National Environmental Education Week 2011: Ocean Connections

Ocean_Connections.jpgJoin teachers and students in exploring our Ocean Connections as part of National Environmental Education Week, April 10-16, 2011

We might have divided it up and given the different areas different names, but there really is only one ocean. And it is the dominant feature of our planet. No matter how far we live from the coast, we are all connected to the ocean, sometimes in nearly invisible ways.

From the vast network of streams and rivers that make up the major watersheds on Earth (all of which drain into the ocean) to the ingredients in products we use every day, there is no escaping our dependence on the ocean. The ocean supplies us with food and medicine, cycles our water, generates most of the oxygen we breathe and balances our climate. Recognizing the vital importance of the ocean to all life on Earth, National Environmental Education Week’s 2011 theme is Ocean Connections.

National Environmental Education Week (EE Week) is the nation’s largest environmental education event held each year the week before Earth Day – this year, April 10-16. EE Week inspires environmental learning and stewardship among young people by connecting educators with environmental resources to promote K-12 students’ understanding of the environment. The goal of EE Week is to assist educators in incorporating more high-quality environmental education across the curriculum. In 2010, over 2,000 schools and organizations across the country organized EE Week events. Collectively these organizations reached millions of students with environmentally themed lessons and activities.

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All About Africa

Main_hippos.jpgIn 2006, the theme of Geography Awareness Week was the continent of Africa. That November, we featured a series of posts about Africa on the My Wonderful World blog, which was brand new. More than three years later, those posts are still some of the most popular in the history of the blog! This month, as we re-focus our attention on Africa in celebration of the World Cup, we are revisiting these fantastic resources, which include news articles, interactives, and lesson plans, and sharing them with our new members–all 75,000 of you who have joined since 2006!

Post #1:  Africa and Human Origins (Human Geography)
Fossil and genetic evidence suggests that human history began in the valleys of Ethiopia, called the Cradle of Humanity. Here, paleo-anthropologists discovered the famous early hominid skeleton “Lucy.” Read more about the origins of humans in Africa.

Post #2: Africa’s History (Human Geography)
Throughout history, many civilizations have commingled on the African continent. Have you ever heard of the country of Rhodesia, the ancient trade city of Timbuktu, or the Zulu nation? Read more about Africa’s unique and tumultuous history.

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Exploring World Cup Geography with Google Insights


June2010_soccerfans.jpgCheck out this World Cup data from Google Insights for Search:

We’ve done a bit with Google Insights in the past. For those who aren’t familiar or need a refresher, Google Insights–a more sophisticated version of Google Trends–enables comparisons of search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames. Here’s a quick two minute video overview of the tool.

Most Popular World Cup Countries
According to Google, these countries have logged the most* searches for the term “World Cup” in the past 30 days (*as a percentage of total Google searches from that country):

1. Botswana
2. Bangladesh
3. Nepal
4. Zimbabwe
5. Uganda
6. South Africa
7. Kenya
8. Ghana
9. Trinidad & Tobago
10. Tanzania

It’s pretty amazing to me that fully 7 of the top 10 countries are in Africa. Talk about continental football fever! Note that the United States is not on the list. Nor is the United Kingdom, or any other European nation. I guess people with internet access from those countries are searching for a lot of terms other than the World Cup.


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May 2010 Newsletter

Read the May 2010 Newsletter: Go on an Outdoor Adventure!


May Challenge: Map Your Outdoor Adventure
GeoFeature: Horses…in North Philadelphia??
Geography in the News: Eyjafjallaökull Volcano
Blog: National Geographic Adventure


Plus: Keep reading for more newsletter highlights

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Create a Mental Map of Your Community

mental map.jpg
Mental Mapping
We all form impressions and images of our physical surroundings–even of places we’ve never been. These impressions are what geographers call our “mental maps.” No one has a totally accurate image of the world, so there is no completely accurate mental map, although people’s mental maps of their own immediate environment tend to be more realistic than those of places they’ve never visited.

To explore more about mental mapping, try this activity with your family:

Map Your Community
First, talk about mental maps.
Mental maps are the pictures of places we have in our mind. Think about some of the ways we use mental maps in day-to-day life, for example, when giving directions to visitors or imagining distant places. Talk about times when you have used mental maps, for example, when walking to school, taking a car ride to the grocery store, planning the quickest shortcut to get to friend’s house, or imagining a fantasy world from a novel.

Next, explore different kinds of places in your community and how you feel about them.
Think about places in your community that are important to your family, such as the examples below. Say each example and rate its importance using a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being unimportant and 3 being very important. Talk about why each is important or unimportant, and why children might disagree about the importance of some places versus others. For example, kids might have different interests (like playing sports or visiting museums, going to the movies or stopping for ice cream).
•    a park or other natural place
•    a church, synagogue, or mosque
•    a museum or arts performance
•    a sports game or amusement park
•    an airport or bus station
•    a shopping mall

Make a map of your community.
After you’ve decided which places are most important to your family, work together to make a map of your community. Try to estimate approximate distances and directions between landmarks, and include a basic scale bar, legend (key), and compass rose marking directions of North, South, East, and West on your map.

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