This article was written by Heidi Givens, an educator and member of National Geographic’s Teacher Advisory Council. “Where education meets exploration”—this mantra rang true recently as over 180 educators and explorers gathered at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., for an invitation-only event: the National Geographic Education Summit. This unique professional learning experience included plenaries and lightning talks from various National Geographic scientists, … Continue reading Three Deaf Attendees Reflect on Their Experiences at National Geographic’s Education Summit
I recently found myself face-to-face with a giant tortoise. I was filming his eating behaviors in a field on Santa Cruz Island in the Galápagos Islands. I was there on assignment—not for a nature show, but for a group of 10-year-olds. Continue reading Strategy Share: Exploring the World Through Documentary Filmmaking
Which is more important: understanding where you are from or understanding the world beyond that place? Trick question. In our increasingly interconnected world, it is becoming more and more important for our students to both understand their own community and how it connects and compares to a broader world. A Community Migration Story In this activity, students have an opportunity to make these connections through … Continue reading Weekly Warm-Up: Your Community Migration Story
MWW learned about Alexandra Ramaeker Zahn, a 12-year-old from Iowa who has written four novels, through a friend’s encounter with the her mother at a conference. Following the lead from our friend, we called Alexandra to learn more about her stories, which span the geography of the U.S. and Europe.
Alexandra is a middle school student who participates in multiple sports, as well as Mock Trial, Destination Imagination, Junior Achievement, Jazz Band and Chorus. She has traveled to 18 states and 2 countries with her family. She enjoys learning, in detail, facts about each of the places she has been to. She is curious about other cultures, landscapes, the science of things, and the dynamics of friendships.
Can you tell me the titles of the four novels you’ve written and give a brief synopsis of each?
Moving Streak is the story of an 8th grade girl named Abby who moves around the United States–to South Dakota, Iowa, and North Carolina. She doesn’t know if she really fits in because she moves around so much. By the end of the novel, she finds out who her real friends are, and who she really is.
Deep Down Secrets is set in New York City. It is about a popular girl who doesn’t really love being popular, and doesn’t really know who she’s become. With the help of her best friend, she comes to terms with herself.
Best Year Never is the sequel to Deep Down Secrets. It goes deeper into the friendships of the protagonist. Some kids still think she’s stereotypically “cool,” but others discover that she is different in important ways.
Princess of Anastesia takes place in Italy, in medieval times. It tells the story of a 12-year-old who lives with a farm family, but discovers that her real dad is a king, and she is a princess. Her father had to give her up because his kingdom was fighting a great war, and the enemies were trying to hurt her.
One thing you can do with a degree in Geography is, well,
teach geography to others. Matt Rosenberg is not your traditional classroom
instructor; rather, he practices his pedagogy primarily via the World Wide Web.
Matt has been disseminating geographic knowledge as About.com’s Geography Guide
for the past ten years and has been a friend of the My Wonderful World
Campaign since launch. Matt has written two books, has been featured on NPR and
PBS, and has won several awards. He holds a Master’s Degree in Geography from California State University, Northridge, is currently attending rabbinical school, and recently became a new
father. We were thrilled that he was able to take time out of his busy schedule
to answer a few of our burning questions.
How did you first
become interested in geography? Did you take any geography classes as part of
your k-12 education?
I actually never took a geography class in primary or
secondary school. I don’t even remember
being tested on state capitals! My first
geography class was a lower division introduction to urban and economic
geography course at UC Davis. With that
class, I fell in love with geography and declared my major shortly thereafter.
What are your
favorite geographic topics to study and/or write about?
I love to write about urban, economic, and political
geography. When I look at the content
I’ve written over the years, there’s a definite bent toward those topics. I
also like to create lists of the biggest, tallest, most populous, etc.
Your bio says that you’ve worked
previously as a GIS technician for local government, newspaper columnist, and
disaster manager for the Red Cross. Can you tell us a little bit about how you
used geography in each of those careers?
Well, my work as a newspaper columnist took place for the
town paper while I was in high school so it was before I was a geographer. The other careers were all intimately tied to
geography. I think that my skills as a
geographer really had a positive impact on my work as a disaster manager for
the Red Cross. I would work with
demographics, hazard maps, and disaster plans on a daily basis and my
geographical skills helped me understand the relationship between human action
and the physical environment. Obviously,
working in the GIS division for my local government was intrinsically tied to
my skills as a geographer.
How did you get to
your current position as Geography Guide at About.com? What do you like best
about your job?
I had just finished my undergraduate degree in geography at
UC Davis and was working in the university library. Part of my job was the library website and so
I was receiving various email newsletters about newfangled things on the
Internet. I received word that About.com
was looking for Guides to run websites about various topics. I found that they were looking for a
Geography Guide (the title is unusual but it is somewhat of a cross between an
editor-in-chief, writer, webmaster, librarian, and general go-to person for the
topic). I applied and created a mock
site while competing against other unknown candidates and I was selected. My site was one of the first to go live when
About.com rolled out publicly in April of 1997.
I love to share my love of geography with people around the
world. I love it when I inspire students
to take classes, declare geography as a major, or even continue on into
graduate school in the discipline. It’s
a wonderful feeling to have that sort of impact outside of academia. Researching and writing about geography
topics is a lot of fun, too.
What do you hope to
achieve with your website?
Through my website, I hope to teach a passion for geography
to as many people as possible.
What is the most
frequently asked question you get about geography on your website?
I am most frequently asked who I don’t list Scotland as an
independent country on my list of countries of the world. So, maybe it’s more
of a complaint than a question but people from Wales and Northern Ireland don’t seem to write quite as often as the Scots.