Six-year-old Cole Kamin stood in front of a map in his Grayhawk Elementary School first-grade classroom and used his finger to trace the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq.
His classmate, Kaitlyn Williams, 6, said, “We learned about Mesopotamia and that they had pyramids but they were called ziggurats, they were almost the same but they didn’t have points.”
Landmarks such as pyramids and statues are important for young children to learn geography, their teacher Elie Gaines said.
With new state social studies standards released last fall, there’s a renewed focus on geography and history in Arizona schools — even at the youngest grades.
“Geography is more than just looking at a map and globe,” Gaines said. “It’s understanding everything on earth . . .”
Parents can foster the understanding of landmarks at an early age, by pointing out easily identifiable ones like McDonald’s, a stoplight or the McDowell Mountains.
“Talk it out as you drive — that talk is the beginning of geography,” Gaines said.
Tips for parents
• When you read a story, discuss where it took place, find it on a map and see how far it is from your hometown.
• Storytelling doesn’t have to be formal. Talk to your children about where you came from, or about the countries from which your grandparents emigrated.
• If you have Internet access, you can take your child anywhere. View real-time video of the Taj Mahal at www.taj-mahal.net. Learn about animals at www.sandiegozoo.org. Link to the Arizona Geographic Alliance Web site — http://alliance.la.asu.edu — for maps and other teaching tools.
“P is for Passport: A World Alphabet” by Devin Scillian
• For ages 4-8
• Uses the alphabet to teach about geography and world cultures.
“What Your First-Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good First-Grade Education” by E.D. Hirsch
• For parents
• Part of the Core Knowledge series. Lets parents know the basic things their child should be learning.