Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How can I support my child in Geography? 5 ideas for parents

I was asked this question at a parents’ evening last week and this blog post attempts to provide some effective answers.  Rather than giving a blow-by-blow description of every geographical concept and ‘fact’, a difficult task considering the huge scale and complexity of the world, the ideas below will provide a fun, affordable and interesting grounding in Geography.

1. Buy a globe or large world map
Globes are an affordable and ideal birthday or Christmas gift.  They are fun to look at and provide a wealth of geographical data.  Just by looking at a globe your child will improve their locational knowledge and will probably cause them to ask the powerful question, “What’s it like there?” Knowing where places are in relation to each other will greatly support your child’s geography learning in class as they will be able to set places in their context.  Another advantages of globes is that they don't distort the size and shape of land masses like maps do.  Owning a globe will help your child to develop an essential ‘global’ perspective!  (pun intended!)

One advantage of a using a large world map is that they contain more detail and it's easier to read place names.  If your child is a visual learner they will learn so much just by looking at a world map and will discover new things each time they look at it.  I have been fascinated by world maps for many years and still discover new things myself! A useful and affordable map is the Michelin world map available from Amazon (£6.82). My favourite globe is the Hugg-a-planet (£19.99) from Stanfords.  You can also purchase more detailed and expensive light up physical/political globes (£44.95).  

2. Buy an atlas.  
There are many affordable atlases on the market.  I recommend purchasing the Longman Student Atlas (£13.99). It would be a fantastic gift for your child as it contains a sheer wealth of geographical data in the form of world, regional and national maps, thematic maps e.g. population distribution, and an introduction to key geographical ideas. Owning and using an atlas will do wonders for your child's Geography!

3. Go outdoors and explore.  

Exploration is the essence of Geography i.e. what is that place like over there? Geography satisfies a natural curiosity about the world and places. The best geographical experience children can have to get out into the real world and experience it firsthand.  When I was a boy my mother took myself and by brother to some beautiful places both local and distant.  This experience of travel greatly helped me in Geography because when opened a textbook I could say, “I’ve been there, I’ve seen that!” Exploration can stretch (or shrink!) with your budget.  You can explore your local area for free by going for walks or bike rides. Britain has so many inspirational places to visit.  My favourite place in the world is the Gower Peninsula in South Wales.  Going there with my school on a week-long field trip at the age of 11 inspired me massively and gave me a lifelong passion for the subject.  Foreign travel to more exotic locations will also greatly enhance your child's geographical knowledge. Bethany School Geography department is running an inspirational visit to Iceland in April 2013.  This would be an expensive but life-long educational experience for your child.

BBC Earth - Frozen Planet Official Calendar 2012 4. Watch Geography on TV.
Watching the current BBC1 Frozen Planet series narrated by David Attenborough will open your child's eyes up to truly awe-inspiring and exotic locations in the Arctic and Antarctic.  Enjoying series like these will help you and your children to develop a more accurate sense of place i.e. what are these places really like? Knowing what places like is an essential geographical concept.  

5. Follow Bethanygeog Twitter site. 
As a department whenever we read an interesting story about ‘Geography in the News’ we post a link to the story in a ‘tweet’.  Reading our tweets is a cheap and very effective way for your child to broaden their geographical knowledge. There is no need to create a Twitter account.  Your child can find us just by googling 'bethanygeog'. It will also highlight to them the fact that Geography is a dynamic subject and is constantly changing.

These five ideas will greatly support your child in their geographical learning.  You can pick and choose from any of them and each one by itself will be highly effective and enjoyable not only for them but also for you!