Geography Awareness Week is an annual celebration during the third week in November to promote geographic literacy and education, organized by National Geographic Education Programs. Established by Presidential proclamation over 25 years ago, GAWeek is centered around events, policy advocacy, communication, volunteerism, and activities for students, families, and community members. Every year the UCSB Geography Department celebrates this week by sending volunteers to share their love and knowledge of geography with local schools.
A total of 18 UCSB Geography presenters (15 graduate students and 3 faculty) visited ten schools in Goleta and Santa Barbara, ranging from elementary through middle school. Presentations discussed a range of topics including cartography, food security, water resources, remote sensing, urban geography, fire ecology, sun downers and evacuation modeling, illustrating to the schools the diversity of topics approached by our Geography department.
Graduate student Kate Voss talked to students about water resources to 3rd graders at Adelante Charter School. “It was great!” according to Kate, who worked with the kids on questions such as “Where does our water come from?”, “How and who uses our water?”, and “How can we best manage our water?”. The activity focused on water use and resources in Santa Barbara and California in general, and also included a discussion on a water management project the school is developing to optimize irrigation of their soccer fields. “It was really fun to take the talk and tailor it to their specific experience and broader water management”, added Kate.
Britta Schumacher, Jing Xu, and Katelyn Zigner, all graduate students, found that the students at Coastline Christian Academy were really excited to talk about fire. The students “enjoyed analyzing the images we presented (e.g., tree rings, fire scars) and were incredibly inquisitive”. They thought their presentation gave the students a really nice picture of the diversity of subjects geographers study, and questions they seek to answer. Britta, Jing, and Katelyn’s presentations went over so well that they plan to continue to give more presentations to more elementary schools in the future.
The Earth, the sun and the seasons were the topic of choice for Professor Dan Montello’s talks, who presented once for 1st graders at Peaboy Charter School and then for 2nd graders at Franklin Elementary School. Students were “full of energy and enthusiasm” according to Prof. Montello, and were particularly interested in an orrery brought to illustrate how the Earth’s tilt and movement leads to the change of seasons. Prof. Montello was also able to introduce the concepts of latitude and longitude to the students. “One worries about going too advanced or too abstract, but at the same time, I am quite familiar with research on kids’ abilities to understand spatial and geographic concepts, and I know that many kids can handle more than educators and researchers used to think”, remarked Dan Montello. “Of course, not all kids will get everything equally, but I always feel it is a good thing to present at varying levels, so that there are tasty bites for students of all cognitive levels. Just like in my university teaching!” Similarities between college students and children aside, we can now thank many UCSB Geographers for showing grade school children how vast and complex geography is.
Thank you to all our volunteer presenters: Britta Schumacher, Dr. Dan Montello, Daniel Phillips, David Miller, Deanna Nash, Kate Voss, Katelyn Zigner, Ian Baxter, Jing Xu, Nina Bingham, Dr. Qinghua Ding, Rafael Ramos, Rui Zhu, Sara Lafia, Sari Blakeley, Dr. Susie Cassels, Tessa Montini, Zhe Li.
Article contributed by members of the Visibility and Outreach Committee: Amelia Pludow, Britta Schumacher, Evgeny Noi, Lily Cheng, Nina Bingham, Rachel Green, Rafael Ramos, Sari Blakeley, Tessa Montini.