A Note on Links: When reading back posts, please be aware that links have a short half-life. You can find working links to all of the MHS resources on our Educator Resources Page.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thinking Geographically

National Geographic and the Montana Geographic Alliance have some cool stuff going on. I've already mentioned the free (including travel stipend) summer institute they are hosting this June for teams of middle school teachers. 

But did you know that National Geographic is active on YouTube? They have a huge number of videos, and several different channels and playlists, including a "101" channel that cover topics from ancient Egypt to coral reefs and, to be more relevant to our region, Wildfires 101 and Climate Change: Glaciers 101. And speaking of glaciers, check out their three-minute video "Photo Evidence: Glacier National Park Is Melting Away." 

And did you know that they've created resources to help you launch a "Geo-Inquiry project" in your classroom? What's that, you ask? According to "4 Ways to Think Outside the Rectangle with National Geographic Geo-Inquiry," it's a problem-based learning project (PBL) that asks students to adopt the attitudes of an explorer ("curiosity, responsibility, and empowerment"), and to use an explorers' skills ("observation, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving")  to elevate their "understanding of the world and how it works" "in order to function effectively and act responsibly.” (Read more here.

Their inquiry process has five steps: "Ask" (or developing a geo-inquiry question), "Collect" (gathering background information, collecting data), "Visualize" (Organizing and analyzing geographic information, "Create" (Developing stories) and "Act" (sharing stories). The blog post that introduced me to geo-inquiry was by a teacher whose students launched investigations into clean drinking water and improper disposal of spent batteries. Montana-specific topics might include aquatic invasive species or the wildfire and the wildland-urban interface.

This type of inquiry is not for the faint of heart. It requires time and preparation. But, as with National History Day and other open-ended research projects, the payoffs can be big. National Geographic has created a website with lots more information, including an Educator Guide and Student Resource Packet (with lots of graphic organizers) to download.  The easiest way to get started, however, is probably to attend the training I mentioned up top.

P.S. Even if you don't have the time to jump into a full-scale Geo-Inquiry, the material is worth looking at. I learned that just as historians are trained to ask of every source "Who wrote this? When? For what purpose?" geographers ask of maps, graphs, and other sources of information, "Where is it?" "Why's it there?" and "Why should I care?" The idea of applying that geographic lens to the world was worth the price of admission for me. 

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