Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blog Post: National Geographic Map Brings Social Studies to Life

Getting kids interested in social studies can be a project. As I remember it, in grade school, social studies came right after lunch, which meant that I was more interested in putting my head on my desk than in learning what the indigenous peoples of remote Fiji liked to eat. Followed by a film strip or a video, drowsy me was likely to have no idea whether we were still in Fiji or in Finland.

Looking back on it, my disinterest wasn’t so much a product of the subject matter—it was the way in which the subject matter was presented. Today, thanks to amazing tools available on the Internet, the world is a much smaller—but interesting—place.

One amazing tool is the National Geographic Global Action Atlas, which can be found in Bing Maps. The National Geographic Global Action Atlas gives kids a global perspective of where there are people in need. It also offers a visual display of current projects that are designed to protect plants and animals, preserve diverse cultures and more.

Select from Conservation, Humanitarian, Cultures, Exploration, Climate Change, or Energy projects, or select a continent and click on the individual projects. What you—and the kids will find—is an eye-opening array of potential classroom discussions.

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Interested in projects that are designed to preserve cultures and archaeological sites in Asia? A quick search turns up an archaeology project in Mongolia, or the disappearing Yagnobi language in Tajikistan.

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For the explorer types, there is a tab that will show open projects that will appeal to adventurous souls. For example, you can currently volunteer to save marine turtles in Turkey or to improve the lives of children in Nepal; participate in Project Kaisei, which is designed to help clean the pacific ocean of plastic debris; explore the Wehea Forest in Borneo, or promote research and education at the most active station in the Amazon, the Los Amigos Biological Station.

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For the science enthusiast, there are a wide array of climate change, conservation and energy projects. Choose from improving forest ecosystems in Humbo, Ethiopia; protect the reef of fishing villages in the coral reefs of Sri Lanka, or train rural masons to build sustainable mud-brick houses in Zambia.

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For elementary school children—simply selecting one of these pin dots could open up a world of interesting ideas and get them excited to learn more about that place—or those people.

And it’s definitely better than the old filmstrips I used to see in school. Ever used the National Geographic Global Atlas? Let us know how you integrated it into your classroom discussions. We’d love to hear.

- The Bing Education Team


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