It’s easy enough to understand the importance of hands-on geography in the younger years, but it is equally important to understand why hands-on geography is important in middle and high school.
Having one child who rolls his eyes at the mere mention of hands-on and prefers taking a hands-off approach and another child who fails to comprehend anything unless it’s hands-on, I want to share tips on why it’s important to keep homeschool geography hands-on.
Hands-on geography requires participation or collaboration.
The tendency when teaching this age group is to assign a boring text, drill and kill and then move on.
Geography is a subject that is fascinating because it is not only about describing the earth, but it includes pictures, maps, diagrams and it includes a description of life here on earth.
It is a subject that is overflowing with possibilities because to some extent it also includes man’s interaction with the resources of the earth.
With all of these facets to study about geography, collaboration gives the middle and high school student the teaching reins.
Hands-on geography requires active and not passive participation or studying in isolation.
My sons have taken the teaching reins as we have studied North Star Geography. That is one reason too why we didn’t just crack open the curriculum and study the first page.
When my boys studied together, they skipped around to hone in on a part of geography that interested them first.
Guess what? You can do this when studying geography because geography covers so many topics. You can have several trails in geography and decide which topics interests you.
Contrary to what some people may think, hands-on learning shifts the focus of learning to the responsibility of your child.
Middle and high school years are about teaching them more independence and project learning is one of the best ways to do that.
That is one reason we use North Star Geography because it has projects that foster independent learning skills.
I will continue to use North Star Geography, which is for middle and high school kids, with Tiny now that Mr. Awesome 2015 is about ready to graduate.
Our middle and high school students just don’t know geography.
Just because a child is in middle or high school doesn’t mean his learning style has changed. We are in a visual world and visual learners are valued now more than ever.
Too, the conventional method of throwing a map to outline at the student and a textbook to read is not working. More and more students, including homeschoolers are graduating with little to no knowledge of geography.
Visual learners who learn best through hands-on still need projects and activities at the high school level. Rote memorization does not work for all kids. We need to abandon the notion that hands-on geography is not for mature learners.
We want to avoid turning out middle and high school students who are geography illiterate and conventional methods are not working. Returning to what did work in the elementary grades which was hands-on learning without doing babyish projects is key to helping our upper grade kids make meaningful connections.
Hands-on geography instills a greater awareness and fellow feeling for other cultures and historical activities.
When we studied about the American Civil War, geography took on another whole meaning when we tied it to our family roots where our ancestors fought in the battles.
It is one thing to read about history and geography in a dry text book and another to visit the physical area and walk the grounds.
Connecting geography with a physical location helps a middle and high school student to develop higher critical thinking skills.
For example, after studying together and creating maps of the battlefields during the American Civil War it lead to discussions about whether or not man learned anything about history from that bloody war?
At the high school level, my boys have formed strong opinions about the war and I am able to pass on our family values. If they studied this in isolation, they might not have reached some of the same conclusions.
Middle and high school should be a time for activities and projects that are selective and purposeful.
It’s true that many times I didn’t insist that my son who preferred a hands-off approach to join us, however, many times I did insist and not give him a choice.
Our high school kids still need guidance, direction and interaction with us. They are preparing for adulthood, which means they are not ready yet.
I am so grateful that North Star Geography sees the value of hands-on learning in the upper grades and I will continue to use it with Tiny for the next couple of years.
When I asked both of my oldest sons what they remembered about geography, it never was about a book, but it is always about a hands-on project we worked on together.
Also, you may like to read:
- Hands-On Geography Activity: Make a Pangaea Puzzle
- Hands-On Geography: Australia Awesome and Deadly Animal Art
- Hands-on Geography: Longitude/Latitude Mapmaking Activity
Hugs and love ya,