The question I ask my first-graders sounds easy
enough: "What state do we live in?" The most popular answer: "The United
States." I can see I have my work cut out for me, geographically speaking.
I shouldn’t be too surprised, as this reflects the
national disgrace that most Americans are pitifully ignorant about geography.
Parents can help bring greater geographic and global awareness to their
children. Here are a few family activities. All you need is an atlas or globe as
a reference tool:
- When you shop for groceries, look for labels on fruit,
vegetables, and other food items to indicate the country or region of origin.
- Look on the labels in your family’s clothing and other
- If your family speaks another language besides English,
talk to your child about its country of origin. When you hear people speaking
other languages, teach your child to be respectful of this. Most people, if
approached in a friendly way, will be delighted to teach you and your child a
few words of their native tongue.
- Plant nurseries are full of greenery that originates from
many places around the world. Public gardens usually label their growth so
that you can find out about areas of origin. If you don’t find labels, ask
around for a docent or brochure.
- Whether your favorite source for news is television,
newspaper, radio, or the Internet, the media is rich with references to other
- Use direction words such as north, south, east, and west to
describe where you are walking or driving. Relate these words to the
directions used on maps. The same principles are involved whether you are
using a road map or atlas.
- When communicating with family members who live outside
your immediate area, talk with the children about the city, state, or country
in which they live.
When your child shows deeper interest, move from the
atlas to books that cover history, language, and customs of other peoples. In so
doing, you will have a child who is well prepared for geographic references
wherever she encounters them.
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents.
All columns are copyright © Jay Davidson.
Permission is hereby granted for individuals to download and copy them for
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