Geography Education in Elementary School  Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Displaying a large version of the map on the board at the front of the room and handing out identical personal copies for students to mark, a fun activity might be to have individual students come to the front and pin cut-out landmark images to the corresponding locations on the map. Once a cut-out from an image bank has been properly affixed to a location and students have marked the location on their personal maps, the instructor can offer a little educational anecdote about the specific place or landmark that will help to associate the information gained from the game with some knowledge thereabout.

Indeed, among the other activities which are shown to be best-practices in an elementary setting and which are important to promoting the development of all important faculties for future education, an interactive story time is particularly appealing. By telling a story and involving the children by asking them questions that might help them to understand central themes and to assimilate subtextual ideas, this activity is an ideal prelude to the kind of classroom setting that facilitates interactive learning in later stages. Elementary school can be the opportune setting for forging a meaningful foundation in children for the integration of future multicultural ideals by serving as a catalyst to the development of the necessary cognitive, social, physical and emotional tools for recognizing the broadness and cultural diversity that inherently characterizes the global community.

That noted, and returning to the best practices contended by Moats, is of great importance that the learning domains of cognitive and affective learning be directly incorporated, given above all else that the individuality of the student learning process must still be respected in this context. To this end, Moats contributes the overarching observation that "systematic, explicit instruction contrasts with incidental, implicit instruction. In incidental teaching, sound-symbol elements are taught without instruction to follow a sequence from easier to more difficult." (Moats, 243) This might mean using and incorporating the diversity represented within the classroom to help improve the understanding and case-by-case basis of geography and its relationship to culture, diversity and learning strategy. A good way might here be to instruct students to conduct research on the geography in their own family history. As a homework project, students might be asked to consult their parents on their family tree's history. Then, students will be asked to identify the country or countries which they encounter on a map and to learn a few meaningful or interesting facts about said countries. By sharing these facts in a classroom presentation, students will come to individually recognize that they are part of a diverse global geography, even if they have all come to learn in a single place. Promoting pride in diversity rather than a need for cultural assimilation, this type of activity seizes on the opportunity of having a diversity within the student body as a way to improve the collective knowledge of the many nations and cultures which surround the United States. According to the taxonomical structure here induced, this is demonstrative of the importance in allowing application to instinctual processes rather than forcing conformity to a preferred learning strategy. The knowledge gained will both be collective and, for each individual student, an initiation into the prospects of geography and the broader discipline of social studies that demonstrates its capacity for personal appeal.

At the heart of the strategy endorsed by this research and the curricular specifications provided by Moats' framework is the shared notion that a clear integration of cognitive, affective and practical considerations must inform the creation of a curriculum for proper geography education. Especially as this specific discipline is so often concerned with the processes engaged by young learners in the midst of literacy education and other forms of schematic construction, there is a distinct value to ensuring that the correlation between the formative and the applicative aspects of education is drawn through intuition and not through the forced uniformity of learning strategies and expectations. Therefore, it is necessary to acknowledge in all regards that geography education relies heavily upon a coordination of conceptual demands. As they are highlighted here, they predispose geography education to the need for a certain dispensation of early formalities in exchange for the type of curricular flexibility that will ultimately influence learning flexibility as well. Indeed, in the geography discipline, as in nearly any aspect of elementary school education, for the educator and the student alike, experience and practice are likely to play the greatest role in defining differentiated skills and learning strategies.

The diversity of learning styles which is implied here, as well as the introduction of certain take-home learning activities, also points us to the consideration of technology uses as a way to improve educational nuance. Carrington's study is perhaps one of the more interesting sources used to inform the broader research topic. Her discussion focuses on a diversity of learning potentials that is constructed not by way of race or ethnicity, but by individualized media preferences and sensory strategies for learning. The article presents the conclusion that such methods of literacy development which occur in one's formative stages before school will reveal learning dispositions. For example, in her study, she sites television as one potential source by which many young people today begin to integrate the skills necessary to read and comprehend such ideas as multi-culturalism or a global community proficiently. Thus, she argues that it would be counter-productive to stifle such learning proclivities in favor of a strictly print form of reading.

The underpinning of this study, as it pertains to our larger purpose, is that one means through which to help include all cultural backgrounds in geography instruction might be to diversify the media used in class.

It goes without saying that the internet is an incredibly valuable and limitless source for activities and information in this area. And today, many students at the elementary school age are already demonstrably savvy where internet navigation and the retrieval of information is concerned. Therefore, the proper integration of internet based activities concerning geography, the demonstration of other languages, the presentation of cultural information or the suggestion of further reading all can be facilitated by through a focus on the internet in class and during the student's personal time at home.

This combination of diversity and technology expansion has, in many ways, shifted the perspective on early elementary school such as 1st grade, rendering it a context for the consideration of genuine academic development. According to the research conducted here, early educational experiences "are designed to provide cognitive and social enrichment during early childhood development." (Lamenburg, 2). Such a head-start in understanding the world around him will ultimately improve the child's capacity to recognize personal learning strategies and to best personal learning challenges. This is consistent with the finding the children learn at a faster pace if they are put into such programs at an earlier age. (U.S. Department of Education, 1). A changing sentiment toward earlier educational substance is helping to reflect a newfound sense of geography's requisite importance rather than the delayed regard in which this educational discipline had previously been held. Empirical and theoretical research tends to be dominated by the impression that these early geography experiences help to prepare individuals for the cultural and ethnic diversity which will be ever more common along their way in the future.

Seizing on the opportunity to produce learners who are inherently minded toward the cultural diversity which constitutes our world, early geography education should be seen as a necessity rather than an option. With the forces of technology and globalization combining with the already well-recognized realties of immigration and America's melting pot cultural conceits in order to manifest as an inherently diversified educational society, America's students must be informed with the information, ideas and perspective allowing for openness, sensitivity and cultural inclusiveness. Geography is inherently affiliated with ideas about lifestyle, location, climate, resource, history and political orientation. Therefore, by creating a gradually more sophisticated understanding of geography and the distribution of the world in and of itself, the educational community of Alabama can begin to open the door to understanding these variant building blocks of civilization as a whole.

Entering young children into a proper geography education at an early age can help them to make critical developmental steps toward social and intellectual maturation in a globalizing world. Often, therefore, the benefits of geography and its attendant cultural studies can be seen in nuanced insights and perspectives of such children as they progress through adolescence and adulthood. It is therefore imperative that support of such objectives as social and intellectual maturation be sought as a means to capturing the attention and imagination of young minds at a time when they are most absorbent.

Works Cited

Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX). (2009). Courses of Study.

Carrington, V. (2001). Emergent Home Literacies: A Challenge for Educators. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 24.

Castaldo, N. (2008). Activities for early childhood:…

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