Educator Spotlight: Unlocking European Geography

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771434-44439-715 (1) Above: Kevin Witte Below: Amber Lewis

Kevin Witte and Amber Lewis teach geography, history, and social sciences at Kearney High School in Kearney, Nebraska. Kevin was a 2011 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and has been a member of the Geographic Educators of Nebraska for 16 years. Amber also teaches a course in Women’s & Gender Studies at Kearney High School.

Activity: Unlocking European Geography Using National Geographic Education Tools: MapMaker Mega Map and MapMaker Interactive

Grade Level: 9-12

Activity Length: Two 90-minute class periods

Subjects: world geography, mapping, human geography

Tell us about your activity.

This activity was a collaboration between Kevin’s 11th– and 12th-grade AP Human Geography class and Amber’s 9th– and 10th-grade world geography classes. We wanted to provide an opportunity for the older students to create learning tasks and model the use of geographic tools to answer geographic questions.

Groups were devised with a balance of students from each class. The groups were then given map exercises that addressed the political and physical geographies of Europe, using outline maps and different rows from the Mega Map MapMaker Kit. Upon completion of the outline maps and assembly of the large map, students brought their Chromebooks and accessed MapMaker Interactive.

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Students piece together a Mega Map of Europe. Photo by Kevin Witte

The AP Human Geography students then led activities on four topics:

  1. Measurements, Distances, Locations
  2. Climate and Vegetation
  3. Resources and Economic Activity
  4. Population Settlement, Distribution, & Density

These presentations included questions and short activities that made use of the Mega Map, layers and tools on MapMaker Interactive, and the outline map. The focus was on using these resources to draw informed conclusions about physical and human characteristics of Europe.

Students reflected on what they learned about European geography, what they learned about geographic tools and resources, and what they learned about working across age/grade/course groupings.

How did your activity help your students learn about the world?

This lesson was really about harnessing curiosity to observe, communicate, and collaborate. Students employed text resources and maps to examine, ask questions, discuss, and seek solutions about how climate, vegetation, resources, and economic activity shape settlement, distribution, and density patterns.

If you had one classroom superpower, what would it be?

Kevin: I would like to be able to teleport my students to see the places and meet the peoples of the world that we are studying. I try to bring the world to my classroom, but I would love to be able to bring my classroom to the world. There simply is no substitute for full immersion in a place or authentic interactions with the world’s peoples.

Amber: If I could give all of the students in my classroom a superpower, it would be to speak every possible language in the world. I can’t imagine how many opportunities this would provide for them to connect with people around the world.

What was your most memorable “teachable moment”?

Kevin: My most memorable “teachable moments” are when I get to authentically connect my students to the larger world. For instance, last spring, I was in Cambodia serving as a leader-mentor for a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative workshop on the environment and sustainability. In the evenings, I video conferenced with my classes back home in Nebraska. There is nothing like getting up at 2:30 a.m. and going out on the hotel balcony to video conference with your afternoon geography class!

Amber: My most teachable moment has been going to Haiti with two students to repair water pumps in the northern part of the country. The students I went with had never traveled internationally. It was an amazing experience to see them become more globalized as they interacted with new people and cultures.

One response to “Educator Spotlight: Unlocking European Geography

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