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Great Geography:
Ten Lessons on the Internet


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In celebration of Geography Awareness Week, Education World highlights ten great geography lessons we found on the Internet. These lessons span the grades and the world with activities that involve maps, art, and culture. If you like what you see, explore additional activities among the collections from which these lessons come. Go "global" with the geography resources of the Web.

Jo Lynn Cheramie, a fourth-grade teacher at Larose Middle School in Larose, Louisiana, has been incorporating the Internet into her classroom geography activities -- and learning some lessons of her own.

Cheramie's class decided to try to collect a million pennies! She took charge of drumming up support for the student project via the Internet and, as the pennies rolled in, her students marked on a map the origin of each batch. Soon this ambitious project expanded to include the entire school. But, after a short period of time, when the flood of donations slowed to a trickle, Cheramie recognized that it was time to look for another geography project to complement this one. Although disappointed, she was undaunted.

"I have joined another Internet project which we are doing everyday in my class," says Cheramie. "It is called Postcard Geography. Each class signs up. You then write and receive postcards from all over the world. We have received some from as far away as Guam, Japan, and South Africa. As each postcard comes in, we read it, assign a student to find out some interesting facts about where it came from, and then we put it on our bulletin board outside the classroom."

It wasn't difficult for Cheramie to get her students to focus on the "geography" of this activity, and not just the fun of receiving mail! "I used an overhead projector to draw a map of the world and a map of the United States," she explains. "As the postcards come in, we put them on the board and attach a string from the postcard to the country it came from. Then the students color in the country or state. They love watching the map become more colorful."

These fourth graders are learning about other states and countries with the help of the Internet, and their teacher has discovered that working with others has its disappointments and rewards.

To donate pennies to the class's effort, tape them to a postcard and address it to: Pennies, PO Box 1546, Larose, LA 70373.

Participation in Internet projects is one way to use the global resources of the Web to teach geography, but there is an even simpler method. Try an online geography lesson! Some of the best advice comes from peers, and you won't find a richer source for counsel than the World Wide Web. These lessons vary by grade and subject, but all have one thing in common -- they're great!

GEOGRAPHY'S TOP TEN

Elementary students will find that geography is all around them when they participate in this activity. Look! You're Wearing Geography has students checking the tags on their clothing, shoes, and accessories to find where they were made -- and the answers may surprise them! After they collect the names of the countries, they mark the locations on a map and gain a better appreciation for the interdependency of the world's nations. This lesson comes from NationalGeographic.com's Lessons and Activities for Grades 5-8.

Another adorable elementary geography lesson introduces students to the culture of Japan by instructing them to create a special toy of Japanese children, the Daruma. Daruma Toys and Games includes all of the directions you need to have your students make this character with a balloon, newspaper, paste, red paint, and a little imagination. When you have finished the activity, play the game by sitting in a circle and singing the traditional song. If you don't speak Japanese, don't worry! The song has an English translation for you to use. (Be brave Try it first in Japanese! Your students will never know that you aren't an expert interpreter.) This is just one of the many curriculum suggestions from the National Clearinghouse for U.S.-Japan Studies at Indiana University.

Another activity with a Japanese theme, but designed with slightly older students in mind, is Japan: Images of a People. This resource comes from the Smithsonian Lesson Plans Web site. Students experience the geography and culture of Japan by studying its artistic heritage. They discover that the geographical features of the Asian land appear in the traditional art of the country. This artistic approach to the teaching of geography is a unique and entertaining method for getting your class motivated for social studies!

The Florida Geographic Alliance has a fantastic collection of practical and interesting geography lessons for teachers. One of them is the sixth-grade unit called African Animals: Can They Survive?. Your students will be inspired by this study of the animals of Africa and their hardships as a result of man's excessive hunting and destruction of their habitat. Activities in this unit include reading a moving story about elephant family life and working in groups to plan a television documentary on endangered African animals. This is just a sample of the rich curriculum materials you will find!

Written for upper elementary and middle school grades, Around the World at 30 North Latitude focuses on the living conditions of people in various geographic regions. The students act as "travelers" who journey along the latitude line between assigned points, and they plan what they will need to take with them on their trips. They use atlases and resource books to learn about the modes of travel they will be able to use and the weather conditions they will face. Ultimately, the groups give oral reports to the class about their findings. This lesson is one of many presented by the Geography Educators' Network of Indiana, Inc., as a part of its Geography Educators Network of Indiana.

As simple as its title suggests, Iowa Geography Lesson is an activity for middle schoolers that shares segments of Iowa's history and information about its prominent cities. After your students have studied the historical and regional facts, have them take the quiz to test their understanding. Perhaps your class might use this activity as a springboard to design and implement a page about your home state!

The popular movie A River Runs Through It lends itself to this lesson for junior high and high school students. Here groups of students work together to map new communities. They are given a set of features that must be present, like lakes and factories, and they must wisely place each facet to minimize man's impact on the environment. When the community is planned, the students act as Chamber of Commerce members and create a brochure that highlights the pluses of living in this area. You'll find a related lesson on "clay contour mapping" and more at Geography Lesson Plans.

Dan McDowell's A Geography Page is full of excellent resources for the teaching of geography. Prepared for ninth graders, the lessons could easily be modified for older or younger students. One of the best in this series is Road Trip USA. Guidelines in hand, students must plan a road trip through three or four of the regions of the U.S. They are responsible for creating an itinerary, writing daily journal entries, composing profiles of the places they "visit," and tracing their route on a map.

Who would possibly know more about geography education than the people of National Geographic? Their Geography Lessons and Activities are unbeatable! Resources are provided for every grade, and special activities that supplement articles on the Web site are also given. High school students will enjoy studying the development of American culture as they take part in the lesson Made in the U.S.A. In this activity, the students create lists of things that have originated in the United States and those that have come from other countries and discuss how they have influenced each other. It might surprise your class to discover that it is often easier to name items from other countries, like soccer and tacos, than from our own United States. Take heart, however, we are responsible for the cultural icons "baseball" and "blue jeans"!

Core Knowledge Lesson Plans is a wonderful collection of K-12 lessons developed by teachers in Core Knowledge schools and presented at recent Core Knowledge National Conferences.

MORE LESSON PLANNING RESOURCES!

USGS: What Do Maps Show?
This site, from the U.S. Geological Survey, contains a great set of activities that deal with reading maps.

Geography Lesson
Share this cool picture of a geography-loving cow with your students. Notice the cow's coat!

Severe Weather Unit
This unit delves into severe weather phenomena in the United States. It is designed for upper elementary and middle school use.

Geography from Space
Your students can try to identify pictures taken from space by using clues and their observational skills.

Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map
Few sites deal as well with what it means to be a cartographer and with the art of mapmaking as this one does.

Geo-Globe: Interactive Geography
This set of geography games was created by students as a part of the ThinkQuest contest. Your students will love this interactive site.

Image Gallery of Landforms
The activities here will help you teach a fabulous unit on the landforms of the United States. The pictures are especially eye-catching!

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2008 Education World

Originally published 11/16/1998
Last updated 10/28/2008

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