This activity is designed to be used in part or as a whole and is adaptable for classroom or informal educational settings. By Julie Brown, National Geographic Project Manager Laptops are closed, the car is packed, and you’re headed to where your kids can run wild and free. Here’s a new way to keep them busy and curious along the way and while you’re on … Continue reading Go on a Biodiversity Expedition
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
As they describe themselves on their website, soultravelers3 is a family of two parents and 6-year-old daughter from Santa Cruz, California, who embarked on “an epic odyssey: open-ended, years long slow trip around the world as a family adventure, unschool, spiritual journey and lifestyle” beginning in September, 2006. Frequent commenters on the My Wonderful World blog, I asked soultravelers3 to share details about ways travel contributes to the family’s geographic learning. Their response follows.
As we enter our third year of our open ended world tour, I can say
that our travel experiences have had an astonishing contribution to our family’s
geographic learning! Our main motivation behind this world tour was to educate
our child in the best way possible as a global citizen of the 21st century, and
the benefits from our travel have just been stunning and way beyond our very
We have the luxury to travel very slowly which allows us to
immerse deeply into the places and cultures where we stay. This will be our
third year wintering in a tiny 15th century white village in Andalusia, Spain, where my
daughter studies at the local school in her second language and where she takes
flamenco lessons from one of the local masters. We love experiencing the many
festivals, the food, the customs and traditions. It has a rich history during
both the 800 years in which Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in
peace and also during the horrific reconquest. We live in a farming community
so we watch them grow food, listen to the goats and roosters and listen to the
beautiful Andalusian horses and donkeys clomp by on the cobble streets. We have
grown very fond of our village and its warm people. It will always hold a
special place in our hearts.
We travel for 7 months following the weather and have used every
mode of transportation from camels to trolley cars, although our main
transportation is a small RV which we park for long periods and walk or use
mass transit. We have been to 4 continents, 28 countries and traveled over
60,000 miles, mostly by land or water. Seeing so much of this wonderful earth
we live on, how can we not be thoroughly affected? We are constantly learning
and we always seem to meet fantastic people who are willing to share their
world with us.
A good example of a profound geographical learning for us was our
journey into Africa to visit Morocco and the Sahara desert. We met an open-hearted
city girl from Brazil who spoke 6 languages. She came to the Sahara
and ended up marrying a Berber Nomad whose family had lived in this mystical
place for generations. Our 6-year-old daughter rode in on a camel to those
bright orange Merzouga dunes of the Sahara to
give a violin concert to 60 Berber kids who lived there, without running water,
and who had never seen a violin. They were clapping and singing French songs to
her arrival and she was carrying a Santa Claus-sized sack full of healthy
snacks we brought to share afterwards. They shared no language in common, but
all of them shared the language of music, joyfulness and goodwill.
Watch a video of Mozart playing her violin for Berber children in Morroco.
It’s not easy keeping pace with this jet-setting family of
four on their year-long trip around the world. Earlier in the summer, we introduced you to the Jenss family; Dad
Rainer, Mom Carol, and boys Tyler (11) and Stefen (8). By our first post, they had already traveled
the scenic coastline of Maine,
eaten the “best
pizza” in Chicago, and seen the
roaming bison of the Badlands. Since
then, the Jensses have made their way across the United
States, exploring national parks like Yellowstone
trekking around cities like Seattle
Francisco, and learning how to surf on the islands of Hawaii. The family has finished their American tour,
and is now in China exploring
Mongolian Desert and enjoying delicious rice and dumplings in Beijing.
Both the parents and the kids keep a travel blog and post
their thoughts regularly. Before they
ventured across the Pacific, the family listed the best and the worst parts of
their American road trip. While the
parents complained about crowded trails and the lack of home-cooked meals, the
boys affectionately wrote about tourist attractions and pizza. Therein lies the beauty of travel; you can
stand next to someone and experience completely different things!