Geography: Teaching with the Stars – Update, Fall 2011
By Matt Patton
Published: September 12, 2011
SAN MARCOS: The purpose of Geography: Teaching with the Stars is to contribute substantially to geographic education in middle/junior high and high school. Since its inception in 2009, this purpose has remained true. Currently, there are two units available: Globalization and Watershed Management. The third unit, Water and Food Production is in the final stages of production and should be available soon. A fourth unit, focusing on tidewaters, is in the beginning stages of production.
Each program features in-class demonstrations by master teachers, lesson plans, supplementary materials, content enhancement piece videos, and commentaries by mentor teachers on the pedagogical strategies used in the classroom demonstrations. Also available are the facilitator’s guides, which are designed for leading both on-line and face-to-face professional development workshops using Teaching with the Stars materials, and all print materials, such as graphics, lesson plans, and classroom activities.
Specifically, at the core of the project is a media-based classroom demonstration of high quality teaching strategies performed by the “star” that will demonstrate to teachers how geographic perspectives, concepts, and skills together with relevant instructional and assessment strategies can be used to improve students’ ability to understand and deal with the geographical aspect of important issues that affect their daily lives.
Exemplary classroom lessons serve a critical role in the professional development activities in this project. These lessons are made available to project participants to use in their own classrooms. These lessons are designed to support relevant national and state geography standards.
In addition, there are three online forums available for participants to share resources, ideas, and to ask questions of project personnel and content/pedagogical area experts.
The program has been featured at several conferences including the National Conference on Geographic Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, the Association of American Geographers, the Texas Council for the Social Studies, the Michigan Council for the Social Studies, the Applied Geography Conference, and the Friends of Geography Conference.
For more information, please visit the Teaching with the Stars website, www.geoteach.org.
2011 Geography Summer Academy
By Matt Patton
Published: October 5, 2011
SAN MARCOS: The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education at Texas State University-San Marcos partnered with seven Texas school districts to offer a seven day, in residency Geography Summer Academy that provided high school teachers and students with the opportunity to experience “hands-on” teaching and learning of physical and human geography, as well as to explore real-world examples of human-environment interaction.
During the Spring 2011, advertising and application materials for the “Teaching and Learning Physical and Human Geography in an Outdoor Laboratory” project were distributed to educators across the state of Texas, utilizing Texas Alliance communication networks such as the organizational website, listserv, and biannual newsletter. Students that are traditionally underrepresented in the field of geography were recruited to participate in the workshop.
A total of ten teachers, including three teacher consultants (Hagen Streckel from Copperas Cove High School, Josh Brake and Trent Wenzel from New Braunfels High School), and forty students from seven different Texas high schools were accepted as participants. These individuals made up ten different teams, with each team consisting of one teacher and three or more students. Participating schools include Copperas Cove High School, Frenship High School – Lubbock, LBJ High School – Laredo, Jack C. Hays High School – Buda, Los Fresnos High School, Juan Seguin High School – Arlington, and Clemens High School – Schertz.
Using the Greater Austin-San Antonio Region as a field laboratory, academy participants gained geographic literacy knowledge and real world problem-solving skills while they were engaged in outdoor group research projects related to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and the Texas College Readiness Standards. During the week long Summer Academy all of the teachers participated in either face-to-face or online professional development workshops on watershed management.
One teacher from each workshop group was selected to teach a lesson on watershed management. The students were then split into two groups and each of the teachers implemented their lesson plans. A pre- and post-test were given to the students to determine if there was a statistically significant difference in student learning outcomes based on a model of teacher professional development.
Over the course of the week, participants went on several field excursions. Included were trips to the River Systems Institute, Aquarena Springs Center, Canyon Lake-Gorge, San Marcos Treatment Plant, Austin-Hornsby Bend, and Natural Bridge Caverns.
Current grant-funded projects include a four year minority recruiting and technology training in geography and science education during the summer. The largest, current project of the Center is Geography: Teaching with the Stars, a 22 program web-based professional development series. Each program offers an in class demonstration by an exemplary teacher, commentary on teaching strategies by a mentor teacher, a content enhancement/enrichment segment, all on current issues with strong geographic dimensions. These programs are being funded by a consortium, including the United States Department of Education, several foundations including the NGS Education Foundation, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, and the Dodge Jones Foundation. Several State Alliances for Geographic Education have joined the Center in the development and use of these programs. The production work is being carried out by the Agency for Instructional Technology in Bloomington, Indiana.