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Featured GraphicA 'Boring' Lesson in Geography

Perfect for the last weeks of the school year--a lesson that will motivate and excite your students while teaching U.S. geography.

Is this town really boring?

That's the question lots of people ask when they walk into the Post Office in Boring, Maryland, a town of about 450 people 20 miles north of Baltimore. For the citizens of Boring, well, they're not offended by the question; they're used to it--and they take it with humor, because most of them like their town just the way it is!

"We're always afraid that we are going to be ridiculed," Boring postmaster Mary Jane Pusey told the New York Times. "But, in fact, most people who visit here wish they had a place like this to come home to. They want a little Boring in their lives."

THE LESSON

Having a difficult time getting your students to focus? Are their brains (or your brain) already on summer vacation? I've got just the solution for you! Gather together an encyclopedia, some atlases, and other detailed U.S. maps---and let your students go! Challenge them to search the country for silly, offbeat, or otherwise unique city and town names. Following are just a few of the names I located in a quick scan:

 

  • Zap, North Dakota
  • Santa Claus, Indiana
  • Noodle, Texas
  • Frostproof, Florida
  • Zigzag, Oregon
  • Whynot, Mississippi

 

FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITIES:

  • Map Skills
    Choose ten of the unusual town names that your students found and provide activities that challenge students to apply their newfound geography skills. (Here's where your knowledge of grade-level geography skills will come in handy.) At lower grades you might ask students to tell whether each town is east or west of the Mississippi River. In the middle grades you might ask students to identify the region in which each city/town is found. At the upper grades, you might challenge students to identify each town's longitude/latitude location.

     

  • Alphabetical Order
    Invite students to alphabetize the list of town names they found.

     

  • Creative Writing
    Students might work in cooperative groups to complete this exercise. Unusual town names often result in humorous newspaper headlines. For example, this headline appeared in an Illinois newspaper: "Normal Man Weds Oblong Woman." (Normal and Oblong, of course, are Illinois town names and not adjectives describing the betrothed!) Invite students to create their own fun headlines!

     

  • Poetry
    Poet Stephen Vincent Benet penned this stanza about American town names:

     

    I have fallen in love with American names,
    The sharp names that never get fat,
    The snakeskin titles of mining claims,
    The plumed war bonnet of Medicine Hat,
    Tucson and Deadwood, and Lost Mule Flat.

Invite your students to author their own poems using the list of unique town names they found.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2001 Education World

 

06/13/1997

 

 

 

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