"Where in the World?"
Geography is our window into understanding the world around us. It helps us make sense of history and economics, peoples and culture, science and nature, politics and current events. "Where in the World?" is similar to "Hands-On Geography," but the classes are shorter (60 minutes instead of 90 minutes). This fall, "Where in the World?" will be offered in Bethesda, at Wyngate Elementary School, as an after-school program for 4th-8th* graders from Wyngate Elementary School and North Bethesda Middle School.
This highly interactive geography class will engage students in a variety of hands-on projects, games, and activities designed to expand students' understanding of U.S. and world geography. Each 11-week session of "Where in the World?" is a mix of U.S. geography and world geography, physical geography and cultural geography, with a generous dose of history, economics, and science mixed in. The Fall 2019 session also includes a mock geography bee.
Most weeks will involve some sort of assignment to be completed at home and shared with the group the following week. My assignments are intentionally open ended, allowing students with no prior geographic knowledge and students with extensive geographic knowledge (and all those in between!) to build on their present knowledge base and go as deeply into that week's subject matter as they would like.
Strong reading skills and the ability to work cooperatively are a must. Most in-class activities are done with a partner or in a small group.
Subject to students' dietary restrictions, I usually serve an "international snack" each week (e.g., guava cookies from Brazil, spicy chickpeas from India, dates from Tunisia). This is a favorite activity as students look at the wrapper to try to figure out where the day's snack is from and then sample something that students in another country might enjoy eating.
The class size for "Where in the World?" is capped at 10 students per 11-week session. Each session is independent of the others, allowing an individual student to enroll in any one, two, or all three sessions throughout the school year.
*The grade guidelines for "Hands-On Geography" correspond to eligibility for the National Geographic Society geography bee. Students will no doubt find my "Hands-On Geography" classes useful if they are planning on participating in the bee, but my classes are emphatically not bee-prep classes. I am less interested in encouraging students to memorize geographic factoids than in developing their critical thinking skills about the "who," the "what," the "how," and the "why" associated with the "where." Moreover, like the bee itself, "Hands-On Geography" is generally best suited to middle school students. It is definitely an above-grade experience for 4th and 5th graders.
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