Blog-a-thon: Geography Awareness? Oh yeah!




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This blog submission is from Nancy Sathre-Vogel, author for the Family on Bikes blog. To read this blog in full or to access more from Family on Bikes visit their website or follow this link.

National Geographic wrote to me a while ago to ask if I
would participate in the Geography Awareness Week Blogathon. Seeing as how I’m
pretty passionate about kids understanding the world, I figured it was a
shoe-in. I put on my thinking cap to try and figure out what I would write

It came and bit me in the nose. I was browsing around on Facebook the other day and came
across this map:

famonbikes.JPGIt seemed like a humorous portrayal of the ego-centric
attitude so prevalent in America and I posted it on my wall just for grins. I
honestly thought everyone would agree with me that it’s a grossly inaccurate
representation of the world and of American people. I was wrong:


Within seconds of posting the map, I got this comment:
dude I love this, this isnt sad I proud of this this makes soo happy I love
[pinky swear – I didn’t edit that one bit]

I was a bit confused by this comment. It’s not sad that
Americans would think of Canada as nothing more than a great big uninhabited
void? You’re proud of the idea that Americans think the entire middle east is
filled with evil-doers?

And then the whole thing went farther south.

Another Comment: were not closed minded you should see the rest of
the world most people in india and the middlr east never go more han 30 miles
away from home!!!

Me: It may be true that most people in India and the
Middle East never travel farther than 30 miles from their home, but I will
guarantee you that they know more about the world than most Americans. If you
show somebody in India a world map, they will most likely be able to identify
key countries around the world and will have a basic idea of those countries.
Many Americans have no clue.

Her: bill or riley said what makes a person liberal, what
is aliberal mindset? answer they have to hate america and always side agaisnt
america point proven America is the best people look up to us, when there is a
crisis they usa help us, they look to us when we make a decision,when america
votes for our president they look, when we do something they look at us, we
dont look at them, I mean america is the TOP DOG we are the ones to compete
with, You can call me whatever you want but the truth is still the truth, We
are number one and the critics hate us for it And I’m ok with that

Me: Oh my. I think you’ve rendered me speechless. All I
can say is that I hope you open your mind and allow yourself to see the world
as it truly is at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Her: you have a lot to learn your letting your pride and
your political correctness interfere with your ability to see the facts of the
matter its not an insult or a judgement its the truth. Until I came to germany
I didnt know I belonged to the best country in the world and then I educated
myself from travelling you guys should to

While the conversation was, in many regards,
extraordinarily hysterical, it was horribly sad as well. This young person
truly felt that America was the best and the only. America was the center of
the universe and the rest of the world should do our bidding. According to her,
every other country on our planet is far, far inferior to the great United
States of America.

Don’t get me wrong – I think America is a fabulous
country. I’m proud of my country and proud to say I’m an American.  But I’ve learned America isn’t perfect. I don’t think anywhere else is perfect either.

Continue reading “Blog-a-thon: Geography Awareness? Oh yeah!”

Homeschoolers and Informal Educators: Share your story on the Blog!

My Wonderful World is seeking homeschool, after school, and informal educators to share their experiences of geographic learning with kids. We’re looking for stories, best practices, tips, photos, and any other relevant information to post on the blog. Here are a couple examples of past entries from homeschoolers:Family on BikesSoulTravelers3 Explore World Culture through World TravelSo tell us: How do you teach geography at home … Continue reading Homeschoolers and Informal Educators: Share your story on the Blog!

Geography Awareness Week Saturday Special: Family on Bikes


On the final “official” day of Geography Awareness Week (because we all know that Geography is meant to be celebrated all year long), we encourage you to GET OUT and experience geography in the field.

I can’t think of anyone adhering more truly to the spirit of hands-on experiential learning than the Vogels.

Dad John, 10-year-old twin sons Davy and Daryl, and Mom Nancy Sathre-Vogel are currently traversing the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. When the journey is complete, Davy and Daryl will become the Guiness World Record holders as the youngest people ever to make the trip on bicycle. Pretty impressive, eh?

Read below to see how the family is discovering new geographic insights with each pedal. And make sure to visit the Family on Bikes website for more information, including an interactive map of their trek, and other great educational resources developed with the help of non-profit Reach the World.

Geography.  For years
I figured, like a lot of other people, that geography consisted of knowing the
locations of states and names of state capitals.  If I could memorize those bits of random
knowledge, I could consider myself “geographically literate.”

But somehow my eyes became opened over time.  Maybe I began to see there was way more to
this wonderful world of ours than a bunch of names.  Perhaps I realized that my Special Ed kids
may never be able to memorize a bunch of random facts, but they could gain an
overall impression of various areas.
However I came to the realization, I’m glad I did.

Geography is much more than memorization – it’s
understanding patterns around the world; it’s seeing similarities and
differences between the world’s peoples and places; it’s realizing that our
actions in America can and do have far reaching effects.  That’s what I’m hoping my boys will learn –
and all the other kids following along with us as well.

I remember one moment when I realized my boys were starting
to “get it;” when they suddenly put some of those random facts together and
applied them to their lives.  We were
cycling on the Colorado Plateau in the fall of 2006 – and it was cold.  As we visited Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon at 7000 feet in altitude, we shivered as we
huddled around our tiny camp stove cooking pasta each night.  Our teeth chattered until we mummified
ourselves in our down sleeping bags each evening.  It was cold – and we were getting tired of

Continue reading “Geography Awareness Week Saturday Special: Family on Bikes”