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Taking the Kids

Where in the World?

November 20, 1994|EILEEN OGINTZ | Ogintz is author of "Taking the Kids to the Great Southwest," "Taking the Kids to Sunny Southern California" and "Taking the Kids to Northern California," (HarperCollins West, $9.90 paperback)

OK, parents, put on your thinking caps and try this geography quiz: Which state has the 15 highest mountains in the United States?

If you guessed Colorado as I did, you're wrong. The answer is Alaska, which is also home to Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America.

Do you know which state in the Lower 48 borders just one other state? It's Maine.

Don't feel too badly if you were stumped by the questions from the kids' mystery / geography game "Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?"

"No one knows all the answers," said Mike Libbee, a geography professor at Central Michigan University and a leader in encouraging parents to get involved in teaching children geography. "Geography is something you can keep learning all your life. Besides, parents probably know more geography than they think--plenty to share with the kids."

Libbee is so enthusiastic about families exploring geography together that he's spearheading a new National Geographic Society-sponsored effort for families around the country to try at home. Called the Family Geography Challenge, a pilot program for schools, designed to involve parents in their children's geography education, will debut in Los Angeles in early 1995. (For more information, call Joan Clemons 310-825-7053.)

"Geography is understanding places and the relationship between places, society and the environment," said Ruth Shirey, a college professor and executive director of the National Council for Geographic Education. "We live in such an interdependent world," Shirey said. "It's terribly important for children to learn about other places."

Educators across the country agree. A new set of optional guidelines for school districts and parents, the National Geography Standards for teaching geography from kindergarten through high school, have just been announced. It's the result of an unprecedented two-year collaborative effort by the American Geographical Society, the Assn. of American Geographers, the National Council for Geographic Education and the National Geographic Society. As a result of the guidelines--that were announced last month--students, parents and teachers will know exactly what they are expected to learn about the subject. (The 276-page "Geography for Life: National Geography Standards" can be ordered for $9 and the 32-page Executive Summary for $6 from the National Geographic Society, 800-368-2728.)

Debbie Robertson's sixth-graders in College Station, Tex., love tossing around globe beach balls and talking about different places. "The trick is that it all has to be hands-on and fun and then they eat it up," said Robertson, the mother of two teen-agers.

This Hanukkah and Christmas season, there's never been more to choose from--everything from fast-paced CD-ROM computer games to board games and puzzles aimed at helping kids--and parents--have a good time learning more about the world around them.

Debbie Robertson always keeps a world puzzle going in her classroom. For jigsaw lovers, the American Map Corp. offers a 500-piece world, the United States and the planet for $11.95 that should keep everyone busy on winter nights (call 212-398-1222 to order).

The National Geographic Society devotes a third of its holiday catalogue--10 pages--to products aimed at kids. A top seller this year is the $24.95 jewelry-making kit inspired by cultures from China to Egypt. (Call 800-447-0647 for information.)

Two best-sellers highly recommended by teachers, despite their $99.95 price tag, are the award-winning GeoSafari and GeoSafari Jr. electronic games made by Educational Insights. GeoSafari is used in schools across the country to teach geography. (Call Rand McNally, 800-333-0136, Ext. 2111).

Another winner is the CD-ROM version of the popular TV show and game, "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?," including "Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?" and the junior detective edition (ages 5-8) of the game. The games are designed to allow children to track the outlaw Carmen from exotic locale to familiar territory. From Broderbund, they retail for roughly $50.


Taking the Kids appears the first and third week of every month.

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