Before becoming one of 5,000 students to take part in a pilot geography program, Kevin Mach, 13, said he thought people outside the United States were mean. "Now I know they’re just like us," said the Powell Junior High School seventh-grader.
His Mesa class, run by English and social studies teacher Kathy Stelten, is one of 100 this year to useGeoLiteracy, a program created by the Arizona Geographic Alliance and funded by the National Geographic Society.
As part of the program, the students studied China’s controversial Three Gorges Dam project. They are preparing to write opinion pieces on whether the dam will successfully provide power and prevent flooding.
"People need to know where other people are, and how to read maps," said student April Boyd, 13. "We use geography every day, even if we don’t know it."
As the pilot year nears its end, the alliance is hosting free GeoLiteracy workshops and spreading the message that it has created 85 lessons on a compact disc for kindergarten through eighth grades, that integrates geography into Arizona language arts requirements.
"Not too long ago, there was a Roper study that determined 18- to 24-year-olds in America know very little about geography," said alliance co-coordinator Gale Ekiss, a retired Mesa teacher. "In this time of statemandated testing for three subjects — math, reading and writing — we are finding schools are discouraging teachers from teaching other subjects."
The alliance is ooking for math teachers to work on a GeoMath pilot next year that integrates geography lessons into math assignments, said alliance assistant Cathy Davis.
"What we’re finding is Arizona is leading the way in the idea of integrating geography with the tested reading, writing and math skills," Ekiss said.
Teachers have until Friday to sign up for a May 8 GeoLiteracy workshop at Arizona State UniversityMemorial Union between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., which is free to one member from each school.
For more information, or to purchase a disc, visit alliance.la.asu.edu/azga or call (480) 965-5361.
Where: ASU Memorial Union
When: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 8