – particularly English and maths – others can be left as afterthoughts, including geography. Natalie’s approach to education has always been one of support and integration, which is why her eight plate designs cover so many different topics. “I am committed to providing good quality, practical education in a fun engaging manner and my hope is that your kids enjoy receiving these gifts as much as you enjoy giving them,” she says. “Education is a gift in itself and what better gift can you give a loved one, than the gift of knowledge.”
Geography Games With The Map Plate
The Map Plate is a great tool for teaching kids about world geography and for helping them become more familiar with geography in general. The brightly coloured plate highlights the five oceans and seven continents, and also includes borders of countries and a compass. The design of the plate includes an oval around the oceans and continents to indicate the spherical shape of the earth, with the equator clearly shown by a red dotted line. There are also interesting facts around the outside of the plate, including the biggest country (Russia), the highest mountain (Everest), and the biggest continent (Asia). The Map Plate page has a number of great activities to do with kids, which Natalie has explored further in a video she shot with her son Timmy. In addition to these activities, here are a few others that could help you explore the importance of geography in a fun way.
- Where do you want to go? Ask your child where he or she wants to go in the world. Why this particular place? What’s it like there? These questions could even lead into some imaginative play around the country or region your child wants to visit.
- Where are we? Using the compass, ask your child where you could go if you travelled North. What about if you went East? What direction would you have to travel in to reach the country they want to visit?
- Geographic distances and the environment Use the map to highlight how life could be different in other places. For example, Antarctica is the coldest continent; so you could explore what it would be like to live somewhere so cold. Do plants grow there? How many hours of sunlight would you get in a day? How would their life be different in a place like that? You could even get them to point out countries and regions that are the opposite (ie lots of desert and heat).
- The equator Point out the equator and talk about its significance. This line divides the northern and southern hemispheres and is an equal distance from the north and south poles. On the equator line, seasons are fairly similar all year round, while the warmer and colder seasons are experienced in opposite months depending on whether a country is north or south of the equator (if you also have the Seasons Plate, you could even use it to explore these ideas more).
The kind of information and exploration you do with the Map Plate could be as involved or as general as you like because it will all help kids become more familiar with basic and complex geographic concepts. What Gersmehl really points out in his comments above is that it is not the map itself that defines geography – it’s how it is used. So while having a map is great, an interactive and engaging tool like the Map Plate is even better because it allows kids to learn more about geography with other people so that they get a better picture of the world around them in every way.