Friday, November 1, 2013

WHY we teach REGIONS of Colorado

Traditionally, when teachers begin their study of Colorado, they help students to examine the physical landscape.  Through this examination, students apply the geographic concept of region.  From this map, kids can get a birds-eye view of our state without the buildings and without the people.  The natural landscape reveals some patterns that allow us to recognize the different regions we have in our state (plains, plateaus, and mountains).
But why do we invite students to understand the physical geography of our state?  What's the point?  I think the National Geography Standards: Geography for Life give us clues to the relevance of learning about our state's geography.  Students learn how to apply geography to interpret the past.  

Learning about the physical geography of Colorado's regions means that students understand the physical characteristics of places and environments are the settings for events in the past, present, and future.  Imagine great books without the setting. Simply stated, the setting is critical to a deep understanding of the story.

As students learn about the complex story of Colorado's past, it's crucial that they incorporate a rich understanding of our state's geography.  
  • How does a student connect with the Ancestral Puebloan, Ute and Arapaho native cultures without knowing about the Great Plains?  
  • How does a student feel the struggle of a trader, trapper, or mountain man without sensing a life within the mountains and plateaus? 
  • How does a student understand farm life and settlement during the Homestead Act without feeling the vastness of the plains?  
  • How does a student understand the development of Denver without recognizing how our water supply is uniquely connected to flowing water from the Continental Divide down to the Great Plains?  
Our history is intertwined with our geography and students have a deeper understanding of Colorado's past, present, and future when they see the influence of physical geography.  The question is, "How will you, as a teacher, help students to recognize this connection knowing that it supports a richer understanding of history?"

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