Monday, November 12, 2012

Geography; the Most Important Science

If you want to be licensed as an elementary school teacher in Vermont, and in many other States too, you have to have a second academic major in addition to your education major. This requirement came into effect in the late 1980s and I remember well being part of the team of HE teacher education folks and  VTDOE staffers who met for several days to work out a rationale and how the requirements would fit. The primary idea behind the regulation was that an in-depth knowledge of something other than how to teach would bring scholarship to the teaching profession and help teachers become subject leaders in their schools. It would give them an academic passion to go along with their passion for teaching. I thought, and still do, that this was a great step forward, not least, because I had gone through this process some 10 - 15 years earlier in the UK.

My academic major was geography which complimented my teacher education studies so well. I remember learning all about geomorphology, a little geology, human geography, some social geography as well as physical geography. I learned about probablism v possiblism, Gondwanaland, drumlins, eskers, eratics and Monadnocks. So much of what I learned is still with me (there's a great eratic in the middle of the Bolton golf course) because I loved learning it so much and I used what I knew with passion when I was a fourth grade teacher. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy teaching math, language, reading and science but geography was just something else.

I remember teaching an eight week unit on the canals of England in which the students read and wrote about just about everything related to canal construction, canal life, influences on commerce and on and on. The student even brought in old pots and plates and cups which they then decorated in the traditional roses and castles artwork of those who lived on the canals. So when Richard Kujawa, the geographer extraordinaire at SMC, put this link on his FB page it brought a little sadness into my life to know that Geography was no longer a top ten favorite discipline in British high schools. I was glad to know, however, that I was in good company with my love of geography as the author of the article was none other than Michael Palin, president of the Royal Geographical Society.

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