GeoLiteracy and the VGA, 2014

The VGA has been working to establish partnership across multiple content areas in support of GeoLiteracy, and behind the scenes to strengthen existing partnerships and cultivate new ones via outreach.

1.  Inspired by the NGS Giant Map program, VGA is developing a VA State Floor Map and Traveling Trunk with lesson plans and hands on activities in support of the elementary state history curriculum. This hands on kit will be replicated and made available in multiple locations across the state.

2.  Working with elementary school teachers grades 3-8 we have held 2 GeoLiteracy workshops in 2013-14 and have 2 more approved and planned for 2014-15 in which we partner with a children’s author to create a live Google LitTrip for teachers and students.  Last year we worked with teachers from across the state to recreate the events in a children’s novel, “No Borrowed Glory” which tells the story of the American Revolution as it played out in the community of Smithfield, VA.  Over 50 teachers attended 2 separate weekend workshops.  This year we are recreating Jack Jouett’s Ride in Charlottesville in conjunction with the story “It was a Long Night for Sally Jouett.”   We have 25 teachers from across the state registered for this event and 8 on the wait list for the spring session.  In both workshops, teachers were introduced to the 5 themes of geography and received ideas on how to incorporate these in a novel study to promote GeoLiteracy.  Participants were also introduced to a variety of online mapping tools including Google Maps, Google Earth/LitTrips, MapMaker Interactive and the VA Tabletop maps.  Future workshops are planned for the Great Dismal Swamp/Lake Drummond and the Battle of Great Bridge in Tidewater.

3.  APHG and WG — Virginia hosts 2 annual opportunities for secondary teachers to interact with K-16 Alliance members in support of GeoLiteracy.  The Annual APHG Academy encompasses pedagogy and field experiences to assist teachers in planning meaningful project based and inquiry based learning opportunities for students.  This year the focus is on economies and the natural landscape of the Eastern Shore.  We have 19 registered to attend. The other signature event, GeoFest, is in its 8th year, serving the far southwest tip of the state which had been an under served area prior to this outreach project.  Teachers from SW Virginia, TN and KY have participated in workshops using GIS, Hands on Geography and the Five Themes. This year we are sponsoring the first ever Tri-State Geofest!

4.  Geography Awareness Week (GAW) is celebrated in local division with teacher selected activities such a blogging, filming PSAs, poster contests, and a statewide GeoFair for student projects.  Our signature event the past 4 years has been a Geography Awareness Week Night hosted by the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico.  Approx. 300 students, teachers and parents attend each year.  This year we hope to have closer to 400.  There are exhibits, vendors and prizes for students who come and participate in geography themed games and activities.  See article on last year’s event.

5. In addition to these annual efforts, last year the Alliance created a series of ArcGIS maps and lesson plans in support of the secondary World History 1 (WHI) curriculum, and conducted PD workshops in numerous school divisions.  Preservice and WH teachers attended these sessions and it was rated very highly by teachers and division curriculum specialists. The lessons and maps are all available on this site.

We also formed a regional consortium in the 2013-14 school year of 5 Central VA school divisions in partnership with an iSTEM grant from the Battelle STEM Foundation to train 10 area middle school students on using ArcGIS and ArcGIS Online.  Teachers met monthly to learn about the software and create/pilot lessons.  Over the summer teachers worked on producing module to collaborate into writing an electronic textbook.  This year the consortium will pilot the lessons and use feedback to refine. The eBook will be published on iTunesU and be made available free of charge through a second year of funding from Battelle in partnership with the VGA. In October we will preview the lessons at an iSTEM Symposium hosted by VGA and Battelle.

VA was one of several Alliances to participate in the in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative under a Chesapeake Fieldscope grant. Over the past 2 years we conducted 4 workshops and trained over 100 teachers in planning and implementing successful, inquiry based field experiences for students using GeoLiteracy and Citizen Science as our means to providing multiple pathways to a MWEE  experience for students across the state.

4.  Outreach and Policy — Inspired by our recent Policy training  annual AC Hill Day, the VGA has made great strides by adding a permanent seat on our steering committee for a VDOE member, presenting information on the importance of teaching geography, GeoLiteracy and GIS to the VA School Board Association in July 2014 (400+ attended), and made a presentation to the VA Assoc. of School Superintendents.  Gov. McAuliffe’s Education liaison had attended the session in July at the request of Sen. Tim Kaine, and this was a follow up to our visit on AC Hill Day to Sen. Tim Kaine’s office.  Kaine recently announced a Career and Technical Education (CTE) bill for middle school career explorations in STEM will be a way to fund some of the goals of the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act (TGIF) should it pass. Both the Senator and Governor have expressed interest in the iSTEM grant and GIS.

For outreach, we hosted a Symposium last spring at George Mason University on “Syria, the New Cold War” — 65+ preservice teachers and educators K-16 attended.  Speakers included representatives from the CIA, DIA and the Joint Chiefs.  Pretty cool!

We are currently in the process of forming a partnership with the Va State PTA who will help promote GAW and the GeoBee in the state publications and via social media. We hope to organize a State Hill Day with PTA and VGA to lobby for funding for GeoLiteracy and more geography in the state curriculum.


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