Eileen Hynes, this week’s Geo-Educator of the Week, shares a set of thematic-based activities that connect students to the world around them through Korean culture. Read more about these activities and other ideas for incorporating geo-education into your classroom.
Activity: Creating Global Connections through Korean Culture
Grade Level: Grades 2 – 5
Time Commitment: 1 month
In my classroom, I teach thematically and create curriculum based on what’s happening in the world around us. I am also committed to engaging students with the local community because everyone makes meaning based on what they know and through their personal connections.
When the Seattle Children’s Theatre offered A Single Shard, a play set in 12th-century Korea (based on the Newbery Award-winning novel by Linda Sue Park), I created a study around the performance. As a class, we read the book, explored the geography of Korea, and learned some of the language. We also borrowed a suitcase of Korean cultural artifacts from the Seattle Asian Art Museum and learned about Korean immigration to the U.S. at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.
We also invited a first generation Korean-American to our classroom. The students prepared thoughtful questions, and he patiently answered all of them. He treated the class to a delicious lunch of bibimbap, and he also taught them how to write their names in Korean. The students ended up using their Korean names throughout the rest of the school year! We also learned about Korean pottery and gained a real appreciation for the beautiful art after spending time working with clay.
What is one simple activity to get students to think about their world?
Inviting elders into the classroom is an easy way to connect students to their community and help them think through a different lens, and you don’t need to look far. Each year, I send letters to the parents in my class letting them know what lessons we’re planning for the year, and I invite them and their families to visit and share on these topics. Last year, we had 12 guests, and I dedicated the last 20 minutes of our school day to their visits.
Often grandparents or aunts and uncles who are visiting from out of town will come in. Students are excited to meet people from other countries and other cities in the U.S. I prepare my students to ask good questions, and I provide a map using National Geographic’s MapMaker Interactive to show them where Seattle is in relation to the other places of our visitors. The students ask really kid-appropriate questions that get people talking, and the families really like it. The students take notes in their journals as well.
I encourage kids to make connections — to themselves, the world, to their community, and the things they already know.
How does teaching with a geo-education mindset impact your students?
I truly believe this type of teaching is the most engaging way to teach. Kids are inspired to learn, research, and take ownership over what they’re learning. I encourage kids to make connections — to themselves, the world, to their community, and the things they already know. This type of teaching keeps the learning spiraling inward and outward. It creates a depth to what they’re learning and builds critical thinking, problem solving, cooperation, and communication skills. I also believe that geo-education supports nurturing, empathetic, and compassionate human beings.
Do you have advice for teachers who want to get more involved with geo-education?
Follow your passion! If you’re excited about what you’re teaching, this will inspire your students. Trust kids, and really ask them the questions you don’t have the answers to. Especially for new teachers — you don’t have to plan everything out and know what’s going to happen — this is too difficult. Go into your classroom with the same curiosity you’re trying to instill in your students.
Do you have a favorite book, blog, or website that inspires your teaching?
A really great “how to” book is Out of the Classroom and Into the World by Salvatore Vascellaro.
Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you in your life or in your teaching?
I keep a poster of Albert Einstein in my classroom with the quote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Eileen Hynes has been an elementary school teacher for the past 28 years. She has most recently taught 2nd – 4th graders at The Lake and Park School in Seattle, Washington, and is assuming the role of Director of Thematic Studies, a position that allows her to work across kindergarten through 5th grade classrooms to support learning of the social studies and sciences. To hear more from Eileen, visit her teaching blog.
Do you know of a great geo-education activity? Nominate a colleague or yourself as the next Geo-Educator of the Week!
The “Geo-Educator of the Week” series features inspiring activities and lessons that geo-educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways. To find out more about geo-education, visit www.geo-education.org.