Knowledge of geography is sorely lacking in a majority of young adults in the US. According to a 2006 National Geographic-Roper survey, 75% of 18-24 year old Americans were unable to locate Israel or Iran on a map, 63% could not find Saudi Arabia or Iraq, and 88% were not able to find Afghanistan in spite of the fact that all of these countries have been extensively covered in the news. Even knowledge of US geography was limited; one third of the participants in the survey failed to find Louisiana, and over half couldn’t locate Mississippi on a map.
Lack of knowledge about geography affects people’s ability to understand economic and political world affairs. Geography Awareness Week is an annual event that emphasizes the importance of geography. This year, Geography Awareness week is being observed from November 14-20, 2010.
Geography Educational Resources
The Geography Awareness Week website, called My Wonderful World, offers a wealth of educational resources for teachers and parents to help kids learn more about geography. This year’s theme is Freshwater, highlighting how critical fresh, clean water is to support life, and emphasizing the lack of fresh water in many parts of the world and the importance of saving water and using it with care.
The website contains many resources specifically for learning about freshwater, including videos, facts, maps, water saving tips, and a water footprint calculator to determine how much water you use and how it can be reduced. There are also a number of ideas for creative and thought-provoking projects that raise awareness about freshwater, a reading list, art and poetry contests, and interactive games. The special edition of National Geographic entitled Water: Our Thirsty World, can be downloaded for free during the month of November.
Other features that can be found on the My Wonderful World website include:
* A parent action kit that includes ideas for making kids more aware of geography, such as reading the news together, learning about their own community, playing games, geocaching and exploring new places.
* An educator action kit with resources for teaching about geography
* Free printable poster-sized wall maps; both political and physical world maps can be printed and assembled.
* A wide variety of engaging geography games covering topics such as languages, cultures, music, dance, science and nature.
* Geography quizzes
* The My Wonderful World blog,which is packed with information about all aspects of geography, as well as games and contests
While some of these activities are specific for Geography Awareness Week, most of them can be used at any time to foster learning and awareness of geography.