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Groups put geography back on the blackboard.

Once an integral part of lesson plans, geography has lost its direction within the U.S. school curriculum. Most Americans 18-24 years old can't locate the United Kingdom or Japan on a blank world map, reveals a 1988 Gallup poll. These adults came in dead last among 10 countries tested in geography.

To reverse the alarming trend, parents and educators have joined forces with associations. Some efforts to revitalize geography teaching are small and local. Others are multimillion-dollar programs like the effort launched by the National Geographic Society (NGS), Washington, D.C. After decades of decline, geography instruction is making a comeback.

Sparking new interest. NGS created an education foundation in 1988--securing a permanent source of funds--to arm the nation's teachers with know-how and confidence to tackle the subject of geography. The foundation provides up to $50,000 in matching funds annually to geographic alliances in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico--a growing grass-roots exchange network of geography teachers and professional geographers. The matching grants create an incentive for state education policymakers to bolster geography instruction in their schools.

NGS provides intensive teacher training in geography. Teachers in summer institutes return to their schools with maps, atlases, videos, computer software, and other educational aids. NGS holds alliance workshops for teachers; sends a newsletter with ready-to-use lesson plans; conducts the National Geographic Bee; and publishes educational packets to promote Geography Awareness Week, celebrated this year November 14-20.

Teaming with ideas. Four major geography associations have joined forces for the Geographic Education National Implementation Project. This historic cooperative effort aims to restore geography education by upgrading the K-12 curricula, teacher certification, and instructional materials. GENIP partners include NGS, the American Geographical Society, New York City, the Association of American Geographers (AAG), Washington, D.C., and the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE), Indiana, Pennsylvania. The four associations are presently collaborating on geography education standards for grade-by-grade performance and curriculum content--to be released next year--that school districts can voluntarily adopt.

Each group has launched innovative programs of its own to help students and teachers think more globally. NCGE administers a National Geographic Olympiad, for example, which involves team competitions in geography for grades 2-12. AAG members are developing creative curriculum materials called ARGUS (Activities and Readings in the Geography of the United States), a new approach integrating textbook and hands-on learning. The ARGUS project will include curriculum-material exchanges with Russian and Japanese geographers.

Postcard fun. Not every program needs a million-dollar budget. The Post Card Distributors Association of North America, Baltimore, a small trade association with limited resources, created an exciting "Teach Them With Post Cards" program for grades 3-6. PCDANA volunteers designed a comprehensive teaching kit--at very little expense--with weeklong lesson plans. Children use maps to locate the scenic sites depicted on the card pictures. The learning aid has become popular with students and teachers throughout the country.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Association Management
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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