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How to improve geographical literacy

Thursday, May 17, 2007
This post is actually targeted at parents who are concerned about their child's lack of interest or literacy in Geography.

Here are some useful tips I have adapted from http://ncge.net/geography/power/family/page2.cfm and thrown in a few of my own-

Having an Atlas and maps at home for the child
An atlas is the most comprehensive and useful geography reference work. Atlas maps allow children to locate countries, and physical features. Atlases also contain data on population, climates, economies, and usually pictures that are important for understanding a country's place in the world.

Maps are the tools of the geographer. A world map and a map of the United States can be hung on the wall of your children's room or elsewhere in the home where they can be used easily and frequently. Maps are available in most book stores.

My own observations*
Getting children to look at maps more often trains spatial intelligence - something many parents and adults tend to ignore in a child's development. Getting them to improve their spatial intelligence helps your child be a better map reader when older and gives them confidence in the very spaces they need to move in and unfamiliar spaces they need to conquer!

Encyclopedias and other world information materials
Encyclopedias, atlases and publications like Encrata are now available on CD-ROM and other electronic formats. If your children have access to a computer, you may want to consider using this form of access to geographic reference works and visit websites like BBC Geography, National Geographic.com or even the US CIA factbook that publishes information on all the different countries in the world.

Modeling and picking up geographical skills
Help your children learn to use maps, atlases, and globes. Work with your children to find places on the globe or look up information in the atlases. Be a good role model by consulting the atlas yourself and talk about countries or world issues in a particular country and its region with your child.

Critical thinking*
While this is not exclusive to Geography, it is applicable to all social sciences, history and humanities training. Take data representation from newspapers and other publications ask your child about the categories assumed, the definitions used and the way the data is represented. Do they agree with the definitions? Is it representative? Does it show "fairness"? Are things proportionate? what is the scale? Is it drawn to scale? What is included? What is not? Why is this so?

Kids are capable of thinking. It's the construct of this thing called "childhood innocence" that we try to give these children and in doing so, we make them stupid or we handicap them longer than they ought to be. Being able to think does not mean a loss of innocence. The loss of innocence is the loss of time to play and engage and think about their world. I'm talking about "homework time" with assessment books rather than meaningful thinking conversations between parents and their children.

Simple Mathematical skills*
Start a database of foods that your child eat on a day to day basis and eventually compare the data from week-to-week to month-to-month so as to teach time-interval studies and probability of their food preferances on a certain day. Including other data will eventually teach cross-referencing!

Get them to do a tabulation of their allowance money - have them to remember how they spend their pocket money and analyse their expenditure. This sets them thinking about analysing simple statistics but also act as a foundation for them to understand country budgets when they are way older. The act of data collecting and tabulation also instill discipline and routine when required. Award them treats when they do a good analysis. It should not be toys but their favourite foods or activities.

Simple acts like this can prep your child a long way. This mathematical skill actually helps your child in social science analysis.

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NUS Geography Open House 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007


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