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Program Overview: Introduction

Geography is more important than ever to make sense of our changing world. This workshop lays the foundation for the geography content and pedagogical skills to assist you in teaching challenging lessons in your classroom.

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We begin with an overview of the geographical perspective, highlighting the 18 National Geography Standards and associated geographic skills that inform the Teaching Geography series, as well as introducing concepts of human and regional geography. These issues are illustrated through two video case studies, one in the borderland region of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; the other follows NASA astronauts on a space shuttle mission. This foundation in solid geographic content and teaching methodology is seen in practice in a classroom segment where students answer the question, "Why is Russia's Aral Sea shrinking?"

Part 1. El Paso and Ciudad Juarez: Life on the Borderlands

-Lance Wisniewski
Producer-Cambridge Studios, USA

This program introduces the 18 national geography standards, showing how they can explain the complexity of our geographic world. We also introduce regional geographer, Dr. Gil Latz, and human geographer, Dr. Susan Hardwick. A case study on the neighboring cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico highlights the importance of understanding spatial relationships and geography's effect on human lives.

That case study follows the compelling story of Concha, a single mother of five, who had been living in a tar-paper shack in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just south of the US border. Now working in a maquiladora, she previously spent her nights sneaking through the rattlesnake-infested desert smuggling cigarettes to sell in Hispanic bars in El Paso, Texas. Her illegal journey, and now her factory work, not only brings her across the border of two countries but across two geographical regions. We thus dramatically illustrate the concepts of regions, relative location, size, and scale, spatial variation and human-environmental interaction.


  • Identify how the 18 national geography standards can help further understanding of geographic concepts.
  • Examine how a geographic perspective provides insight into a variety of issues.
  • Identify concepts central to regional and human geography.
  • Understand how border regions shape people's lives.

Part 2. NASA: A Lofty View

-Lance Wisniewski
Producer-Cambridge Studios, USA

This half hour provides a framework for inquiry-based teaching, introducing the five geographic skills of the inquiry process and associated teaching methodology through a case study of a NASA space shuttle mission. The commanding view of earth from space points out the benefits of shuttle- and satellite-gathered imagery that is employed in the accompanying classroom segment. In that segment, our teacher uses a new NASA-developed Mission Geography Inquiry lesson to help his students understand how geographic factors play a role in the shrinking of Russia's Aral Sea.

  • Identify the five geographic skills and recognize how they are used in geographic inquiry.
  • Understand how satellite imagery can illuminate geographic events.
  • Examine how the geographic skills can serve as the framework for an inquiry lesson.


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