Middle-school teacher, Paula Loftin, and I are creating a writing curriculum in which students use the Essential Geography of the USA to go on imagined, though completely plausible, trips around the USA and write about the geography of the areas they "visit."
The goal of the curriculum is to advance student writing skills while establishing interest and understanding of US basic geography.
Travel is a great way for anyone to become geographically aware, and while taking students on multiple trips around the United States is impossible, we're finding that students enjoy going on cartographic road trips. Without knowing they are gaining geographic understanding, students quickly gain awareness of landforms, rivers and lakes, urban areas, landmarks, elevation, cardinal directions, etc.
Upon handing Paula her brief essay on a trip to the Oregon Coast, one student remarked, "I can't believe I just wrote that."
We hope to publish this curriculum in 2014. When it's ready, we'll post the news on this website.
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