Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Geography: Workshop 1


Before You Watch

Before viewing the video programs for Workshop 1: Introduction, please read:

  • the Video Program Overviews (see below), paying particular attention to the Questions to Consider;
  • the introductory material from Geography for Life: The National Geography Standards (1994); and
  • the Standards featured in this workshop

These readings provide background on the geographic and pedagogical issues addressed in this workshop. You may read them here on the Web, in your print guide, or in Geography for Life. We encourage you to read Geography for Life in its entirety as you move through the workshops. It contains further background on the National Standards and their development, numerous examples and rich illustrations aiding interpretation, valuable tools for strengthening and developing lessons, and additional insight on geography's significance to our daily lives.

The National Geography Standards highlighted in this workshop include Standards 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 14, and 15. As you read the Standards, be thinking about how they might apply in lessons you have taught.

Also, prior to attending the workshop, you should explore the associated key maps and interactive materials.

Go to this workshop's readings.

Video Program Overviews: Introduction

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

We begin the series by focusing on the geographical perspective and how the National Geography Standards provide the means to organize, analyze, and understand the role that geographic forces have on our lives. We begin by following the compelling story of Concha, a single mother of five, who had been living in a tar-paper shack in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, just south of the U.S. 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, brings her not only across the border of two countries but also across two geographical regions. Concha's story is our case study for exploring how the Standards function and the light they can shed on geographical phenomena.

This half hour also introduces three educators who will guide you through geography and teaching content over the course of this series. They are Dr. James Binko, noted educational specialist at Towson University and our series host; Dr. Susan Hardwick, professor of geography at the University of Oregon, who will comment on the human geography component of this series; and Dr. Gil Latz, professor of East Asian geography and international studies at Portland State University in Oregon, who will provide the regional geography commentary component of the series.

Participants will be able to:

  • identify how the eighteen 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; and
  • understand how border regions shape people's lives.

Questions to Consider

  1. How do the eighteen National Geography Standards help to explain our world?
  2. How do regional and human geography approaches differ?
  3. How does a spatial understanding of regions translate into real-world policy?
  4. Why is it important to remember that regions are human constructs?
  5. How does the environment affect culture?

Part 2. NASA: A Lofty View

This half hour explains how the five geographic skills embedded in the inquiry-learning process lead to deeper geographic understanding and can form the basis of engaging and thought-provoking lessons. This foundation in solid geographic content is seen in practice in a classroom segment where students answer the question, "Why is Russia's Aral Sea shrinking?"

This case study provides an overview of the spatial perspective, following the training of NASA astronauts as they attend classes to help them orient themselves when observing Earth from the space shuttle. From space, concepts like latitude and longitude are almost meaningless, thus astronauts must develop good mental maps and learn to distinguish major geographic features such as Lake Chad or the Nile River Delta. This piece also addresses concepts such as "scale," the use of GIS and remote sensing technology, and the distribution of population across the Earth's surface. Regarding the latter, the point is made that populations are concentrated in a relatively small area of available land, and that humans have a great impact on the environment of these precious oases on a planet comprised of two-thirds water.

Our classroom segment features Illinois teacher Fred Walk. Using the five geographic skills in a guided inquiry lesson, his students study satellite imagery of Russia's shrinking Aral Sea, using that knowledge to develop hypotheses about the cause of this environmental disaster.

Participants will be able to:

  • identify the five geographic skills and recognize how they are used in geographic inquiry;
  • understand how satellite imagery can illuminate geographic events; and
  • examine how the geographic skills can serve as the framework for an inquiry lesson.

Questions to Consider

  1. How do the five geographic skills inform the learning process?
  2. What is geographic information?
  3. Where can geographic information be found?
  4. What has space-based imagery allowed us to learn about Earth?
  5. How does asking students, rather than telling them, lead to effective teaching?

Featured Educator

Mr. Fred Walk, 11th- and 12th-grade geography teacher, Normal Community High School, Normal, Illinois
Fred Walk brings 30 years experience teaching geography and economics at Normal Community High School in Normal, Illinois. He has conducted numerous geography workshops, reviewed textbooks, and consulted on curriculum development. Fred is past president of the Illinois Geography Society and is a teacher consultant for the NASA/GENIP Institute to present lesson plans using Mission Geography curriculum at Texas A&M University. Fred is featured in two classroom segments in Teaching Geography, one on Russia's shrinking Aral Sea and the other on measures of quality of life in Southeast Asia.


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