The first humbling experience for today: an interactive map

Posted by on 02.21.09 | 2 Comments
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Thanks to Adele for always sending challenging things to think about. This week’s humbling submission is an interactive map of the middle-east and northern Africa. You ‘just’ have to click and drag the names of the countries to their rightful place, and they fit in like puzzle pieces.

I’ve always enjoyed history, geography and even cartography. I still only got about 50% right on the first try. This is discouraging. I really did know all the European, middle eastern and African countries (albeit there’s been some changes, lo these many years ago) in the 7th grade.

Maybe that was because I had both fear of and a little crush on Mr. F. who was a tough middle school geography and social studies teacher back in upstate Pennsylvania in the late 60′s. He had a birthmark on his right cheek that he said reminded him of Afghanistan. I remember thinking that was a disturbing but somehow disarming characterization of the mark, and it sent a little chill down my spine (that could have been 13 year old hormones, granted). His Afghanistan-cheek enticed me to look at the birthmark on the inside of my left hand more closely and decide that it looks a lot like the outline of Asia. But I digress.

The discouraging part is that I’m probably above average in knowledge of the history, culture and nuances of this region that is so intimately connected with the rest of the world in religious and socio-political importance. And I can’t even get the names of the countries in the correct places. What might this say about our national investment in understanding the critical issues of this region? Maybe it’s just that I’m a slacker (not a stretch, there!) and the rest of the world is more advanced. I’m trusting that is reality, but not really counting on it.

And the other discouraging part is that I didn’t remember what I knew about world geography. How might we make this important piece of learning more potent to our children? I’m convinced that traveling to places very different from where we are comfortable is vital to getting how big…and small the world is. But, barring that, how can we keep the freshness of a 6th or 7th grader’s interest in and curiosity about how others live and move and have their being…throughout our lifespan? I can’t think of anything more important than this vital curiosity, but it’s severely lacking in American culture.

Try out this site and the linked ones to it, related to resources for teaching about the wars in this area of the world.

Click here for the dastardly interactive map.

Rethinking Schools – Just For Fun – Map Game

Would love to hear from you. How did you do on it? Hopefully lightyears better than I.

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