Geography Makes a Comeback

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Sotonoff Daily Herald Staff Writer

A few years ago, when she taught school in Nebraska, Sharon Graff asked her fifth-grade class what country they lived in.

"They said Nebraskaland. I'm not kidding," said Graff, now a teacher at Dooley School in Schaumburg.

In a National Geographic Society Gallop poll seven years ago, one in four adults couldn't identify the Pacific Ocean on a map.

"The problem was, geography wasn't being taught in schools anymore," said National Geographic Society spokesperson Ellen Siskind.

Since then, schools nationwide, including those in Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54, have placed an emphasis on teaching geography to children.

The Internet has been a helpful tool in this effort, Siskind said, and there has been some marked improvement.

"There is a trend now in all of American education toward standards, as well as geographic standards," Siskind added.

District 54 students are making great strides in this area.

Geography bees were held at several District 54 schools this month, including Dooley, Dirksen, Nathan Hale, Keller Junior High and Blackwell schools.

Many District 54 teachers give their classes daily geography questions, and the students must look up the answers in atlases or on maps.

Elaine Beaghan, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Blackwell School, said her students sometimes play a geography version of the game "Jeopardy."

Because students today are more familiar with technology, and are increasingly exposed to different cultures, geography skills come in handy.

"Given that the world is getting to be a smaller place, you really should know where everything is," Beaghan said. …