While I don’t claim to be the most geographically savvy person when it comes to world countries, capitols, and general knowledge, I do recognize that thinking globally is just one of many trends that the U.S. should adopt fully in order to maintain it’s global significance. Students should be exposed to other cultures (besides the ones in the back of my sixth grade social studies text; Canada and Mexico). The problem is, how do you provide students with a healthy mix of countries and cultures to study without losing sleep due to the excessive hours preparing materials in front of the photocopier? A search engine would work fine, but how to weed through all of the content and results in a timely fashion to ensure that all of the students are on task and getting the information they need?
My mother-in-law actually found the answer to this one, so I can’t take the credit, but there’s a terrific website by Sheppard Software that has both free (the magic word) online and downloadable games focusing on nations, continents, and oceans. Before you’re turned off by the mention of games, let me assure you that games are just where the integration begins on this site.
By clicking on the Geography section of Sheppard Software you are presented with games for the U.S., Oceans, and Continents. I’ll use Continents as the example in this case. After clicking on the Continent of choice, you are given quite the lengthy list of games from learning and practicing European capitals to basic political European geography. If you were to click on “European Countries Level 3” you would be taken to an interactive map in which you must place the countries in their correct location. While this reinforces Geographic knowledge, the really neat feature comes next. After placing a capital you are given a short blurb about the country’s people, culture, climate, etc. This is very helpful for elementary age students, as I’ve had quite a bit of success using it with second grade classes studying other countries. If however, you’ve just placed an entire country you can then click on the country’s name and be taken to either the BBC News’ profile for that country or to the Wikipedia entry for that country. Either way, the student is presented with fresh, constantly updated resources about the country, it’s culture, it’s current political structure, and many images. The BBC Country Profile site even has links to press and media websites from that country – a great resource for both Social Studies and Foreign Language teachers at the secondary level.