As the seasons change outside of the NGS headquarters in Washington, D.C.,
so do the interns. My name is Bethany,
and I’m the fall intern for My Wonderful World, here to introduce myself and my
perspective on the ways in which geography is not just an important tool to us, but is ingrained in us. I look forward to hearing from all of you!
In 30 seconds or less (depending on how fast you read), I’ll
give you a run-down of what got me interested in Geography, and how I landed in
my NatGeo desk chair. I just graduated
from Bucknell University in rural Pennsylvania,
a school about three hours from any major city (see map).
I used to joke that it wasn’t the middle of nowhere, but the center of
everywhere. Bucknell is a J.Crew photo-shoot in the
middle of Amish country, so naturally I became interested in dynamic landscapes
after I came to school. My spatial
interest grew through my dance experiences as I realized a single body could
mold the stage into different worlds, simply by changing its relationship to
the space. I then gained some global
perspective on space from an awesome class on global agriculture (a topic we’ll
get to in future blogs), and after two years of college I realized I was
destined to live life as a geo-nerd, explaining and defending geography and the
relationship between people and places.
One of the ways I’ve tried to contextualize geography is by
relating it to current events and personal issues in people’s lives. But, I realized that most students at my
school didn’t pick up a newspaper or keep track of current events, even with TV
and internet (see
this article on how little current events knowledge has changed even with
advances in technology). I started thinking about the lack of the knowledge of
current events among today’s youth (elementary school through college) in
relation to their lack of geographical knowledge…and it made sense. Our national geographic illiteracy is
certainly a product of our lack of knowledge and understanding about global
events. Parents and educators should consider the impact of encouraging kids to
read about global events at a young age. The relatively easy activity of
watching and reading international news will lay the foundation for a global
consciousness. We need to demonstrate how our actions are interconnected and
interdependent with the rest of the world, and how our personal decisions are
global and geographical. This deepens
our understanding of geography in so many ways, and helps to rid our country’s
idea that geography is just memorizing maps.
You might have heard of “Lilly the World
Mapster” (by far the cutest Geographer ever) on YouTube.
eight-minute video has Lilly identifying the location of dozens of countries on
a world map, most likely shaming many politicians and world leaders in the
process. What’s interesting is that
Lilly didn’t start memorizing maps for the sake of memorization or for a grade
(because she’s two)…she started as a way to understand where her uncle was
going for his mission work, which shifted to understanding where her Grandfather
fought in the war, and which will hopefully grow into a deeper understanding
when she can actually write.
Geography is a personal thing for me and Lilly, and it can
be that way for everyone too! Keeping up with global current events, chatting
about it with your friends, your neighbors, or your kids will bridge the gap
between the United States and the world. Stay informed simply by picking up a newspaper and you’re on the
way to becoming a global citizen with a personal understanding of the world at
large. America is certainly not like my school; it is not the middle of nowhere, it is not
the center of everywhere, but a part of the global community which we’ve
ignored for far too long.
Send me your comments, thoughts, opinions…. I’d love to
hear from you!!