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Link Librarian

by Gayla Thorsen

Topic: Geography

"Where in the world is_____?" (Fill in the blank) This is a common question we hear when we are teaching our students geography. Why is geography so important? To answer this question, here is a real-to-life experience I heard on the radio.

The radio announcer was discussing how to obtain tickets to a particular popular concert to take place in the Midwest. He next relates what happened to one caller trying to get tickets. The ticket purchaser calls the number. He is asked where he is calling from. "New Mexico", he replies. "I'm sorry", he is told, "we aren't selling tickets outside of the country." (meaning the USA) "But New Mexico is a state in the U.S.", he tells the ticket seller. An argument ensues, until finally someone tells the ticket seller where New Mexico is located.

So, you see? Someday you might get the job of selling tickets to a concert. Do you want to embarrass yourself by not knowing that New Mexico is a state, not another country? Have no fear. I have selected some books and resources to help you in your study of geography. (By the way, did you know that homeschoolers can be part of the Geography Bee, and that some homeschoolers won the national?)

First, here is a list of five themes commonly studied under the subject of geography:

  1. Location — meaning the position on earth's surface
  2. Place — physical and human characteristics
  3. Relationships Within Places — humans and environment
  4. Movement — humans interacting on earth, such as through transportation and communication
  5. Regions — how they form and change

Everyone probably studies the 50 states sometime during their academic career, so here's a book that makes it fun. "Wish You Were Here — Emily's Guide to the 50 States" by Kathleen Krull (Bantam Doubleday, 1997), 118 pp. The introduction tells us that Emily is invited by her grandmother to travel through the states during one summer vacation. The main character, Emily, narrates what she finds in each state. Illustrations are colorful and in postcard format and, as it is packed with state facts, this is a good resource. Each state is given two pages to introduce the state map, capital and motto, location on the U.S.A. map (full page map of U.S.A. included), and describes special features of each state. Some states have a box listing trivia information on famous people and/or events pertinent to that state. Then there is a section of lists -- addresses for tourist information, state facts, and when each state became a state. Index and further reading for more research round out this story. "Wish You Were Here" will give you the idea to exchange postcards with people from other states. Teachers do this all the time. There is a "Postcard Exchange" section in several teachers' magazines where you can get addresses from different states. When you get the postcard, locate the state on your U.S.A. map.

Speaking of states, does everyone need to do a state study? What better way to study your state than to be a tourist and visit it! Yes, get yourself a tourist brochure and plan several trips during the year to visit places of interest in your state. Mountains, landmarks, lakes, these are all geographic places! State parks and of course the local library are great places to start your state study. Your library will have lots of books on your state, including road maps. Or you can visit the Visitor's Centers and get free brochures. Every state also has a website, so with the click of a button, you can find a wealth of information on any state in the country! One inexpensive book you might want to get for your home library is called "Portrait of America", a softbound book of the state of your choice. It covers the history, economy, culture, and other features of each state. Special profiles of important people and events are also highlighted. A teacher's brochure is also available for this book through the Back Pack catalog. (See Geography Resources for address.)

When you start looking for state reference books, do not limit your search to only the children's section of the library. I found a whole section in the adult's room devoted to Maine books. For example, I found a wonderful storybook in the adult's section on stories of children growing up in Maine during the 1800's. I would not have found this book in the children's section. This book, "Stories from the Old Squire's Farm" by C.A. Stephens, related several funny experiences that happened to a group of children in Maine. We all enjoyed reading this immensely!

Another reference to look into for your state study is the video collection at your library. One of our television stations here in Maine sends copies of their Maine-related broadcasts to the libraries on videos and then we can borrow the videos for home use. We have learned about Maine agriculture, the native peoples of Maine, technology, industries, and much more. I have also used the station's website to get teacher's lesson plans and student worksheets related to their programs. I found a timeline and several interesting stories relating to Maine history to use in our state study. Then we started looking for books written and/or illustrated by Maine (insert your state here) people. I have a list of at least 100 Maine authors/illustrators that I found at one of our public school libraries. (Yes, we use every library in our town!) We found many of their books in the children's section.

What about studying other countries? Simply use the same method as for state study-books, maps, brochures, videos, websites, and if you can travel to the country, that's even better! One idea that might work is using stamps. We have a stamp collector here, and every time he gets a new stamp, he runs to the world map and finds out where the country is located. Plus, he finds out how far away the country is from our country.

Now here is a list of professional books I found at the libraries here in town. We can't study geography without thinking about maps, so I will list some places later where you can get some maps. "Exploring Our World with Maps" by Haig A. Rushdoony, published by Fearon Teacher Aids, 1996, 139 pages. This book is geared for grades K to 6 and has teacher-directed lessons on maps, elevation, and scale. Activity pages, maps and photos, and answer key. "Read Across America -- Exploring 7 U.S. Regions Through Popular Children's Literature" by Georgia Rothstein, published by Instructor Books by Scholastic, 112 pages. Use this for grades 1 to 4. Each region of the U.S. is represented by featuring a story to read. Several ideas are listed on how to present each story and activity sheets for the students are included. "The Complete Geography Project & Activity Book" by Susan Julio, published by Scholastic, 1993, 112 pages. Elementary students will enjoy the hands-on activities and bulletin board projects. Contains 20 lessons.

Geography Resources

National Geographic Society, POB 98190, Washington, D.C. 20090-8190 www.nationalgeographic.com They offer a teacher's packet for National Geographic Awareness Week which includes the teacher's guide and several large, beautiful posters and a different theme every year. $5 to $6

F.U.N. News, Issue #10—features Geography. This issue is packed with articles and resources on geography. Magazines, maps, books, organizations, websites, loads of information too numerous to list here. Contact for price (around $3.00)— FUN@IQCweb.com, or write to F.U.N. News, 1688 Belhaven Woods Court, Pasadena, MD 21122-3727

Map Adventures Teacher's Packet—Contains 7 lessons, large poster and activity sheets. For K-3, call 1-800-USA-MAPS for this free packet. For more free information, contact the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Portraits of America" books—The Back Pack, POB 125, Ernul, NC 28527 (252) 244-0728 www.thebackpack.com Maine's television station website: www.mpbc.org

Free video kit on earthquakes, while supplies last. Send your school name and street address (no P.O. Boxes) to: State Farm Insurance Companies, Public Affairs Department, Educational Kit Processing, One State Farm Plaza, Bloomington, Ill. 61710-0001.

From our readers, via e-mail. Here are some topics some of our readers are studying (or have studied) this year: Amber's topics are ancient Rome, volcanoes, earthquakes, Scotland, birds, and butterflies. Carol writes that she will be working with puppets and will build a puppet stage. She is also using Power Glide for Spanish and Math-U-See Algebra/Geometry. Elisabeth recommends "Ranger Rick's Nature Scope" series by National Wildlife Federation, 64 pages. I happened to find some back issues of this science journal at two local libraries. This is a monthly nature magazine for elementary-age children. They contain hands-on activities, reproducible pages, and a glossary. The appendix section lists references and resources such as books, films, videos, records, and teaching aids. It is similar to having a unit study book as each issue stays on one topic, such as birds, dinosaurs, weather, geology, astronomy, rainforests, and so on. Check this website for more information — www.books.mcgraw-hill.com

Karolyn found a collection of 11 volumes on women in U.S. History. Titled "The Oxford Young Person's History of Women in the United States" and published in 1995. She says you can buy them directly from Oxford University Press or check your local bookstore. Karolyn also shares an excellent website with us on women through the ages — www.fordham.edu/halsall/women/womensbook.html. Thanks so much to all of you for your contributions.

Now, "Suppose the Wolf Were an Octopus?" This is just one of the many titles available from Royal Fireworks Press. This is an excellent resource book on 50 popular children's stories, complete with a list of questions to use for each story. If you are stumped on what questions to use with your students when reading a book together, then this resource will be just what you need.

"Aesop's Fables, Volume 1, My Book About: Reading, Writing, Thinking" This richly-illustrated student workbook contains 11 short fables. Children will be delighted on how each story ends. There are pictures to color, vocabulary words, sentence writing and word activities. A frog puppet is also included on the back cover. A fun way to teach language-arts skills to grades K-2. Request a free catalog by e-mail to rfpress@frontiernet.net or write to Royal Fireworks Publishing, 209 High Street, Monroe, N.Y. 10950, (914) 726-4444. Catalog titles to choose from: Young Adult Novels (these include historical fiction), Catalog for 4th & 5th grade teachers, Catalog of Materials for Educating Gifted Children.

For our BOOK DRAWING this time, the winner will get a set of two books from Royal Fireworks Press, "Our Community" —TE and student's workbook. Please send in one book title or resource on the topic of your choice listed here: Oceans, Inventions, Women in History, and Cooking. You guessed it! These are the next topics for this column. Deadline for entering the drawing: April 30, 2000. Keep sending in your favorite book titles or resources you come across that you know the rest of us would love to hear about. Contact me at Flair79@juno.com or write to me at Gayla Thorsen, POB 173, Fort Kent Mills, Me 04744. Happy Reading!

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