Category Archives: geography

Kansas Day is on the way!

This post is a little late but I’ve been hibernating; I hope you’re all keeping warm. If you’re using the cold weather day (wouldn’t it have been easier to post what schools stayed open?) to plan ahead or, if you’re reading this later, need something fast, I think I have something for you.

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Kansas Day can be so much more than Sunflowers and Meadowlarks. Whether you want to a good lesson to incorporate Kansas into your regular curriculum to observe Kansas Day, or are making an effort to bring more local focus to your instruction.

I’d like to start with something I helped put together using a website called Thinglink. It’s free to get basic access and the tools let you create interactive photos, charts, etc. I took the Tallgrass Prairie Illustration below and added links to online articles and videos so students can learn more about our surroundings. Follow the link below the picture to see the interactive version.

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Flint Hill Map Project – Enhanced Map

If you like that tool, you might like some of the lessons from the Flint Hills Map Project and their Kansas Day Activities. Lots of good geography, science and even music and art ideas on their site to help your kids learn more about their home. The teachers on their advisory board (you guessed it, I’m one of them) met right after the winter break and as part of our meeting we put together a Kansas Day Pinterest Board if that’s more your speed.

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If you’re not on the Kansas Historical Society’s mailing list you’re missing out on more tools to incorporate local history in your classroom. They have a whole page of ideas for Kansas Day in the classroom. I personally enjoy the online Carrie Nation exhibit with its teaching resources. There are a lot of resources at multiple levels that you can access. I’m also fond of the Read Kansas! cards for their versatility and availability for primary through middle school levels.

Remember, you don’t have to wait until Kansas Day to work more of the great history and resources of our state into your instruction. We are so much more than sunflowers and meadowlarks and we should share Kansas more with our students.

Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

Guest Post: This month we have a guest post from Anne Wilson, Map Program Coordinator for the Flint Hills Map and Education Program.


As teachers, we often hear students lament:  “What does this have to do with me?”  We know if our kids believe an idea actually affects them, it all of a sudden really matters.  However, actually relating learning to students’ own lives and local environment takes time and background knowledge we don’t always have.

Now a grass-roots team of teachers in the Flint Hills region has developed a new “place-based education” program – designed to connect learning to students’ own heritage, culture, landscapes, ecology, economy, and experiences as a foundation for the study of core subjects.

How important is place?  Bio-regionalist author Wendell Berry writes, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” Many of our students think they’re from nowhere.  They are connected to everywhere but where they are.  This program gives them the gift of pride, understanding and commitment to their place.

The bonus is: Continue reading Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

New Google Earth. Great! And . . . meh.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that I am a huge Google Earth nerd. I love geography. I love maps. I love Google.

It’s a simple formula. A + B = C. Maps + Google = Google Earth nerd.

So when Google pushed out an online version of GE this week, all was right with the world. At least until I started digging into it a little bit. Don’t get me wrong. Any time I can play with an online Google tool, it’s a good day.

The new version does have a few cool features. But I’m just a little disappointed that the online version released this week is missing some of the sweet features of the desktop version. But let’s start with the good stuff. Continue reading New Google Earth. Great! And . . . meh.

Using Gapminder’cool data to create compelling questions

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Gapminder is an organization promoting sustainable global development by encouraging the use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.

Basically it’s a tool you and kids can use to compare and contrast countries around the world. So . . . teaching geography, world history, economics, comparative government? GapMinder is a tool you and your kids need to be using.

At GapMinder, you can access a variety of tools, lesson plans, and videos that help students understand the world and can help you generate a wide range of problems for your kids to solve.

One example of a lesson plan that uses GapMinder data can help your kids to think about the gaps in the world today and challenge their preconceived ideas about how the contemporary world looks. The exercise can also be used to stimulate an interest in using statistics to understand the world.

How to use the activity: Continue reading Using Gapminder’cool data to create compelling questions

Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!

nps park mapOn August 26, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary and as one part of the celebration, we’re asking you to “Find Your Park”. The NPS now has over 400 sites across the nation that offer something for everyone. If you like mountains, the beach, or history, we’ve got a site for you.

There are more than 84 million acres across the U.S., at sites as diverse as national monuments, Civil War battlefields, and historic sites. There’s a big range in size among NPS sites, too: The biggest is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, at 13.2 million acres, while the smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, at 0.02 acre. These sites attract more than 300 million visitors every year.

Shelton Johnson, a park ranger at Yosemite National Park and published author, shared his thoughts on this important milestone: Continue reading Literally #FindYourPark with free maps!