Postcards: A Pint-Sized Geography Lesson

Traveling Across the Globe & Around the Country with Postcards

Discover faraway places by both sending and receiving postcards through Postcrossing.  It’s free to sign up, you just pay for the postcard & postage.

Many families’ refrigerators become plastered with family artifacts as time goes on – the doors can become a permanent home for drawings, school lunch menus, important memos, and, of course, postcards sent by friends and family from all around the world.

Postcards are a perfect mailbox surprise, and is a fun way to share and learn about new places from all over the world! The pictures of beautiful landscapes, city skylines, monuments, and historic sites provide recipients with a pint-sized look at an exciting new place.  Read the rest of this entry »

Annual Geography and Science Expo Invites Self-Directed Studies of World History, Culture, and Science

Annual Geography and Science Expo Invites Self-Directed Studies of World History, Culture, and Science

The Annual Geography and Science Expo is an inter-generational geography fair featuring the work of students from all school choices throughout Berkshire County and beyond. It’s free to participate and open to all, taking place every Spring in central Berkshire County. Want to participate? Pick your country, state or region, sign up, and get busy studying and preparing your presentation! Sign up details below.

Where in western Massachusetts can families sample international cuisine, learn about world history and science, examine foreign landmarks, and collect passport stamps? The annual Geography and Science Expo offers all this and more – and now is the time to become a part of this unique educational celebration!

Held every Spring since 2008, the Geography and Science Expo showcases the work of self-directed learners from all over western Massachusetts. Participants spend weeks (or even months!) independently researching a country, culture, region, moment in history, scientific discovery and create museum-like displays to share what they have learned and to educate visitors to the event about their chosen topic. Displays can teach visitors about a topic through text, images, and/or models, and can also include experiential components – giving young learners the opportunity to imagine the best way in which to teach others about what they’ve learned. Common experiential learning elements to expo displays include samples of traditional foods and crafts or games derived from a specific culture. And this year, they’ve added Science! Read the rest of this entry »

Geography Expo Invites Self-Directed Studies of World History and Culture

Geography Expo Invites Self-Directed Studies of World History and Culture

The 8th Annual Geography Expo is an intergenerational geography fair featuring the work of students from all school choices throughout Berkshire County and beyond. It’s free to participate and open to all, taking place on Thursday, May 5th, at the Berkshire Atheaneum in Pittsfield, MA. Want to participate? Pick your country, state or region, sign up, and get busy studying and preparing your presentation! Sign up details below.

Where in western Massachusetts can families sample international cuisine, learn about world history, examine foreign landmarks, and collect passport stamps? The annual Geography Expo offers all this and more – and now is the time to become a part of this unique educational celebration!

Held on Thursday, May 5th, 2016 at the Berkshire Athenaeum from 6-8pm, the Geography Expo showcases the work of self-directed learners from all over western Massachusetts. Participants spend weeks (or even months!) independently researching a country, culture, region, or moment in history, and create museum-like displays to share what they have learned and to educate visitors to the event about their chosen topic. Displays can teach visitors about a topic through text, images, and/or models, and can also include experiential components – giving young learners the opportunity to imagine the best way in which to teach others about what they’ve learned. Common experiential learning elements to expo displays include samples of traditional foods and crafts or games derived from a specific culture.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Setting our Watches to the Geological View of Time

There’s Gold in Our Hills!

Gold in Mt. Tom anyone?

I met a person who was panning for gold in one of our hilltown brooks this summer who knew a lot about geology—at least enough to know that gold is produced by volcanic activity. We don’t think of our biome as having volcanic bones; Iceland, Hawaii, and the Pacific Rim come to mind, but Huntington?

Look closely, though, and you’ll find evidence of igneous geology all over the place: from Mounts Holyoke and Tom which were bubbling lava when hungry raptorsauri ran wild here 200,000,000 years ago, to the weirdly eroded lava ash boulders people place out by their driveways in Goshen, to the cocoa puff pumice balls that float in eddies just downriver from the Turners Falls dams. Read the rest of this entry »

License Plates Tell a Story & Inspire Learning in Kids

Social Studies on the Road

License plates… part of a greater story.

Watching for interesting license plates is a great way to keep kids entertained during road trips – with so many people traveling, the highways are filled with out-of-staters whose plates provide a great distraction from backseat boredom. Simply teaching kids to search for letters of the alphabet, colors, or specific digits can be enough to add some excitement to a somewhat monotonous drive, but expanding plate-searching games to become a family hobby can turn summer fun into full-time learning!

License plates reflect unique traits about their state’s culture, landscape, or history – each state’s design says something about the place, whether it’s subtly hinted at through color and design or highlighted with colorful images. Arizona’s standard plate has a backdrop of a beautiful desert scene, while Ohio’s new license plates feature rolling hills, farms, and a small city. Some plates remind us of our state’s claims to fame, like Georgia’s peach plate, Maine’s specialty lobster and moose plates, and the Wyoming cowboy plate. Even the somewhat plain Massachusetts red, white, and blue plate represents the state’s place in American history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Social Studies on the Road

The License Plate Game

By examining license plates, kids can learn a lot about the 50 states! Discussing with kids the reasons behind each state’s design can help them learn about geography, economics, and social studies, and can help them to develop their mental image of the differences in landscape around the country. They’ll learn to think critically about geographic locations by wondering why New England doesn’t produce citrus like the south does, and why the northwest coast of the country isn’t known for it’s lobster like the northeast coast is.

Watching for interesting license plates is a great way to keep kids entertained during road trips – with so many people traveling, the highways are filled with out-of-staters whose plates provide a great distraction from backseat boredom. Simply teaching kids to search for letters of the alphabet, colors, or specific digits can be enough to add some excitement to a somewhat monotonous drive, but expanding plate-searching games to become a family hobby can turn summer fun into full-time learning!

License plates reflect something unique about their state’s culture, landscape, or history – each state’s design says something about the place, whether it’s subtly hinted at through color and design or highlighted with colorful images. Arizona’s standard plate has a backdrop of a beautiful desert scene, while Ohio’s new license plates feature rolling hills, farms, and a small city. Some plates remind us of our state’s claims to fame, like Georgia’s peach plate, Maine’s specialty lobster and moose plates, and the Wyoming cowboy plate. Even the somewhat plain Massachusetts red, white, and blue plate represents the state’s place in American history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Family Geography Expo Open to All!

Discover the World!
Family Geography Expo at the
Berkshire Athenaeum on April 5th

Geography Expo at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield on Thursday, April 5th. Sign up to participate or just come visit. Students visiting the expo can discover countries worldwide, learning about the global geography, world languages, cultural differences, food and more!

Learn about international cultures together as a family by participating in the annual Geography Expo, hosted at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA, sponsored by the 4-H Earth Stars Club and the Berkshire County Homeschool Community.  The event gives kids the chance to delve into learning about a country and then share what they’ve learned about the culture, customs, etc. of the place with the community.

Students are asked to sign up for a country in advance (to avoid duplication).  Then, they’ll create a display that works as a learning tool for visitors to the expo.  Visitors will be able to “tour the world” and visit the display for each country.  Kids can offer samples of traditional foods, play music from their country, or let visitors examine objects that they’ve collected from their country.

Visitors will also be given a paper passport where they can collect stamps from each country they visit- students can create their own stamp, sticker, or other marker to represent their country!

The expo is a fantastic learning opportunity for kids, no matter whether they are participating or just visiting.  Students representing countries will, obviously, learn all about their country- from the activity they can learn to appreciate and respect cultural differences.  Students visiting the expo can discover countries worldwide, learning about the global geography, world languages, cultural differences, food and more!

The event is an excellent supplement to the studies of geography, history, and culture that kids get in school.  The Geography Expo takes place on Thursday, April 5th from 5-7pm at the Bekshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA and is sponsored by the 4-H Earth Stars Club and the Berkshire County Homeschool Community. To sign up as a participant, or for more information, contact organizer Teresa O’Brient: berkshierra@aol.com, 413-298-0099.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Woodley Wonder Works]

GIS Day During National Geography Awareness Week at WSU

Westfield State University ‘Discovers the World’ through Geographic Information Systems

Braun, a Geography and Regional Planning/Environmental Science Professor, who also acts as the Campus GIS Coordinator, emphasizes of the importance of understanding modern technology. “Many people still think geography means drawing maps and memorizing the atlas. Today, we make maps using a GIS and we use maps more than ever as tools,” Braun said, citing that the power outage maps seen during last week’s storm were from GIS.g “I hope that folks realize that this technology is already part of our daily lives and that we can, fairly easily, use this technology ourselves,” he said. “GIS and the related technologies (GPS, Google Earth, Smart Phones) are cool and fun to use and give us a way to hopefully get folks interested in geography and regional planning.”

Westfield State University will host GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Day free events on Wednesday, November 16th and Thursday, November 17th as part of National Geography Awareness Week, inviting high school students and teachers to attend.

More than 10,000 organizations and 80 countries hold local events for GIS Day, which illustrates how GIS technology can be applied to our everyday lives. Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Google Earth, and Smart Phones are commonly used, related technologies.

On Wednesday from 7-9pm and Thursday from 5-7pm, there will be several events, including informal workshops teachings on how to use Google Earth to create 3D maps with embedded videos and photographs. These will take place in Bates Hall 022 and seats are limited by computer availability. Contact Carsten Braun at cbraun@westfield.ma.edu to reserve your seat.

A GPS Treasure Hunt around campus from 12-5pm and a GIST Center Open House from 3-5pm in Bates 022 also will be offered on Thursday.

All events are free and open to the public.

Learn more about GIS in the short informative video:

All Invited to Participate in a Community Geography Expo

Participants Invited to Community Geography Expo
Sunday, May 22nd, 2-4pm
Stockbridge Library

What is the expo? Coordinator Teresa O’Brient writes:

All are welcomed to participate in the 3rd annual community geography expo at the Stockbridge Library. All attendees receive a passport to have "stamped" as they visit each country (table).

It’s sort of like a science fair for geography. Students choose a country, study it on their own, (or whole families can do it together, or friends might do a country together…. any combination is fine), but usually a student will do it on their own. A table will be available at the expo for the student to show his/her work. It’s that simple. Usually, the student will get a tri-fold board (like the ones available at the Dollar Store or at Staples) and glue pictures, maps, information about that country right on the board. Sometimes students make things that pertain to the country. For example, when my son did Holland last year he made a paper mache windmill. Sometimes students collect or borrow things from the country to put on display. For example, my son borrowed wooden shoes from someone we know who once lived in Amsterdam. Sometimes the student will bring or make food from the country. Simple food is best because there’s no kitchen available. When my older son did Ireland the first year we did this, he made Irish soda bread and people who came to see his table got to have a taste.

This is the 3rd year we’ll be holding the expo. It’s mostly just home schoolers doing it, but anyone is welcome to do it. Last year we had a woman from France who now lives in Stockbridge (and is in her 80’s) present France. In the past we have also had high school exchange students come and set up a table about their countries. Unfortunately, because this year we are holding it in May, most of the exchange students are already back home for the year so I don’t think we will have any exchange students at this one

We make and hand out “passports” to folks attending the expo so they can go around and visit each country (table) and have their passport “stamped.” This is to get the younger kids in attendance involved and interested. I’ve listed the countries that people have already signed up to do below. We don’t mind if students do the same country as someone else, but we strive for variety. Please feel free to contact me at berksierra@aol.com if you have any questions.

Countries already registered: Egypt, Cuba or Belgium, Brazil, Estonia, Columbia, France, Guatemala, and Ethiopia.

Photo credit: (ccl) D Sharon Pruitt

Does Your Family Use Road Maps in the Car?

Diane Flynn Keith, author of Carschooling writes:

I am working on a new edition of my book, Carschooling and updating some of the resources. It’s been fairly smooth going but I just got to Chapter 7 on Geography and am stumped. Here’s why…

In 2002, when the book was originally published, people used road maps in the car – not Google Maps, Mapquest, and GPS devices.

There are a number of learning activities in the book that rely on the use of a road map to help kids learn to navigate as well as learn some geography.

Here are my questions:

  • Do any of you with children ages 4-17 still use road maps in the car? Would you appreciate ideas that call for using road maps to help kids learn?
  • If not, do you use any of the modern technological wonders to help your kids learn navigation and geography? If so, how?
  • If you share an activity that uses modern technology here, be sure to include your name as you would like credit in the book. Anyone, whose idea is included, will receive a free copy of the next edition of Carschooling.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Diane, editor@homefires.com

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