Global Perspectives in a New World

Global education and multicultural studies frequently vie for attention in the social studies curriculum. Global education highlights interrelationships; multicultural studies emphasize distinctiveness and domestic diversity. Given that we are neither a world of isolated ethnic systems nor a planet of homogeneous peoples, both perspectives are needed. In this issue, the focus is on developing global perspectives. A global perspective is not any one view of the world, but the capacity to analyze and to understand the world from a variety of perspectives. The understanding of geographic concepts is implicit within global education. Below are resources teachers can use to develop an understanding of geographic concepts within an ever-changing world.

Themes of Geography

Geography plays a prominent role in the elementary school curriculum. One teacher resource that is not new, but continues to be a classic for teachers who want to know specifically what to teach and how to teach it to young children is K-6 Geography: Themes, Key Ideas, and Learning Opportunities (Geographic Education National Implementation Project, 1987). Based on the five themes of geography, geographic concepts and suggested learning outcomes are detailed for each grade level.

The five themes are:
• Location: Position on the Earth’s Surface
• Place: Physical and Human Characteristics
• Relationships Within Places: Humans and Environments
• Movement: Humans Interacting on the Earth
• Regions: How They Change and Form

Within each of these themes, key ideas are addressed. For example, under the theme of Movement: Humans Interacting on the Earth, the key ideas include “movement demonstrates interdependence,” “movement involves linkages between places,” and “patterns of movement involve people, ideas, and products.” To address this theme, kindergartners can name places outside the home community where family members have shopped; first graders can describe routes they follow to go from home to school and nearby places; and second graders can compare routes and vehicles used to move people and products today and long ago.

Each of the key ideas is listed briefly but with enough information for the classroom teacher or curriculum developer to organize a sequential geography program. In only 47 pages, a complete K-6 geography program is outlined. The central focus for each grade level, such as communities, may vary according to each state’s curriculum, but the learning opportunities can be adjusted accordingly. For example, in California the sixth grade focus is on ancient civilizations, whereas this publication deals with South America, Eurasia, and Africa. There is still enough relevant material to make K-6 Geography: Themes, Key Ideas. and Learning Opportunities usable, especially in linking past history to present-day geography. For only $6, this is a valuable teacher resource. It is also useful as a practical social studies methods text.

Posters to Teach Geography

What is Geography? (Poster Education, 1993) is a poster that clearly states the five themes of geography and illustrates the text with pertinent photographic examples. Questions that geographers might ask are posed for each of the themes and key words, such as exact and relative location. Illustrations depict New York City, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Alaska’s oil pipeline, and the Rocky Mountains.

Poster Education carries many other posters which can add a visual dimension to geographic concepts. The posters are generally 22” by 28”, laminated, and accompanied by lesson plans designed specifically for the five themes of geography. These lesson plans, filled with practical hands-on activities, make this a useful teacher resource. They are refreshingly brief, but contain enough ideas for interpreting the poster and suggested group activities to get students involved. Some examples follow.

The poster of Jerusalem is a full-color photograph of the city that is holy to three major religions. The golden Dome of the Rock, sacred to Muslims, is shown in the foreground; near the center rises the Christian Basilica of the Dormition Abbey; and on the hillsides in the background are the lights of the capital city of the Jewish state of Israel. The teacher’s edition provides information relating the five themes of geography to the Holy Land. Students work in pairs with an atlas and a black line master (included) to label locations. Background content information is provided on the history of Jerusalem since 1948. An example of a group problem solving activity states that Israel has two inland seas and students are to determine around which sea they will develop farmland. Choices for the selection and rejection of the seas are to be explained.
The poster of Mecca shows a crowd at Hajj surrounding the Ka’bah, the sacred black rock of Islam. The text explains that a devout Muslin must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his lifetime.

Zaire Village illustrates how villagers have adapted to their environment in this tropical rainforest by building their huts against a steep hill. The lesson plan, appropriate for upper elementary and middle school, focuses on Zaire’s economic future. Students use almanacs to research information and conclude that Zaire is a developing nation. Nairobi shows a photograph of Kenya’s mile-high capital of 850,000 people, not so unlike cities in the United States.

Most of the posters sell for $12 but are more economically priced when they are purchased as sets. For a free catalog contact Poster Education at (800) 858-0969.

Activities to Develop Early Geography Skills

Hands-On Geography (Buckley & Leacock, 1993) is a resource book for use by teachers in kindergarten through grade 3. Activities and reproducibles are provided to give primary children practical experiences with maps and related geographical concepts. The book is divided into two parts, Getting Started and Being a Geographer. The first section introduces children to ways of viewing the world around them while the second section includes more sophisticated skills such as making a model community or choosing a site for a business. Each lesson provides information on materials needed and a step-by-step guide as well as suggestions for ways to link the study of geography across the curriculum. A full-color, two-sided poster is included which features an imaginary town called Geotown. Based on the five themes of geography, this resource is very practical for teachers of young children.

Reference Tools for Visual Learners

The desk atlas has become a standard in many classrooms. Unfortunately, it is expensive to purchase updated editions of resources which reflect our changing world. A new trend is toward encyclopedic reference books which give essential facts about countries of the world using color illustrations, maps, diagrams, and photographs that complement the text. These do not replace a traditional atlas, but they do add a new dimension that attracts children.

The Children’s Atlas of People and Places (Wood, 1993) invites children to travel the world and visit people in far-off lands. An inexpensive paperback, the book is divided into sections of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, North and Central America, South America, and the Pacific. Within each chapter, the nations of the world are introduced in cluster groups.

In South America, for example, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia are presented together on a two-page spread which includes a map along with pictures of an open-air market in Otavolo, reed boats lining the shore of Lake Titicaca, a religious festival in Ecuador, Aymara Indians dancing at a wedding celebration in southern Peru, and a roadside vendor selling oranges in Bolivia. An inset box describes how coffee beans are grown and harvested while a second inset box contains a photograph and description of Machu Picchu. Also included are flags of each nation as well as a globe highlighting the location of this region. The accompanying text explains that the Andes stretch down through the center of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, and dominate the western part of Bolivia. Tropical rainforests cover the eastern part of all four countries. Bolivia is landlocked while the other three countries all have coastal plains to the west of the Andes. A brief description of pertinent information about each of the countries follows. It is truly amazing to capture so many details together within an attractive, colorful format. Throughout the entire book, over 200 photographs are used to give children an introduction to the world’s rich variety of lands and peoples. At $10.95, this visual excursion of the world is a treasure.

Countries of the World (Williams, 1993) is a visual fact-finder book of essential facts and figures about the countries in each continent as well as the cultures and lifestyles of the peoples who live there. Short text essays are accompanied by quick-reference data files and political and relief maps. Drawings and actual photographs are used to highlight the text. A section on cultures provides factual details on topics such as languages, religions, and celebrations. A handy glossary of terms and gazetteer are included. The focus is mainly on explanatory charts, diagrams, and maps. The factfinder is available in paperback for $9.95 or hardcover for $15.95.

Each of the above books contains limited information pertinent to vital problems confronting the world today. In The Children’s Atlas of People and Places, the section titled A Changing World briefly mentions some of the problems such as drought, air pollution, and a hole in the ozone layer. This is followed by two pages which look toward the future with solutions such as recycling and alternative energy sources. Countries of the World provides information about the world’s resources. One section deals with farming, material and minerals, energy, trade and industry, money and debt, and education and health. Maps are included along with many graphs and charts. More factual in its focus, this book is like a visual almanac, whereas the former book is more of a pictorial tour of the world. Although these books claim to address some of the world’s vital problems, such as environmental issues and overpopulation, the information is brief and is not a central focus. The strength of each book is with its visual presentation and factual information rather than with its treatment of global issues.

The Kingfisher Reference Atlas (Williams, 1993) is an alphabetically arranged guide to over 150 countries of the world. Essential facts and figures, statistical charts and graphs, and more than 160 relief maps are included. It does not have photographs like the above mentioned books, but is a quick reference guide with profiles of the countries of the world. If you do not have convenient access to a computer database program, this text provides a colorful alternative to the Nations of the World reference found in almanacs.

Mother Earth’s Counting Book (Clements, 1992) is designed to help very young children view a portrait of the whole Earth at once. Instead of using her fingers to count, Mother Earth uses oceans, continents, islands, and peoples, etc. The engaging paintings by Lonnie Sue Johnson are filled with imagination and add a richness to this simple counting book. Children see that there are only four oceans and only seven continents, but there are “six deserts and many more,” and “seven seas and many more.” For those who want to dig deeper, there is a brief reference section. Over 108 different things are named in the book, and it is done in a manner simple enough to capture the interest of a young child while providing ample information for older children. This resource will be helpful for beginning the development of global perspectives.

Cultures of the World

Many resources are available to help children learn about the cultures of the world. This section will feature two resources which are of particular interest; the first one because it includes hands-on artifacts, and the second because it provides information in an appealing magazine format.

Educational Culture Kits

Culture kits from Ethnic Arts and Facts (a company created by Susan Drexler, a teacher with 25 years of teaching experience in the Oakland Public Schools) draw upon Drexler’s anthropological on-site studies. Her first cultural kits, still the most popular, are Africa Kit A which includes a traditional drum, batik art, carved ebony comb, African hut replica, and a Zairian mask, and Africa Kit B with kanga (traditional cloth with proverbs in Swahili), traditional stool, thumb piano, ankle bells, and a mock elephant hair bracelet. Each kit includes an historical/ethnographic overview for the student and the teacher written by well-known scholars who have lived within the culture, artifact descriptions and explanations, outline and topographical maps, suggested lesson plans, bibliography and references, and curriculum worksheets. An individual Africa kit sells for $95, or you can purchase both kits along with a traditional woven carrying bag for $169. Additional artifacts such as an East African corn husk woman and a Berber doll in traditional dress, and practical life objects such as a masai spear or talking drums, are available separately from Burkina Faso.

All Ethnic Arts and Facts cultural objects are authentic artifacts made in villages around the world. Because each is a one-of-a-kind artifact, no two pieces are exactly alike. The cultural objects are not designed to be used as toys and should be used with adult supervision. Additional kits are available for Peru, Guatemala, and the Huichol Indians of Mexico. China, the newest kit, contains a traditional doll, a Chinese flute, stone rubbing, traditional paper cuts, a calligraphy set, and a culture kit resource packet. Books, cassette tapes of authentic music, and musical instruments can also be purchased. Ethnic Arts and Facts can be contacted at P.O. Box 20550, Oakland, CA 94620 or (510) 465-0451. These kits provide primary source materials to bring the world into your classroom.

Faces, The Magazine About People

Cobblestone Publishers has been providing well-researched and well-written articles for young readers for many years through Cobblestone, a magazine about American History for grades 4 to 9. With the world “getting smaller,” there is a need to help children to develop an understanding of and a respect for the peoples of the world. Cobblestone addresses this goal through Faces, another periodical for grades 4 to 9, published nine times a year. Working closely with the Anthropology Department of the American Museum of Natural History, Faces introduces its readers to the lifestyles, beliefs, and customs of other peoples. A recent issue, Bread, Staff of Life (Yoder, 1994), offers interesting articles on bread as a basic food in Ancient Egypt, the importance of bread in many ceremonies around the world, and a handy guide for sorting grains such as wheat, barley, and oats. Children are sure to be interested in the article on “Mexico Dead Bread,” complete with a description of the El Dia de Los Muertos festival and a recipe for making dead bread. Although the photographs are in black and white, the magazine is appealing, especially in the photographic essay titled “Global Fare.” Classroom subscriptions (minimum of 5) cost $12.95 each per year. Back issues are available for $3.95, or you may purchase a classroom set with 15 copies or more of a single issue for $3.50 each.

The teacher’s guide inside the back cover makes Bread, Staff of Life a helpful resource. The new guide also comes with theme packs. Each theme pack is packaged in a slipcase containing nine different issues and costs $36.95. For example, the Asia theme pack includes the issues of Living in the Himalayas, Indonesia, Japan, India, and others. The teacher’s guide contains discussion questions, vocabulary lists, art ideas, student projects, writing assignments, and other suggestions. Faces, a winner of the Parents’ Choice Award, makes a nice addition to multicultural studies.

A Child’s View of the World

Dear World (Temple, 1993) is a heart-warming compendium of essays and letters written by children of the world. It contains copies of original writings and illustrations that reveal how children feel about their environment. Photographs of some of the authors are included. The book “gives voice” to our children as they address their concerns, fears, and hopes for a better world. Temple met with children who had seen and felt acid rain; oil spills; radiation; air, water, and noise pollution; deforestation; an expanding dessert; and the effects of war on nature. He told them that they each had something important to say. Temple worked with about 40-45 children in each of the 36 areas he visited. Children generally finished their letters and drawing within a 2-hour timeblock. This book is an example of global education at its best. The interdependence of our world and the commonality of our problems are concerns of children everywhere.

Buckley, S., & Leacock, E. (1993). Hands-on geography. New York: Scholastic Professional Books. ISBN 0-590-49351-5. Softcover. $15.95.
Clements, A. (1992). Mother earth’s counting book. (L.S. Johnson, Illus.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-88708-138-X. Hardcover. $15.95.
Geographic Education National Implementation Project (GENIP). (1987). K-6 geography: Themes, key ideas, and learning opportunities. Indiana, PA: National Council for Geographic Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. ISBN 528-17899-7 Softcover. $6.
Temple, L. (Ed.). (1993). Dear world. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-84403-1. Softcover, $15.
Williams, B. (1993). The Kingfisher reference atlas. New York: Kingfisher. ISBN 1-85697-838-9. Hardcover $19.95.
Williams, B. (1993). Visual factfinder: Countries of the world. New York: Kingfisher. ISBN 1-85697-816-8. Softcover $9.95. Hardcover $15.95.
Wood, J. (1993). The children’s atlas of people and places. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press. ISBN 1-56294-712-5. Softcover $10.95.
Yoder, C. P. (Ed.). (1994, January). Bread, staff of life [Special Issue]. Faces, 10(5).

About the Author
Dr. Priscilla Porter, Assistant Professor Education at California State University, Dominguez Hills, teaches courses in social studies education and is co-director of the Dominguez Hills site of the California History-Social Science Project.