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National Council for Geographic Education

NCGE President's Column - June 2018

Dear Geography Education Colleagues,

want to thank you all for taking time to fill out the Member Survey from the May 2018 column. We had a tremendous amount of responses and the Board of Directors will use this information as we undertake some new NCGE initiatives. I’ll share the results of the survey with our membership in July.

In the meantime, summer is here! For geography educators, this often means a season of travel and exploration, whether we are taking trips with our families or friends, joining or leading study abroad programs, or exploring our local areas. Those of us who love geography can easily immerse ourselves in exploring places, cultures, and environments during the summer months. It is a time to learn more geography and advance our own understanding and experiences with the world. This could, in fact, be one of the most powerful professional development opportunities for geography educators.

It is also a time to reflect on the previous school year and think about the upcoming year [Ok, you may not want to think about next year just yet…understandable]. You may be involved in revising curriculum this summer, attending professional development programs with colleagues, or working to develop a new initiative in your own school or district. This time to reflect and revise our practice is also critical for professional growth.

Last week I had the fortunate opportunity to work with an amazing group of educators across the state of Colorado. Our group was a mix of social studies, math, English, and technology teachers (and one librarian!). We spent a week together asking geographic questions, exploring the local environment and culture, analyzing data, creating maps, media, and other visualizations, and learning from each other’s expertise as part of the process. While we all came from different contexts with different needs, we were united in our passion for teaching and for integrating inquiry and geography into our classrooms. The interdisciplinary nature of our group only enhanced our learning community. It highlighted the importance geography plays in connecting big ideas across many subjects. It also highlighted the importance of working with colleagues in many subject areas to develop integrated learning opportunities for students. We all learned something new, both as a learning community digging into the inquiry process, but also by accounting for the varied perspectives and expertise from others.

The summer months hold many opportunities for us to explore, learn, and grow as educators. I urge you to reach out to colleagues and work together as much as you can, both during the summer, but also during the upcoming school year.

A few fantastic opportunities that are available this summer (and next summer in case you missed this summer’s event!):

If you are unable to participate in any of these programs, take advantage of this time to explore your local town and neighborhood. Think about the big ideas from geography that are reflected in the place you live. Consider your students’ experiences within this community: How do they see the community? What perspectives and experiences might they have with the local culture or environment? How can you use geography to connect with their experiences?

Enjoy the summer and keep on exploring!

NCGE President's Column - May 2018

In lieu of a newsletter column this month, the NCGE Board of Directors is asking its members to take a few minutes to provide much needed feedback on our programs and services. 
 
For several years now, NCGE’s membership numbers have declined and our annual conference no longer provides enough revenue to cover the costs associated with hosting it. Our conference attendee numbers have declined to approximately 300 attendees, and NCGE has paid over $76,000 in attrition fees due to low conference attendance as a result. Put frankly, NCGE – the national voice for geography education in the US – is struggling to stay relevant in a time in which educators have access to numerous options for curriculum, professional development, and networking. 
 
The Board of Directors has been weighing various revenue and membership options over the last six months and we are seeking input from our members as part of our decision-making process. Please take a moment to fill out this member survey to provide us with your candid thoughts. You may also email us directly at amohan@bscs.org or zach@ncge.org to share any additional information.
 
May brings us to the close of the academic year. NCGE thanks you for your passion and commitment to teaching geography. Enjoy your summers and we look forward to seeing many of you in Quebec City for our annual conference.
 
               Audrey Mohan, NCGE President     Zachary R. Dulli, NCGE CEO

2018 NCGE Award Winners Announcement

The National Council for Geographic Education Announces 2018 Award Winners

Celebrating the best geography educators of 2018

WASHINGTON D.C. – For over 100 years the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) has worked to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning at all levels of instruction.  Through our annual awards program, NCGE recognizes excellence in geography teaching, mentoring, research, instructional design and service.

Award nominations are received each year from geography teachers, professors, and experts from around the world. Nominations are evaluated by award specific committee experts who select the award recipients. This year 35 educators from 16 states and 5 countries have been selected to receive NCGE awards honors.

The National Council for Geographic Education is pleased to announce the following 2018 Award Winners:

The George J Miller Award - Our highest honor, this award for lifetime service to geography education goes to:

  • Carol Gersmehl – Michigan Geographic Alliance, Oshtemo, MI
  • Phil Ggersmehl – Michigan Geographic Alliance, Oshtemo, MI

Distinguished Mentor Award - This award for mentoring future geographers and geography educators goes to:

  • Randy Bertolas – Wayne State College, Wayne, NE

The Brunn Creativity Award for Outstanding Teaching of Geography - This award recognizes outstanding elementary, middle, and high school teachers who have demonstrated great creativity, originality, and innovation in their teaching of geography.                                                                      

  • Michael Robinson – Houston High School, Germantown, TN

Outstanding Support for Geographic Education - This award for outstanding contributions to geography education outside the formal classroom goes to:

  • Susan Lahti – Maine Geographic Alliance, Farmington, ME
  • Ashley Melville – Cobb County School District, Marietta, GA
  • Amy Miller – DFW World Affairs Council, Dallas, TX
  • Paul Rittenhouse – James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 
  • Germaine Wagner – Geography Improvement Project, Casper, WY

Salvatore J. Natoli Dissertation - This award is for outstanding doctoral research goes to:

  • Jinhee Lee - Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea

E. WILLARD AND RUBY S. MILLER GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION RESEARCH GRANTS - This award that provides financial assistance to advance the frontiers of geographic education supporting and promoting innovative research goes to:

  • Injeong Jo - Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

Distinguished Teacher- Higher Education - This award is for excellence in geography teaching and leadership at the post-secondary level goes to:

  • Karen Barton – University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO
  • Katherine Nashleanas – University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Michael Pretes – University of North Alabama, Florence, AL
  • Vanessa Slinger-Friedman – Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

Distinguished Teacher- K-12 - This award is for excellence in geography teaching and leadership at the K-12 level goes to:

  • Melanie Davis – Pass Road Elementary, Gulfport, MS
  • Kevin Dockery – Fred J. Page High School, Franklin, TN
  • Allison Ewing – Bullis School, Potomac, MD
  • Teresa Goodin – Henley Middle School, Crozet, VA
  • Angela Hutchinson – Poteet High School Mesquite ISD, Mesquite, TX
  • Amanda Killough – Flower Mound High School, Flower Mound, TX
  • Scott Mace – Charlottesville High School, Charlottesville, VA
  • Theresa Pierce – Rowan County Early College High School, Salisbury, NC
  • Mark Skeie – Jupiter Community High School, Jupiter, FL
  • Megan Smith-Keenum – Forest Hills Elementary, Florence, AL

Journal of Geography Awards

Best Elementary Teaching Article - “Problem-Oriented Learning in Geography Education: Construction of Motivating Problems”

  • Gunter Weiss – University of Cologne, Köln, Germany    

Best Secondary Teaching Article - “Bridging the Divide: The Potential Role of Contemporary Geographical Research in Schools”

  • Aleksandra Kazmierczak – European Environment Agency, Copenhagen K, Denmark
  • Peter Mackie – Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom

Best College/University Article - “Preparing Preservice Teachers to Incorporate Geospatial Technologies in Geography Teaching”

  • Wendy Harte – Griffith University, Queensland, Australia

Best Article for Geography Program Development - “Guided Educational Tourism as Informal Physical Geography Education on St. Helena Island, Michigan”

  • Joseph Lane – Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
  • Joseph Stoltman - Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI

The Geography Teacher Awards

Best Content Article -“The Mixed Plate: A Field Experience on the Cultural and Environmental Diversity of the Big Island of Hawai'i”

  • Ava Fujimoto-Strait – Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX
  • John Strait – Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX

Best Lesson Plan - “Exploring on the Overland Trail, Missouri to California, 1858: Including Adaptations for English-Language Learners”

  • Rosa Brefeld - University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO
  • Sarah Coppersmith  - University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO

Geographic Excellence in Media Awards

“Student Atlas of Nebraska”

  • Randy Bertolas  – Wayne State College, Wayne, NE

“Atlas of South Carolina Modules”

  • Jerry Mitchell - University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

Award recipients will be honored during a ceremony held at the 2018 National Conference on Geography Education presented by the National Council for Geographic Education. The 2018 National Conference on Geography Education will be held August 6th - August 10th at the Convention Center in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

For more information about the NCGE award program and application process, visit www.ncge.org/awards.

NCGE President's Column - April 2018

 

This month we celebrate Earth Day (April 22), a day devoted to that marvelous, miraculous blue sphere in the cosmos we call home. Started in 1970 in response to a growing environmental movement in the US (and in particular reaction to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), Earth Day is now celebrated by hundreds of millions of people worldwide in over 190 countries. It’s goal: To fight for more responsible stewardship of Earth and its inhabitants.

Our Earth’s systems and inhabitants are in peril. The science is clear: the climate is warming, ice sheets are melting, the oceans are acidifying, coastlines are changing, hazardous weather is becoming more frequent, and ecosystems are shifting in ways that benefit some species while many others will disappear. On top of the change in natural systems, the growing human population also contributes to higher consumption rates, more pollution and poor air and water quality in some places, and deforestation to provide more land for agricultural and developmental use. For a person living on planet Earth in 2018, it can feel overwhelming, to say the least, when confronted with this list.

For teachers though, it is daunting. Amid the heated political discourse in our country today, many teachers feel apprehensive about how to approach these topics and what materials and resources to use. And, depending on what state you live in, you might have an even bigger uphill battle to teach these environmental issues at all. However, these issues represent a truly interdisciplinary set of problems that require knowledge of both the natural and human systems -- a geographic lens. This means geography teachers are particularly well-suited to incorporate these topics into the curriculum because both natural and human systems are part of what we do and how we think as geographers.

 

In honor of Earth Day, I put together a list of helpful teaching resources to consider for your classroom. This is a short list - I am sure there are many, many more available.

General resources:

Climate Change in particular (there are dozens and dozens of resources here – I chose only a few)

Other Topics

And finally, when you feel overwhelmed by all that the world is facing right now, here is a quote to keep in mind (and one to share with our youth):

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 

- Margaret Mead

NCGE President's Column - March 2018

NCGE President's Column - March 2018 by Audrey Mohan, NCGE President

Spring is in the air! Or at least the date on our calendars that says “First day of Spring” is rapidly approaching. It is also that time of year that schools begin gearing up for ‘testing season’ – the week(s) of the school year filled with bubble sheets, crazy schedules, and, unfortunately for many students, overwhelming stress for taking these exams. In most states, geography is not a ‘tested’ subject, allowing geography teachers to breathe a sigh of relief that our subject area has not been over-taken with the testing pressures that our colleagues in other subject areas feel (math?!?). But, like it or not, testing has become part of school cultures around the country and educators and students alike feel the collective stress and anxiety that testing brings. Teachers ask themselves, “Did my students get it? Did I cover enough material this year to help them on the exams? Will they forget everything we did at the beginning of the year?” These are all valid questions that bring me to the topic of this newsletter.

Much of my work in my role at BSCS is crafting science storylines for students. This approach to science teaching can transform the way students think about and apply scientific ideas to explain phenomena in the world. Rather than memorizing all the diagrams related to photosynthesis, we craft a different story for students: for example, a science story in which they are presented with a 200-year-old redwood tree and asked how it came to be: Where did all that stuff come from that makes up this tree? Through a carefully sequenced series of questions and investigations, students discover the ‘stuff’ that makes up the tree ultimately comes mostly from the air—a counterintuitive explanation that begs further investigation. If you want to know how that works, here is some additional reading

Geography educators have long lamented the traditional focus on places names, facts, and map memorization in geography classrooms. A storylines approach to geography instruction is one way to move our field forward. If geographic knowledge is communicated through compelling storylines that make students wonder, that motivate students to figure something out, and that require students to apply their thinking to something in the real world, there is far greater potential for students to develop robust geographic knowledge.  

The success of a storylines approach depends on how you anchor students’ learning at the start of a unit. If you were to tell your students on the first day of class that one of the things they can do after taking your class is to “explain why migration happens,” most of your students would probably NOT be motivated to investigate this idea. It’s not explicitly connected to anything students experience or care about, at least not on the surface. But what if you pose this to students instead:

Residents in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania are upset because their town has changed. Prior to the change, the town was declining economically with a loss of jobs and business. Now it is economically prosperous with a growing population. What happened and why are the residents upset about it?

This situation is a real one and nothing about it makes sense on the surface until students dig into how and why the town has changed politically, socio-culturally, and economically as a result of shifting populations [note: you might choose a less politically and racially charged example]. The geography storyline that explains this situation is: People move around for many reasons. They are ‘pushed’ to leave their homes because of things like war, famine, lack of economic opportunity, or political oppression. They are ‘pulled’ to other places, such as opportunities to experience safety, freedom, or to get jobs to support their families. This movement of people into and out of places can change the identity and culture of a place. It can lead to a richer economy or diversity of cultures, but can also give rise to new tensions over changing identities. Often both of these things happen as people move and places change.

If students understand this storyline about push and pull factors that influence migration, along with the consequences of that movement, they can apply this thinking to all kinds of scenarios in the world: tensions over immigration in Europe (or the US), the Rohingya crisis, or economic growth and/or gentrification of some places and the decline of others.

The point of crafting a storyline for students to uncover big geography ideas through a purposeful sequence of activities around compelling problems and student-generated questions about those problems. It is less about memorizing facts and more about supporting students as they piece together geography concepts into a framework that helps them explain things in the world. This type of thinking allows classrooms to focus less on memorizing everything before testing season and focus more on piecing together a geography story across the year that has broad explanatory power for students.

So, as you approach the final months of the school year, I challenge you to think about the geography story your students are learning. What is the story they will walk away from your classroom with at the end of this year? Is it a well-connected story that helps them explain what is happening in their world? And, what can you do to help strengthen the connections in the students’ geography story? 

NCGE President's Column - February 2018

Frequently Asked Questions on the 2018 National Conference on Geography Education by Audrey Mohan, NCGE President

For most of us, when we think of “professional development”, we often think of workshops and training that are hosted within the four walls of a classroom or event center. However, as geography educators, perhaps our most influential professional learning experiences are those that allow us to explore different parts of the world. Unlike many of our education colleagues, travel and field studies offer us opportunities to learn about our subject area and provide us with rich experiences that we can take back into our classrooms.  

This year, NCGE has partnered with the International Geographical Union and the Canadian Association of Geographers to offer a joint conference for our membership. By joining with our international colleagues, NCGE members will not only have the opportunity to travel to a unique international venue, but we will also have access to significantly more sessions, events, and field trips as part of this joint conference. However, this conference is different than our typical annual conference, so I wanted to take a moment to answer some frequently asked questions:

Question 1: Why Québec City? My first thought is Why not? Québec City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! It has a 400-year-old history of French settlement, and an even longer history of Iroquois, Algonquin, and Innu settlement. It is situated on the St. Lawrence River, which allowed it to become a trading hub for centuries. There are dozens of historic sites within old Québec, such as Petit-Champlain, Place Royale, and Château Frontenac, and much of the old city still has cobblestone streets that make it more like a European city than most cities in North America. A few years ago, our Canadian colleagues approached NCGE with the idea of a joint conference in Canada with the IGU regional conference. The NCGE Board thought it would be a great opportunity for our membership and we wanted to offer an international conference again (the last was San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2009).

So, with that, we are excited to offer this opportunity to NCGE members to explore such a unique city.  Check this out if you are not convinced: https://www.quebecregion.com/en/what-to-do/activities-attractions/must-see-attractions/

We understand that the August dates do not work for many teachers as school is gearing up (or already started for some!); we are exploring different conference options for 2019 to ensure that more teachers can attend future conferences.

Question 2: Is this really the National Conference on Geography Education? Yes! However, NCGE is not the lead organization. The local organizing committee for the IGU Regional Conference is taking the lead on arranging the entire conference. We will be organizing abstracts that are submitted for the NCGE sessions and arranging our award ceremony. But almost everything is going through the local committee in Québec City – registration, abstracts, sign-ups for field trips, lodging, etc. We are working closely with the local committee to ensure NCGE members and sessions are part of the conference, but our sessions will be a part of a larger geography conference. NCGE members can attend any sessions at the conference and network with international geography education colleagues.

Question 3: How will they know I am an NCGE member? The Local Organizing Committee has recently added a dropdown menu that allows you to choose NCGE as your affiliation. Please use this when registering. If you registered prior to this dropdown menu (January 2018 or earlier), please know that NCGE staff will be finding you in the registration list and noting you as an NCGE member.

Question 4: Yikes, the registration is 550 Canadian Dollars! This seems expensive! Yes, this is more expensive than our normal conference cost. It is about $440 in USD as of writing this blog. However, it does include access to all sessions, all lunches and coffee breaks, and the opening and closing ceremonies. There will be significantly more session options at this conference than our normal conference and there are also some amazing field trips options as well!

Question 5: What about lodging, field trips, and other travel information? The Local Organizing Committee is offering an array of lodging options. You can stay on the university campus for $90 USD or less/night, including breakfast. The Hilton is more expensive at about $200 USD/night. All the hotels are priced between $50-$200 USD/night. Unlike our normal conference, there is not a specific conference hotel this time. Right now, all of our events will happen at the convention center – we will let our membership know if this changes. NCGE is not locked into a hotel contract, so please feel free to stay wherever you choose! There are many great options.

http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/accommodation-and-transport/accommodation/

This conference is offering some seriously amazing field trips. I urge you to choose a field trip right away – they are affordably priced and there are many options, but spots will fill quickly. The hardest part is deciding which one to go on! http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/program-and-activities/field-excursions/

Other travel information can be found here: http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/accommodation-and-transport/transport/

Question 6:  What about the Award Ceremony? There will be an awards ceremony on Monday, August 6th from 5-6 pm. It is now in the preliminary program (http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/program-and-activities/program/ ). A reception (called an Icebreaker) will follow. The cost is free and open to any attendees. There is no need to register for this event. For those of you who have started to arrange your travel, you should plan to arrive early on Monday, August 6 or come the weekend before so that you can attend the Award Ceremony and opening events. The conference is set up differently than our normal dates. Instead of running Thursday-Sunday, this conference will run Monday-Friday, so please make your travel plans accordingly.

We are so excited to host our conference in Quebec City this year as part of the IGU Regional Conference – we hope that our members can take full advantage of this event and location! As more questions come up about the conference, we will try to address them so that our members have a good experience at the conference.

NCGE Presdent's Column - December 2017

November / December  2017

"Food for through" by Gary Gress, NCGE President

As we are in the holiday season I can’t help but think of food. Probably not in the sense that you’re thinking when you heard the word “food”. Demographically, I would suggest the majority of our readership is well enough off to eat a decent healthy meal if they choose to, more than once a week. It’s that time of year when food pantries and community shelters make us keenly aware of those in need. We know it ought to be more than just a “one-shot” November or December though, but instead a yearlong act of benevolence. Food is a big deal. Teaching about food and the geography of food should be an even bigger deal. Every day we are bombarded by an unending litany of choices of what to eat, including food that may not be the best for us. “Live Mas”, “Finger-Lickin' Good”, “America Runs on Dunkin”. You get the idea. I know we’ve all indulged, but these places aren’t supposed to be everyday options or choices, right? Besides, fast food can get expensive!

So where does our food come from? How is it processed? What constitutes a good diet, or healthy eating? Do we really know? Surely it’s not consistently eating sugar, trans fats or sodium-laden food that has been overly processed with preservatives we can’t even pronounce. Okay, I know the answer as most folks do. What we’ve been told is to eat from these four main groups: meat, dairy, grains, fruits, and veggies. If you consume those you’re generally on the right track, unless of course, you go over 1,600-3,000 calories, depending on your recommended intake.

Seize the opportunity. I suggest that we go beyond the occasional week or month of school awareness regarding food donations, issues, and education. Why not teach the geography of food whenever and wherever we can? It’s hard to think of a subject where the geography of food couldn’t be taught from a local or global context. Still, in many of our classrooms, students don’t know about healthy eating or the problems associated with food insecurity, malnutrition, hunger and other related medical issues. I’m sure some of our own students experience these challenges on a regular basis. Educating our students and all folks on food issues will help to intensify awareness and understanding. Knowing what’s at stake, finding solutions and hopefully solving some of these problems will create an active and engaged classroom.

Population, low access to store, 2015 via USDA

A teaching idea: One of my colleagues recently was relating to me how prevalent “food deserts” are here in the United States. In fact, the eradication of these food deserts is becoming a USDA national priority. It’s a term that has been around for a few years. A food desert is where there is a lack of access to affordable vegetables, fruits, and whole grains for a healthy diet. You can easily find food desert maps and related stories online. Availability of healthy foods is both a rural and urban dilemma. The USDA definition states that food deserts are “usually found in impoverished areas,” which is generally linked to socio-economic problems. Many reasons abound for these “deserts”. For starters, lack of thoughtful urban planning, availability of urban land and dollars for stores, high costs for healthy food, decreasing rural population and transportation issues. In my home state of Oklahoma, we rank at a miserable 46th with regards to the availability of healthy food. However, thanks to a growing awareness of this issue, Senate Bill 506 was signed into law this past June. This bill encourages the construction and expansion of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and accessibility to affordable healthy foods in “desert” areas. Thankfully, many states are beginning to take action regarding their own food deserts.

This holiday season could be the best time to educate folks about food. Not in an effort to deprive ourselves of enjoying great traditional food, but rather to become more aware of what food issues surround us. Helping students see the relevance of geography, becoming informed and being part of a solution is so important. I encourage each of you to relate not only the issue of “food deserts” to your students but also find out about food in your own “backyard”. What are your community’s food needs and delivery systems to those experiencing food insecurity and hunger? Everyone deserves access to healthy foods and healthy eating. A little food for thought. Happy Holidays and warm blessings to you and your family!  Gary

 

NCGE President's Column - October 2017

A note from NCGE President Gary Gress: Within the past two months, America has witnessed Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and disastrous fires in California. Clean up, repair, and some sense of normalcy will take months and years as thousands recover. Many of our family, friends, and acquaintances were, and are impacted directly and indirectly as all of us are. The calamities of any disaster require a process of repair for people too. In the following article, Ron Hagelman addresses America’s responders, the “second responders”. I want to thank Ron for being so gracious in volunteering to write this timely and insightful guest column. -Gary

TEACHERS: AMERICA'S SECOND RESPONDERS by Ron Hagelman

When the line forms to witness on behalf of our country’s First Responders, I would like to be near the front. The law officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, engineers and community leaders who arrive first when disaster strikes deserve our respect, appreciation, and support. I am consistently humbled and inspired by the risks they take and the sacrifices they and their families make on our collective behalf.  However, I also believe that as the shock and awe of a disaster fades, we easily forget that there is an equal army of teachers, counselors, church leaders, parents, and community leaders who, as the dust settles and the ground dries, march onto evolving disasterscapes with a commitment to helping their communities heal, recover, and thrive once again. I write today on their behalf, especially the public school teachers and the staff members who are tending to the many communities damaged, physically and psychologically, by the recent spate of natural and social disasters.  I write to say thank you and to enumerate what I believe is the hidden work of our nation’s Second Responders.

There is a vein of research imbedded in hazards studies relating to the temporal aspects of disasters. Disasters, of nearly all types, tend to follow a somewhat predictable sequence of events starting with emergency response and stretching toward the elusive idea of a “return to normal.” Most news coverage, social media posts, and public discourse on disasters fades precipitously following the initial event and the immediate relief efforts. During recovery and reconstruction, our short attention-spans drift to the next actual disaster or the next disastrous tweet. For some, it is almost an instinctual drive to try to put things back together as quickly as possible. For others, it is an absolute necessity that they return to their homes, jobs, and schools quickly. However, when we do return to our usual routines, we do so having experienced a terrible shock and, for some, unthinkable losses. Support comes from friends, family members, churches, charitable organizations, employers, workplace colleagues, and government staff. But, for many school-aged children and their parents, a return to the safe and familiar routine of the school day is one of the greatest services we provide in post-disaster settings.

Schools are familiar and, with rare exception, safe places. Parents benefit by knowing that while they are battling the lingering effects of the disaster, their children are in a safe place cared for by trained professionals who know their child. In turn, children benefit from being in a familiar place with friends, engaged in familiar activities, and supervised by familiar people in charge of their day. The therapeutic values of this return to the known and the predicable are only achievable if teachers and support staff, who may be victims of the disaster themselves, put on a happy face and lead their diminutive followers through the day’s lessons and activities as if business were usual in their community. Teachers are often the first to see the effects of post-traumatic stress on their students. Teachers are often the first person of authority to really try to explain the trends and forces that led to the disaster. School counselors are often the first to see changes in behavior or needs that are derivative of the child’s experiences in the disaster.  School kitchen staff may be among the first to serve students a balanced, hot meal in the immediate days and weeks after a disaster. And administrators find themselves involved in helping students’ families to access services and support well beyond their normal range of duties. Food, shelter, comfort, support, a loving hug…Second Responders do it all, and they do it for weeks and months after the news cameras have left town.      

In our rush to return to normal, we often off-load the responsibility of comforting and counseling our youngest citizens to teachers, staff, counselors, and administrators who were already under siege from legislatures, school boards and concerned parents before the disaster added to their responsibilities.  Time and time again and across communities of all shapes and sizes, teachers and school staff step up. They address the immediate and lingering challenges of their students, and they serve their communities. Teachers and school staff take the handoff from our First Responders and provide the warmth, clarity, leadership, and strength that is so important to young people when their worlds are damaged and disrupted in ways that they never imagined possible.  Teachers are our nation’s uncelebrated Second Responders, and for anyone who would like to join me in thanking them, the line forms here…

About the Author: Ronald R. Hagelman, III is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas 78666. E-mail: rhagelman@txstate.edu. Dr. Hagelman's research interests include environmental hazards, disaster recovery and reconstruction, and the management of urban environments in a changing climate.

NCGE President's Column - September 2017

NCGE AND YOU by Gary Gress, NCGE President

As I was writing this column, epic climate-related events were unfolding in Texas and Florida. Many of us, myself included, have family and friends that were impacted by the sheer magnitude of this event, that will take years to recover from. It’s tough to be strong with such life-changing forces happening on a personal basis. Many organizations and individuals with compassion and love stepped in, for which all are truly grateful for. Thank you! We’re all reminded that change is a constant, and how we respond is important. 

The focus of this column was actually about the foreseeable NCGE “changes” that were inspired by alliance coordinators and members alike, prior to and after our summer conference in Albuquerque. First of all, “we hear you” be it Zach, our board, past presidents and those that are most important, you. Though still in embryo mode, there are 4 main areas of focus that NCGE would like to assess and make changes where needed as we move forward, in this evolving geographic education environment. If you frequent COSCO or

SAM’s on any given Saturday, this discussion is just intended to be a “taste” or a brief sample of our thinking. More definitive specifics will be coming in the following months, as our staff, board and all suggestions are reviewed. The 4 areas of focus currently will be membership, community, resources, and professional development. As your “go to” organization we will always focus on what we do best and has been successful, popular and supportive for your professional and organizational needs.

1) Membership:  Membership is changing. What it means to be a member of a nonprofit association, such as ours, is not what it was a decade ago. With the ever-evolving educational landscape, access to new technology, plus the largest generational workplace shift from Baby Boomers to Millennials any of us will ever see, it’s becoming clear that all associations today are struggling with dwindling membership numbers. Previously when NCGE has faced similar problems, the quick solution was to simply raise membership dues. This, however, had the adverse effect of making our membership less attractive to the people we value and serve. In order to grow, we must remove as many barriers to joining NCGE as possible. Currently, our staff and board are designing several sample membership programs that will strive to accomplish the goal of providing more NCGE accessibility to our members across the country. 

2) Community: We have heard from many NCGE members, partner organizations and state Alliances that NCGE would best support their work by serving as the national voice for geography education, establishing collaborations when possible. What truly separates NCGE from everyone else is that we are the only organization in the United States whose sole purpose is geography education. It only makes sense for us to serve in this capacity. With a small staff and limited resources, that will create some challenges. We will be working to scale up our communications and be advocates and partners. We’ll target various local, regional and national issues of concern and bring diverse voices from across the country to national attention, becoming even a more relevant organization than before. The development of grant writing partnerships and co-hosted events will also be a top priority and will be explored.

3)  Resources: Geography Education Resources are so very important for everyday curriculum development and classroom delivery. Resources need to be easy to find, simple to use, and effective in the classroom. The first step in this process is a long overdue update to our website. NCGE.org must not only provide relevant resources but help educate the general public on what geography is and why it’s important. In addition to updating our website, we are also exploring the possibility of, expanding the popular “bell ringer” series to include all resources for different K-12 educator’s levels, while maintaining our two popular publications (Journal of Geography and The Geography Teacher).  We’ll be looking at expanding our online NCGE store, to include more tools for your (K-20) classroom and professional area(s) of development. Be it beach ball globes, books, publications and maps, we will be looking at the best options for you.

4) Professional Development: Lastly, professional learning will be expanded. Besides more diverse webinar offerings, travel learning experiences will still occur such as Cuba or Iceland. Other considerations include the idea of certificates in various areas of geographic specialty, expanded partnerships with like-minded organizations, and involving businesses or persons that can offer their expertise to NCGE. With a “critical mass” of people, on-site geography and related training at various regional venues may also become reality.

Again, all of these exciting opportunities and ideas have been generated from you folks, our membership. It will take time, talent, commitment and of course substantial funding for many of these options to happen. We’ll still be offering tried and true programs and events, but will prioritize and offer new exciting “stuff” with your help and thoughts. It was a wonderful venue and conference this summer, thanks for all of your wonderful conversations! As we move forward we will announce specifics in the many months to come.

May you be experiencing a wonderful and meaningful new school year!

 

NCGE President's Column - August 2017

CUBA THE PLACE by Gary Gress, NCGE PresidentPhoto by Gary Gress

This past July I had the wonderful opportunity of being a part of an NCGE field experience to Cuba. The trip included fantastic experts (Drs. Johnny Finn and Jeremy Stalker and our lesson facilitator Amy Stalker). They designed various content and teaching strategies via a daily field guide relating to the places and people we experienced. When I initially envisioned this column, I intended to relate only my thoughts and observations, however I soon realized, as with any place, the diversity of the people and places we visited needed equally diverse thoughts and impressions from other folks too!

Three volunteers without any arm twisting who also presented their insights at NCGE in Albuquerque, will be part of this narrative. I’m calling this article “Cuba the place” and I may add its people. Many thanks to Johnny Finn, Barbara Boone, and Richard Katz.

People in the United States have I think limited knowledge of this island 90 miles South of us. The scope of their knowledge may be from a historical perspective: what they were taught in school or if old enough, was what they experienced prior to and during the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the 1961 end of formal relations, and the Cold War with the Soviet Union. More recently the visit and warming of US relations by President Obama and currently the uncertainty of US-Cuban relationships in the news is renewing attention to this place and its people.

One thing for certain, Cubans are interested about our leadership and future relations with them. They most certainly don’t live in a vacuum and have a sense of regional events possibly more than some Americans do. As Johnny reminded us during our adventure, the 2015 stanza penned and read by Richard Blanco at the reopening of the US Embassy is one of many connections with America. “The sea doesn’t matter. What matters is this… That we all belong to the sea between us”. For Americans, we see Cuba in a “time capsule”. As Johnny puts it, “our narrative is a dominant narrative of separation, isolation embargo, blockade, and distance.” But Cuba is and has been in survival mode, since our embargo, making the best of their situation, adapting, having relationships with other countries and corporate interests.

We saw evidence of China, France, and other countries investing in Cuba and its future via its infrastructure, businesses, and trade. During our travels, we witnessed solar technology, sustainable agri-businesses, entrepreneurial enterprising people, and most importantly the expression of the arts and the prominence of families. It is no paradise for many who find innovative ways to exist on 30 or so government dollars a month, creating “on the left” business opportunities for survival.

Many of us saw the importance and opportunities with US relatives of Cubans playing out in Florida airports as we left Florida bound for Cuba. As Barbara explains “Cuba certainly benefits from the free market in America via their relatives. Upon entering the terminal at the Miami to Havana flight, Cubans were checking in enormous boxes of items for their families, even sets of automobile tires!” Those much needed durable-consumer goods involve a once-a-year trek (vacation) to the United States for those fortunate enough with American connections.

Our travels as a group included a blend of cultural, historical and physical geography, taking in all of the sights, smells, and activities on an up close and personal level. We walked the streets of Havana, visited the US Embassy, and observed the effects of state-led urban and private restoration projects. Additionally, our group visited an “Airbnb”, one of the fastest growing tourist industries worldwide, where we talked to the owner and had opportunities to ply the local markets and enjoy Cuban cuisine.       

We ventured to both urban and scenic rural landscapes across Cuba. Our group visited The Bay of Pigs and a nearby museum, traveled to both private and state operated sustainable farming operations, experienced Karst Topography while spelunking through limestone formations and later stopped at a tobacco farm with the owner personally rolling cigars for us…this is the stuff dream trips are made of. 

 

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NCGE President's Column - June 2018

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NCGE President's Column - May 2018

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2018 NCGE Award Winners Announcement

The National Council for Geographic Education Announces 2018 Award Winners

Celebrating the best geography educators of 2018

WASHINGTON D.C. – For over 100 years the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) has worked to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning at…

Read more

NCGE President's Column - April 2018

 

This month we celebrate Earth Day (April 22), a day devoted to that marvelous, miraculous blue sphere in the cosmos we call home. Started in 1970 in response to a growing environmental movement in the US (and in particular reaction to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), Earth Day is now celebrated b…

Read more

NCGE President's Column - March 2018

NCGE President's Column - March 2018 by Audrey Mohan, NCGE President

Spring is in the air! Or at least the date on our calendars that says “First day of Spring” is rapidly approaching. It is also that time of year that schools begin gearing up for ‘testing season’ – the week(s) of the school year f…

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Blog posts : "president`s column"

NCGE President's Column - June 2017

Time to Refuse by NCGE President Gary Gress

As we leave Memorial Day behind and approach Independence Day, I am reminded that it’s time to take it easy. Summer is upon us! Three words reflect takin’ it easy: Relax, Rejuvenate and Rediscover-these are three things I find difficult to do most of th…

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NCGE President's Column - June 2018

Dear Geography Education Colleagues,

want to thank you all for taking time to fill out the Member Survey from the May 2018 column. We had a tremendous amount of responses and the Board of Directors will use this information as we undertake some new NCGE initiatives. I’ll share the results of the survey with our membership in July.

In the meantime, summer is here! For geography educators, this often means a season of travel and exploration, whether we are taking trips with our families or friends, joining or leading study abroad programs, or exploring our local areas. Those of us who love geography can easily immerse ourselves in exploring places, cultures, and environments during the summer months. It is a time to learn more geography and advance our own understanding and experiences with the world. This could, in fact, be one of the most powerful professional development opportunities for geography educators.

It is also a time to reflect on the previous school year and think about the upcoming year [Ok, you may not want to think about next year just yet…understandable]. You may be involved in revising curriculum this summer, attending professional development programs with colleagues, or working to develop a new initiative in your own school or district. This time to reflect and revise our practice is also critical for professional growth.

Last week I had the fortunate opportunity to work with an amazing group of educators across the state of Colorado. Our group was a mix of social studies, math, English, and technology teachers (and one librarian!). We spent a week together asking geographic questions, exploring the local environment and culture, analyzing data, creating maps, media, and other visualizations, and learning from each other’s expertise as part of the process. While we all came from different contexts with different needs, we were united in our passion for teaching and for integrating inquiry and geography into our classrooms. The interdisciplinary nature of our group only enhanced our learning community. It highlighted the importance geography plays in connecting big ideas across many subjects. It also highlighted the importance of working with colleagues in many subject areas to develop integrated learning opportunities for students. We all learned something new, both as a learning community digging into the inquiry process, but also by accounting for the varied perspectives and expertise from others.

The summer months hold many opportunities for us to explore, learn, and grow as educators. I urge you to reach out to colleagues and work together as much as you can, both during the summer, but also during the upcoming school year.

A few fantastic opportunities that are available this summer (and next summer in case you missed this summer’s event!):

If you are unable to participate in any of these programs, take advantage of this time to explore your local town and neighborhood. Think about the big ideas from geography that are reflected in the place you live. Consider your students’ experiences within this community: How do they see the community? What perspectives and experiences might they have with the local culture or environment? How can you use geography to connect with their experiences?

Enjoy the summer and keep on exploring!

NCGE President's Column - May 2018

In lieu of a newsletter column this month, the NCGE Board of Directors is asking its members to take a few minutes to provide much needed feedback on our programs and services. 
 
For several years now, NCGE’s membership numbers have declined and our annual conference no longer provides enough revenue to cover the costs associated with hosting it. Our conference attendee numbers have declined to approximately 300 attendees, and NCGE has paid over $76,000 in attrition fees due to low conference attendance as a result. Put frankly, NCGE – the national voice for geography education in the US – is struggling to stay relevant in a time in which educators have access to numerous options for curriculum, professional development, and networking. 
 
The Board of Directors has been weighing various revenue and membership options over the last six months and we are seeking input from our members as part of our decision-making process. Please take a moment to fill out this member survey to provide us with your candid thoughts. You may also email us directly at amohan@bscs.org or zach@ncge.org to share any additional information.
 
May brings us to the close of the academic year. NCGE thanks you for your passion and commitment to teaching geography. Enjoy your summers and we look forward to seeing many of you in Quebec City for our annual conference.
 
               Audrey Mohan, NCGE President     Zachary R. Dulli, NCGE CEO

2018 NCGE Award Winners Announcement

The National Council for Geographic Education Announces 2018 Award Winners

Celebrating the best geography educators of 2018

WASHINGTON D.C. – For over 100 years the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) has worked to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning at all levels of instruction.  Through our annual awards program, NCGE recognizes excellence in geography teaching, mentoring, research, instructional design and service.

Award nominations are received each year from geography teachers, professors, and experts from around the world. Nominations are evaluated by award specific committee experts who select the award recipients. This year 35 educators from 16 states and 5 countries have been selected to receive NCGE awards honors.

The National Council for Geographic Education is pleased to announce the following 2018 Award Winners:

The George J Miller Award - Our highest honor, this award for lifetime service to geography education goes to:

  • Carol Gersmehl – Michigan Geographic Alliance, Oshtemo, MI
  • Phil Ggersmehl – Michigan Geographic Alliance, Oshtemo, MI

Distinguished Mentor Award - This award for mentoring future geographers and geography educators goes to:

  • Randy Bertolas – Wayne State College, Wayne, NE

The Brunn Creativity Award for Outstanding Teaching of Geography - This award recognizes outstanding elementary, middle, and high school teachers who have demonstrated great creativity, originality, and innovation in their teaching of geography.                                                                      

  • Michael Robinson – Houston High School, Germantown, TN

Outstanding Support for Geographic Education - This award for outstanding contributions to geography education outside the formal classroom goes to:

  • Susan Lahti – Maine Geographic Alliance, Farmington, ME
  • Ashley Melville – Cobb County School District, Marietta, GA
  • Amy Miller – DFW World Affairs Council, Dallas, TX
  • Paul Rittenhouse – James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 
  • Germaine Wagner – Geography Improvement Project, Casper, WY

Salvatore J. Natoli Dissertation - This award is for outstanding doctoral research goes to:

  • Jinhee Lee - Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea

E. WILLARD AND RUBY S. MILLER GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION RESEARCH GRANTS - This award that provides financial assistance to advance the frontiers of geographic education supporting and promoting innovative research goes to:

  • Injeong Jo - Texas State University, San Marcos, TX

Distinguished Teacher- Higher Education - This award is for excellence in geography teaching and leadership at the post-secondary level goes to:

  • Karen Barton – University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO
  • Katherine Nashleanas – University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Michael Pretes – University of North Alabama, Florence, AL
  • Vanessa Slinger-Friedman – Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

Distinguished Teacher- K-12 - This award is for excellence in geography teaching and leadership at the K-12 level goes to:

  • Melanie Davis – Pass Road Elementary, Gulfport, MS
  • Kevin Dockery – Fred J. Page High School, Franklin, TN
  • Allison Ewing – Bullis School, Potomac, MD
  • Teresa Goodin – Henley Middle School, Crozet, VA
  • Angela Hutchinson – Poteet High School Mesquite ISD, Mesquite, TX
  • Amanda Killough – Flower Mound High School, Flower Mound, TX
  • Scott Mace – Charlottesville High School, Charlottesville, VA
  • Theresa Pierce – Rowan County Early College High School, Salisbury, NC
  • Mark Skeie – Jupiter Community High School, Jupiter, FL
  • Megan Smith-Keenum – Forest Hills Elementary, Florence, AL

Journal of Geography Awards

Best Elementary Teaching Article - “Problem-Oriented Learning in Geography Education: Construction of Motivating Problems”

  • Gunter Weiss – University of Cologne, Köln, Germany    

Best Secondary Teaching Article - “Bridging the Divide: The Potential Role of Contemporary Geographical Research in Schools”

  • Aleksandra Kazmierczak – European Environment Agency, Copenhagen K, Denmark
  • Peter Mackie – Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom

Best College/University Article - “Preparing Preservice Teachers to Incorporate Geospatial Technologies in Geography Teaching”

  • Wendy Harte – Griffith University, Queensland, Australia

Best Article for Geography Program Development - “Guided Educational Tourism as Informal Physical Geography Education on St. Helena Island, Michigan”

  • Joseph Lane – Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
  • Joseph Stoltman - Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI

The Geography Teacher Awards

Best Content Article -“The Mixed Plate: A Field Experience on the Cultural and Environmental Diversity of the Big Island of Hawai'i”

  • Ava Fujimoto-Strait – Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX
  • John Strait – Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX

Best Lesson Plan - “Exploring on the Overland Trail, Missouri to California, 1858: Including Adaptations for English-Language Learners”

  • Rosa Brefeld - University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO
  • Sarah Coppersmith  - University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO

Geographic Excellence in Media Awards

“Student Atlas of Nebraska”

  • Randy Bertolas  – Wayne State College, Wayne, NE

“Atlas of South Carolina Modules”

  • Jerry Mitchell - University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

Award recipients will be honored during a ceremony held at the 2018 National Conference on Geography Education presented by the National Council for Geographic Education. The 2018 National Conference on Geography Education will be held August 6th - August 10th at the Convention Center in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

For more information about the NCGE award program and application process, visit www.ncge.org/awards.

NCGE President's Column - April 2018

 

This month we celebrate Earth Day (April 22), a day devoted to that marvelous, miraculous blue sphere in the cosmos we call home. Started in 1970 in response to a growing environmental movement in the US (and in particular reaction to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), Earth Day is now celebrated by hundreds of millions of people worldwide in over 190 countries. It’s goal: To fight for more responsible stewardship of Earth and its inhabitants.

Our Earth’s systems and inhabitants are in peril. The science is clear: the climate is warming, ice sheets are melting, the oceans are acidifying, coastlines are changing, hazardous weather is becoming more frequent, and ecosystems are shifting in ways that benefit some species while many others will disappear. On top of the change in natural systems, the growing human population also contributes to higher consumption rates, more pollution and poor air and water quality in some places, and deforestation to provide more land for agricultural and developmental use. For a person living on planet Earth in 2018, it can feel overwhelming, to say the least, when confronted with this list.

For teachers though, it is daunting. Amid the heated political discourse in our country today, many teachers feel apprehensive about how to approach these topics and what materials and resources to use. And, depending on what state you live in, you might have an even bigger uphill battle to teach these environmental issues at all. However, these issues represent a truly interdisciplinary set of problems that require knowledge of both the natural and human systems -- a geographic lens. This means geography teachers are particularly well-suited to incorporate these topics into the curriculum because both natural and human systems are part of what we do and how we think as geographers.

 

In honor of Earth Day, I put together a list of helpful teaching resources to consider for your classroom. This is a short list - I am sure there are many, many more available.

General resources:

Climate Change in particular (there are dozens and dozens of resources here – I chose only a few)

Other Topics

And finally, when you feel overwhelmed by all that the world is facing right now, here is a quote to keep in mind (and one to share with our youth):

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 

- Margaret Mead

NCGE President's Column - March 2018

NCGE President's Column - March 2018 by Audrey Mohan, NCGE President

Spring is in the air! Or at least the date on our calendars that says “First day of Spring” is rapidly approaching. It is also that time of year that schools begin gearing up for ‘testing season’ – the week(s) of the school year filled with bubble sheets, crazy schedules, and, unfortunately for many students, overwhelming stress for taking these exams. In most states, geography is not a ‘tested’ subject, allowing geography teachers to breathe a sigh of relief that our subject area has not been over-taken with the testing pressures that our colleagues in other subject areas feel (math?!?). But, like it or not, testing has become part of school cultures around the country and educators and students alike feel the collective stress and anxiety that testing brings. Teachers ask themselves, “Did my students get it? Did I cover enough material this year to help them on the exams? Will they forget everything we did at the beginning of the year?” These are all valid questions that bring me to the topic of this newsletter.

Much of my work in my role at BSCS is crafting science storylines for students. This approach to science teaching can transform the way students think about and apply scientific ideas to explain phenomena in the world. Rather than memorizing all the diagrams related to photosynthesis, we craft a different story for students: for example, a science story in which they are presented with a 200-year-old redwood tree and asked how it came to be: Where did all that stuff come from that makes up this tree? Through a carefully sequenced series of questions and investigations, students discover the ‘stuff’ that makes up the tree ultimately comes mostly from the air—a counterintuitive explanation that begs further investigation. If you want to know how that works, here is some additional reading

Geography educators have long lamented the traditional focus on places names, facts, and map memorization in geography classrooms. A storylines approach to geography instruction is one way to move our field forward. If geographic knowledge is communicated through compelling storylines that make students wonder, that motivate students to figure something out, and that require students to apply their thinking to something in the real world, there is far greater potential for students to develop robust geographic knowledge.  

The success of a storylines approach depends on how you anchor students’ learning at the start of a unit. If you were to tell your students on the first day of class that one of the things they can do after taking your class is to “explain why migration happens,” most of your students would probably NOT be motivated to investigate this idea. It’s not explicitly connected to anything students experience or care about, at least not on the surface. But what if you pose this to students instead:

Residents in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania are upset because their town has changed. Prior to the change, the town was declining economically with a loss of jobs and business. Now it is economically prosperous with a growing population. What happened and why are the residents upset about it?

This situation is a real one and nothing about it makes sense on the surface until students dig into how and why the town has changed politically, socio-culturally, and economically as a result of shifting populations [note: you might choose a less politically and racially charged example]. The geography storyline that explains this situation is: People move around for many reasons. They are ‘pushed’ to leave their homes because of things like war, famine, lack of economic opportunity, or political oppression. They are ‘pulled’ to other places, such as opportunities to experience safety, freedom, or to get jobs to support their families. This movement of people into and out of places can change the identity and culture of a place. It can lead to a richer economy or diversity of cultures, but can also give rise to new tensions over changing identities. Often both of these things happen as people move and places change.

If students understand this storyline about push and pull factors that influence migration, along with the consequences of that movement, they can apply this thinking to all kinds of scenarios in the world: tensions over immigration in Europe (or the US), the Rohingya crisis, or economic growth and/or gentrification of some places and the decline of others.

The point of crafting a storyline for students to uncover big geography ideas through a purposeful sequence of activities around compelling problems and student-generated questions about those problems. It is less about memorizing facts and more about supporting students as they piece together geography concepts into a framework that helps them explain things in the world. This type of thinking allows classrooms to focus less on memorizing everything before testing season and focus more on piecing together a geography story across the year that has broad explanatory power for students.

So, as you approach the final months of the school year, I challenge you to think about the geography story your students are learning. What is the story they will walk away from your classroom with at the end of this year? Is it a well-connected story that helps them explain what is happening in their world? And, what can you do to help strengthen the connections in the students’ geography story? 

NCGE President's Column - February 2018

Frequently Asked Questions on the 2018 National Conference on Geography Education by Audrey Mohan, NCGE President

For most of us, when we think of “professional development”, we often think of workshops and training that are hosted within the four walls of a classroom or event center. However, as geography educators, perhaps our most influential professional learning experiences are those that allow us to explore different parts of the world. Unlike many of our education colleagues, travel and field studies offer us opportunities to learn about our subject area and provide us with rich experiences that we can take back into our classrooms.  

This year, NCGE has partnered with the International Geographical Union and the Canadian Association of Geographers to offer a joint conference for our membership. By joining with our international colleagues, NCGE members will not only have the opportunity to travel to a unique international venue, but we will also have access to significantly more sessions, events, and field trips as part of this joint conference. However, this conference is different than our typical annual conference, so I wanted to take a moment to answer some frequently asked questions:

Question 1: Why Québec City? My first thought is Why not? Québec City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! It has a 400-year-old history of French settlement, and an even longer history of Iroquois, Algonquin, and Innu settlement. It is situated on the St. Lawrence River, which allowed it to become a trading hub for centuries. There are dozens of historic sites within old Québec, such as Petit-Champlain, Place Royale, and Château Frontenac, and much of the old city still has cobblestone streets that make it more like a European city than most cities in North America. A few years ago, our Canadian colleagues approached NCGE with the idea of a joint conference in Canada with the IGU regional conference. The NCGE Board thought it would be a great opportunity for our membership and we wanted to offer an international conference again (the last was San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2009).

So, with that, we are excited to offer this opportunity to NCGE members to explore such a unique city.  Check this out if you are not convinced: https://www.quebecregion.com/en/what-to-do/activities-attractions/must-see-attractions/

We understand that the August dates do not work for many teachers as school is gearing up (or already started for some!); we are exploring different conference options for 2019 to ensure that more teachers can attend future conferences.

Question 2: Is this really the National Conference on Geography Education? Yes! However, NCGE is not the lead organization. The local organizing committee for the IGU Regional Conference is taking the lead on arranging the entire conference. We will be organizing abstracts that are submitted for the NCGE sessions and arranging our award ceremony. But almost everything is going through the local committee in Québec City – registration, abstracts, sign-ups for field trips, lodging, etc. We are working closely with the local committee to ensure NCGE members and sessions are part of the conference, but our sessions will be a part of a larger geography conference. NCGE members can attend any sessions at the conference and network with international geography education colleagues.

Question 3: How will they know I am an NCGE member? The Local Organizing Committee has recently added a dropdown menu that allows you to choose NCGE as your affiliation. Please use this when registering. If you registered prior to this dropdown menu (January 2018 or earlier), please know that NCGE staff will be finding you in the registration list and noting you as an NCGE member.

Question 4: Yikes, the registration is 550 Canadian Dollars! This seems expensive! Yes, this is more expensive than our normal conference cost. It is about $440 in USD as of writing this blog. However, it does include access to all sessions, all lunches and coffee breaks, and the opening and closing ceremonies. There will be significantly more session options at this conference than our normal conference and there are also some amazing field trips options as well!

Question 5: What about lodging, field trips, and other travel information? The Local Organizing Committee is offering an array of lodging options. You can stay on the university campus for $90 USD or less/night, including breakfast. The Hilton is more expensive at about $200 USD/night. All the hotels are priced between $50-$200 USD/night. Unlike our normal conference, there is not a specific conference hotel this time. Right now, all of our events will happen at the convention center – we will let our membership know if this changes. NCGE is not locked into a hotel contract, so please feel free to stay wherever you choose! There are many great options.

http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/accommodation-and-transport/accommodation/

This conference is offering some seriously amazing field trips. I urge you to choose a field trip right away – they are affordably priced and there are many options, but spots will fill quickly. The hardest part is deciding which one to go on! http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/program-and-activities/field-excursions/

Other travel information can be found here: http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/accommodation-and-transport/transport/

Question 6:  What about the Award Ceremony? There will be an awards ceremony on Monday, August 6th from 5-6 pm. It is now in the preliminary program (http://igu2018.ulaval.ca/program-and-activities/program/ ). A reception (called an Icebreaker) will follow. The cost is free and open to any attendees. There is no need to register for this event. For those of you who have started to arrange your travel, you should plan to arrive early on Monday, August 6 or come the weekend before so that you can attend the Award Ceremony and opening events. The conference is set up differently than our normal dates. Instead of running Thursday-Sunday, this conference will run Monday-Friday, so please make your travel plans accordingly.

We are so excited to host our conference in Quebec City this year as part of the IGU Regional Conference – we hope that our members can take full advantage of this event and location! As more questions come up about the conference, we will try to address them so that our members have a good experience at the conference.

NCGE Presdent's Column - December 2017

November / December  2017

"Food for through" by Gary Gress, NCGE President

As we are in the holiday season I can’t help but think of food. Probably not in the sense that you’re thinking when you heard the word “food”. Demographically, I would suggest the majority of our readership is well enough off to eat a decent healthy meal if they choose to, more than once a week. It’s that time of year when food pantries and community shelters make us keenly aware of those in need. We know it ought to be more than just a “one-shot” November or December though, but instead a yearlong act of benevolence. Food is a big deal. Teaching about food and the geography of food should be an even bigger deal. Every day we are bombarded by an unending litany of choices of what to eat, including food that may not be the best for us. “Live Mas”, “Finger-Lickin' Good”, “America Runs on Dunkin”. You get the idea. I know we’ve all indulged, but these places aren’t supposed to be everyday options or choices, right? Besides, fast food can get expensive!

So where does our food come from? How is it processed? What constitutes a good diet, or healthy eating? Do we really know? Surely it’s not consistently eating sugar, trans fats or sodium-laden food that has been overly processed with preservatives we can’t even pronounce. Okay, I know the answer as most folks do. What we’ve been told is to eat from these four main groups: meat, dairy, grains, fruits, and veggies. If you consume those you’re generally on the right track, unless of course, you go over 1,600-3,000 calories, depending on your recommended intake.

Seize the opportunity. I suggest that we go beyond the occasional week or month of school awareness regarding food donations, issues, and education. Why not teach the geography of food whenever and wherever we can? It’s hard to think of a subject where the geography of food couldn’t be taught from a local or global context. Still, in many of our classrooms, students don’t know about healthy eating or the problems associated with food insecurity, malnutrition, hunger and other related medical issues. I’m sure some of our own students experience these challenges on a regular basis. Educating our students and all folks on food issues will help to intensify awareness and understanding. Knowing what’s at stake, finding solutions and hopefully solving some of these problems will create an active and engaged classroom.

Population, low access to store, 2015 via USDA

A teaching idea: One of my colleagues recently was relating to me how prevalent “food deserts” are here in the United States. In fact, the eradication of these food deserts is becoming a USDA national priority. It’s a term that has been around for a few years. A food desert is where there is a lack of access to affordable vegetables, fruits, and whole grains for a healthy diet. You can easily find food desert maps and related stories online. Availability of healthy foods is both a rural and urban dilemma. The USDA definition states that food deserts are “usually found in impoverished areas,” which is generally linked to socio-economic problems. Many reasons abound for these “deserts”. For starters, lack of thoughtful urban planning, availability of urban land and dollars for stores, high costs for healthy food, decreasing rural population and transportation issues. In my home state of Oklahoma, we rank at a miserable 46th with regards to the availability of healthy food. However, thanks to a growing awareness of this issue, Senate Bill 506 was signed into law this past June. This bill encourages the construction and expansion of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and accessibility to affordable healthy foods in “desert” areas. Thankfully, many states are beginning to take action regarding their own food deserts.

This holiday season could be the best time to educate folks about food. Not in an effort to deprive ourselves of enjoying great traditional food, but rather to become more aware of what food issues surround us. Helping students see the relevance of geography, becoming informed and being part of a solution is so important. I encourage each of you to relate not only the issue of “food deserts” to your students but also find out about food in your own “backyard”. What are your community’s food needs and delivery systems to those experiencing food insecurity and hunger? Everyone deserves access to healthy foods and healthy eating. A little food for thought. Happy Holidays and warm blessings to you and your family!  Gary

 

NCGE President's Column - October 2017

A note from NCGE President Gary Gress: Within the past two months, America has witnessed Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and disastrous fires in California. Clean up, repair, and some sense of normalcy will take months and years as thousands recover. Many of our family, friends, and acquaintances were, and are impacted directly and indirectly as all of us are. The calamities of any disaster require a process of repair for people too. In the following article, Ron Hagelman addresses America’s responders, the “second responders”. I want to thank Ron for being so gracious in volunteering to write this timely and insightful guest column. -Gary

TEACHERS: AMERICA'S SECOND RESPONDERS by Ron Hagelman

When the line forms to witness on behalf of our country’s First Responders, I would like to be near the front. The law officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, engineers and community leaders who arrive first when disaster strikes deserve our respect, appreciation, and support. I am consistently humbled and inspired by the risks they take and the sacrifices they and their families make on our collective behalf.  However, I also believe that as the shock and awe of a disaster fades, we easily forget that there is an equal army of teachers, counselors, church leaders, parents, and community leaders who, as the dust settles and the ground dries, march onto evolving disasterscapes with a commitment to helping their communities heal, recover, and thrive once again. I write today on their behalf, especially the public school teachers and the staff members who are tending to the many communities damaged, physically and psychologically, by the recent spate of natural and social disasters.  I write to say thank you and to enumerate what I believe is the hidden work of our nation’s Second Responders.

There is a vein of research imbedded in hazards studies relating to the temporal aspects of disasters. Disasters, of nearly all types, tend to follow a somewhat predictable sequence of events starting with emergency response and stretching toward the elusive idea of a “return to normal.” Most news coverage, social media posts, and public discourse on disasters fades precipitously following the initial event and the immediate relief efforts. During recovery and reconstruction, our short attention-spans drift to the next actual disaster or the next disastrous tweet. For some, it is almost an instinctual drive to try to put things back together as quickly as possible. For others, it is an absolute necessity that they return to their homes, jobs, and schools quickly. However, when we do return to our usual routines, we do so having experienced a terrible shock and, for some, unthinkable losses. Support comes from friends, family members, churches, charitable organizations, employers, workplace colleagues, and government staff. But, for many school-aged children and their parents, a return to the safe and familiar routine of the school day is one of the greatest services we provide in post-disaster settings.

Schools are familiar and, with rare exception, safe places. Parents benefit by knowing that while they are battling the lingering effects of the disaster, their children are in a safe place cared for by trained professionals who know their child. In turn, children benefit from being in a familiar place with friends, engaged in familiar activities, and supervised by familiar people in charge of their day. The therapeutic values of this return to the known and the predicable are only achievable if teachers and support staff, who may be victims of the disaster themselves, put on a happy face and lead their diminutive followers through the day’s lessons and activities as if business were usual in their community. Teachers are often the first to see the effects of post-traumatic stress on their students. Teachers are often the first person of authority to really try to explain the trends and forces that led to the disaster. School counselors are often the first to see changes in behavior or needs that are derivative of the child’s experiences in the disaster.  School kitchen staff may be among the first to serve students a balanced, hot meal in the immediate days and weeks after a disaster. And administrators find themselves involved in helping students’ families to access services and support well beyond their normal range of duties. Food, shelter, comfort, support, a loving hug…Second Responders do it all, and they do it for weeks and months after the news cameras have left town.      

In our rush to return to normal, we often off-load the responsibility of comforting and counseling our youngest citizens to teachers, staff, counselors, and administrators who were already under siege from legislatures, school boards and concerned parents before the disaster added to their responsibilities.  Time and time again and across communities of all shapes and sizes, teachers and school staff step up. They address the immediate and lingering challenges of their students, and they serve their communities. Teachers and school staff take the handoff from our First Responders and provide the warmth, clarity, leadership, and strength that is so important to young people when their worlds are damaged and disrupted in ways that they never imagined possible.  Teachers are our nation’s uncelebrated Second Responders, and for anyone who would like to join me in thanking them, the line forms here…

About the Author: Ronald R. Hagelman, III is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas 78666. E-mail: rhagelman@txstate.edu. Dr. Hagelman's research interests include environmental hazards, disaster recovery and reconstruction, and the management of urban environments in a changing climate.

NCGE President's Column - September 2017

NCGE AND YOU by Gary Gress, NCGE President

As I was writing this column, epic climate-related events were unfolding in Texas and Florida. Many of us, myself included, have family and friends that were impacted by the sheer magnitude of this event, that will take years to recover from. It’s tough to be strong with such life-changing forces happening on a personal basis. Many organizations and individuals with compassion and love stepped in, for which all are truly grateful for. Thank you! We’re all reminded that change is a constant, and how we respond is important. 

The focus of this column was actually about the foreseeable NCGE “changes” that were inspired by alliance coordinators and members alike, prior to and after our summer conference in Albuquerque. First of all, “we hear you” be it Zach, our board, past presidents and those that are most important, you. Though still in embryo mode, there are 4 main areas of focus that NCGE would like to assess and make changes where needed as we move forward, in this evolving geographic education environment. If you frequent COSCO or

SAM’s on any given Saturday, this discussion is just intended to be a “taste” or a brief sample of our thinking. More definitive specifics will be coming in the following months, as our staff, board and all suggestions are reviewed. The 4 areas of focus currently will be membership, community, resources, and professional development. As your “go to” organization we will always focus on what we do best and has been successful, popular and supportive for your professional and organizational needs.

1) Membership:  Membership is changing. What it means to be a member of a nonprofit association, such as ours, is not what it was a decade ago. With the ever-evolving educational landscape, access to new technology, plus the largest generational workplace shift from Baby Boomers to Millennials any of us will ever see, it’s becoming clear that all associations today are struggling with dwindling membership numbers. Previously when NCGE has faced similar problems, the quick solution was to simply raise membership dues. This, however, had the adverse effect of making our membership less attractive to the people we value and serve. In order to grow, we must remove as many barriers to joining NCGE as possible. Currently, our staff and board are designing several sample membership programs that will strive to accomplish the goal of providing more NCGE accessibility to our members across the country. 

2) Community: We have heard from many NCGE members, partner organizations and state Alliances that NCGE would best support their work by serving as the national voice for geography education, establishing collaborations when possible. What truly separates NCGE from everyone else is that we are the only organization in the United States whose sole purpose is geography education. It only makes sense for us to serve in this capacity. With a small staff and limited resources, that will create some challenges. We will be working to scale up our communications and be advocates and partners. We’ll target various local, regional and national issues of concern and bring diverse voices from across the country to national attention, becoming even a more relevant organization than before. The development of grant writing partnerships and co-hosted events will also be a top priority and will be explored.

3)  Resources: Geography Education Resources are so very important for everyday curriculum development and classroom delivery. Resources need to be easy to find, simple to use, and effective in the classroom. The first step in this process is a long overdue update to our website. NCGE.org must not only provide relevant resources but help educate the general public on what geography is and why it’s important. In addition to updating our website, we are also exploring the possibility of, expanding the popular “bell ringer” series to include all resources for different K-12 educator’s levels, while maintaining our two popular publications (Journal of Geography and The Geography Teacher).  We’ll be looking at expanding our online NCGE store, to include more tools for your (K-20) classroom and professional area(s) of development. Be it beach ball globes, books, publications and maps, we will be looking at the best options for you.

4) Professional Development: Lastly, professional learning will be expanded. Besides more diverse webinar offerings, travel learning experiences will still occur such as Cuba or Iceland. Other considerations include the idea of certificates in various areas of geographic specialty, expanded partnerships with like-minded organizations, and involving businesses or persons that can offer their expertise to NCGE. With a “critical mass” of people, on-site geography and related training at various regional venues may also become reality.

Again, all of these exciting opportunities and ideas have been generated from you folks, our membership. It will take time, talent, commitment and of course substantial funding for many of these options to happen. We’ll still be offering tried and true programs and events, but will prioritize and offer new exciting “stuff” with your help and thoughts. It was a wonderful venue and conference this summer, thanks for all of your wonderful conversations! As we move forward we will announce specifics in the many months to come.

May you be experiencing a wonderful and meaningful new school year!

 

NCGE President's Column - August 2017

CUBA THE PLACE by Gary Gress, NCGE PresidentPhoto by Gary Gress

This past July I had the wonderful opportunity of being a part of an NCGE field experience to Cuba. The trip included fantastic experts (Drs. Johnny Finn and Jeremy Stalker and our lesson facilitator Amy Stalker). They designed various content and teaching strategies via a daily field guide relating to the places and people we experienced. When I initially envisioned this column, I intended to relate only my thoughts and observations, however I soon realized, as with any place, the diversity of the people and places we visited needed equally diverse thoughts and impressions from other folks too!

Three volunteers without any arm twisting who also presented their insights at NCGE in Albuquerque, will be part of this narrative. I’m calling this article “Cuba the place” and I may add its people. Many thanks to Johnny Finn, Barbara Boone, and Richard Katz.

People in the United States have I think limited knowledge of this island 90 miles South of us. The scope of their knowledge may be from a historical perspective: what they were taught in school or if old enough, was what they experienced prior to and during the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the 1961 end of formal relations, and the Cold War with the Soviet Union. More recently the visit and warming of US relations by President Obama and currently the uncertainty of US-Cuban relationships in the news is renewing attention to this place and its people.

One thing for certain, Cubans are interested about our leadership and future relations with them. They most certainly don’t live in a vacuum and have a sense of regional events possibly more than some Americans do. As Johnny reminded us during our adventure, the 2015 stanza penned and read by Richard Blanco at the reopening of the US Embassy is one of many connections with America. “The sea doesn’t matter. What matters is this… That we all belong to the sea between us”. For Americans, we see Cuba in a “time capsule”. As Johnny puts it, “our narrative is a dominant narrative of separation, isolation embargo, blockade, and distance.” But Cuba is and has been in survival mode, since our embargo, making the best of their situation, adapting, having relationships with other countries and corporate interests.

We saw evidence of China, France, and other countries investing in Cuba and its future via its infrastructure, businesses, and trade. During our travels, we witnessed solar technology, sustainable agri-businesses, entrepreneurial enterprising people, and most importantly the expression of the arts and the prominence of families. It is no paradise for many who find innovative ways to exist on 30 or so government dollars a month, creating “on the left” business opportunities for survival.

Many of us saw the importance and opportunities with US relatives of Cubans playing out in Florida airports as we left Florida bound for Cuba. As Barbara explains “Cuba certainly benefits from the free market in America via their relatives. Upon entering the terminal at the Miami to Havana flight, Cubans were checking in enormous boxes of items for their families, even sets of automobile tires!” Those much needed durable-consumer goods involve a once-a-year trek (vacation) to the United States for those fortunate enough with American connections.

Our travels as a group included a blend of cultural, historical and physical geography, taking in all of the sights, smells, and activities on an up close and personal level. We walked the streets of Havana, visited the US Embassy, and observed the effects of state-led urban and private restoration projects. Additionally, our group visited an “Airbnb”, one of the fastest growing tourist industries worldwide, where we talked to the owner and had opportunities to ply the local markets and enjoy Cuban cuisine.       

We ventured to both urban and scenic rural landscapes across Cuba. Our group visited The Bay of Pigs and a nearby museum, traveled to both private and state operated sustainable farming operations, experienced Karst Topography while spelunking through limestone formations and later stopped at a tobacco farm with the owner personally rolling cigars for us…this is the stuff dream trips are made of. 

 

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