Saturday, January 24, 2004

Teaching Geography in the Elementary School.

Teaching Geography in the Elementary School. I think geography is an important subject that we don't teach all that well in primary grades. However, the state tests don't really quiz the students on this subject so I doubt it well get covered much better in the near future.

From the site:

Although geography has long been a part of the elementary curriculum, today there is a renewed interest in teaching the subject. Particularly significant is the large public response to the essay "Geographic Ignorance: Time for a Turnaround" written in 1985 by Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society. Also, Geographic Awareness Week was instituted by an act of Congress in 1987 to draw attention to the need to improve geographic literacy in the United States. Furthermore, a recent survey of states and territories reports that 93 percent of their schools will increase emphasis on geography at the elementary level within the next five years (CCSSO 1988). This ERIC Digest discusses (1) reasons for teaching geography in elementary schools, (2) how geography is taught, (3) major deficiencies in the teaching and learning of geography, and (4) how to improve geographic education in elementary schools.

WHY SHOULD GEOGRAPHY BE TAUGHT IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?

Geography helps one understand the physical and cultural characteristics of the world. Geographic education provides the values, knowledge, concepts, and skills to better understand ourselves, our relationship to the earth, and our interdependence with other peoples of the world. The locational organization scheme of geography provides a framework for learning the physical, social, and historical phenomena studied in both elementary and secondary schools.

Formal instruction in the primary and elementary grades is effective in increasing geographic knowledge and skills (Buggey & Kracht 1986). Elementary students have the abilities to learn geographic skills in observation, classification, organization, and map reading and interpretation. Elementary school students also have measurable attitudes concerning people in other nations and are interested in and able to learn about people in other areas of the world (Mitsakos 1976; Pike & Barrows 1976). These attitudes often develop, however, without accurate knowledge of the locations and characteristics of places and the people who live in them. There is a great need to increase the quantity and quality of geographic education in elementary schools to overcome ignorance of geography.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Newbery Library

The Newbery Library. Interactive site created by school children lists Newbery books, provides summaries and quizzes, and offers short biographies of some authors.

From the site:

Our project is an interactive site in which we have quizzes, lists of Newbery books, author biographies and summaries of the books. Our page is a virtual reality library where you will experience the qualities of a real library including a librarian, books, an audio recording in 11 different languages, video recordings and quizzes. In one room of the library, you will be able to read about the creators and coaches. As part of our project, we include a history of the Newbery medal from its creation to modern day criteria. For the young author, we have writing tips. For the educator who needs ideas, we have a part of our site devoted to our classs Newbery related projects. Our page is a key resource for any learner interested in the Newbery Medal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Changing World of the Elementary School Counselor.

The Changing World of the Elementary School Counselor. Our students have a lot of stress in their lives. Some of them get messed up bad by their families. The counselors we have in the elementary schools are important.

From the site:

Elementary school counselors face changing demands as education and society move rapidly toward a new century (Gerler, Ciechalski, & Parker, 1990). Counselors must set clear priorities in the face of changing expectations. This digest summarizes various educational and societal demands that confront elementary counselors and suggests possible roles counselors may select relative to these demands.

A CULTURALLY DIVERSE WORLD

Our society faces challenges in accepting and benefiting from cultural diversity. Problems emanating from racism exist despite efforts aimed at educational reform. Elementary school counselors must be aware of transmitting their own cultural values to children and of drawing erroneous conclusions about children's emotional and social well-being based on cultural differences. Moreover, because counseling theories and techniques are not always applicable across cultures, counselors must often look to new and creative ways to work effectively in multicultural settings (Pedersen, 1988). Elementary school counselors should advocate for educational programs that include counselors, teachers, parents, and students working together for increased cultural understanding through role playing and other awareness activities.

A WORLD OF CHANGING FAMILIES

The so-called traditional family has virtually disappeared in America. Divorce and single-parent homes are a fact of life confronting children. Elementary school counselors must understand the effects of changing family structures and find ways to promote child growth and development within the context of family change. These ways will include divorce groups, training groups for single parents, guidance for latchkey children, and a variety of other important strategies. Elementary school counselors need to develop innovative approaches to help children and parents develop in a healthy fashion in spite of the ambiguity created by divorce and single-parent families. Counselors should assume a proactive stance by collaborating with teachers in developing and implementing family education programs.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Education: Public or Private Goods?

Education: Public or Private Goods? This is a fascinating article by Michael Lorenzen. It should be required reading in every teacher college.

From the site:

The peoples of the United States of America have always appeared for the most part to agree on one thing about education. It is a good thing and it is a worthy topic of public debate. However, here the harmony dissipates. What constitutes the best possible educational enterprise? Is it the pursuit of the public good? Or, is it the desire to see your own children excel and succeed at the expense of other people's children? Or, perhaps, is it a combination of the previous two? The history of the United States seems to indicate that America is not quite sure.

Of course, through much of classic history, this is no confusion as to what constitutes a good and solid education. Plato wrote in The Republic his version of the educated masses. In his vision, all children begin life and schooling the same. Over time, and through numerous tests, those who prove worthy are separated from those less likely to succeed. These chosen are slowly and methodically weeded until a select few remain to compose the ruling class. Others, as suitability is ascertained, are tracked into their state-chosen career be it warrior, serf, or craftsmen. Although no historical human culture ever directly copied this system, its ideal has influenced the thinking of educated people after Plato.

As pure and simple as Plato's ideals may sound, they do not fit well within the democratic and capitalistic system of the United States of America. Yet, without attempting to deliberately equivocate, this author is convinced that American education has been equally influenced by two separate ideas. One, that education should promote the public good which is best expressed by a commitment to educational equality. Second, that the public is entitled to pass their societal privilege on to their descendants by giving their children educational advantages that will allow these same children access to the best jobs and career paths. Paradoxically, a large number of Americans appear to hold both ideals of education at the same time.

The belief that schooling should serve all regardless of social background and give all an equal chance at an education that will lead to a potentially high social class is widespread throughout American culture. (And, at least at the beginning of Plato's vision of education before differentiation begins to occur, in sequence with The Republic.) In brief, this belief envisions that all inhabitants of the United States of America (citizens and aliens alike) will receive the same education. Those who are worthy, regardless of the backgrounds of the parents, will succeed and achieve great things and those that are less worthy will through their own efforts select their own less than spectacular destinies. This is a powerful idea that is held by those dedicated to the egalitarian ideal of The Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, by those who are in the working or surviving classes who believe that providence has delivered what they deserve, and to those who are in high positions who believe the educational system has justified their own status.