Teachers Selected by COGA to Represent Small School Districts at NCGE


Teachers Selected by COGA to Represent Small School Districts at NCGE

In May of 2013, the Colorado Geographic Alliance accepted applications from teachers across the state for funding to attend the National Council for Geographic Education Conference. This conference brings together educators, geography professionals, and administrators from across the nation to advance the cause of geographic education. Fourteen teachers were selected from districts in Colorado with fewer than 5,000 students. Check out the map at the bottom of the page to see where these teachers came from around the state.

COGA asked each of these teachers to write a little about their experiences at the conference:


Nicole Dewell

Nicole Dewell, Eagle Valley High School

The NCGE Conference in Denver was a wonderful opportunity right here in our "backyard". As a teacher in a more distant/rural area of Colorado, meeting other Geography teachers in similar situations lifted my spirits and encouraged me to make new contacts.

The conferences seminars were fantastic. ESRI sessions helped me dabble in G.I.S., which prior to those classes, intimidated me to the point I didn't use GIS in class. I now know enough GIS to be "dangerous" and feel prepared to enroll in an on-line GIS class which will ultimately benefit my students. NCGE presenters shared a plethora of creative ways to bring Geography to life to engage our students. National Geographic offered some wonderful sessions, explaining how to use their Educator resources, which are perfect for using Promethean or Smart Boards.  Students will connect with the hands-on activities I learned at the conference. Participating in simulations with a presenter from TCI Textbooks was thrilling, as his ideas and lesson plans were state-of-the-art best practices that lend themselves perfectly to my classroom. Even the "freebies" were fun: I scored a National Geography Week, easily-reproducible activity that is fun homework for the entire family to complete together, bringing the discussion of Geography home.

Thank you so much for supporting me with a grant to attend this outstanding conference. I could not have afforded to attend otherwise. Now revitalized and excited to teach Geography, I am much better equipped with incredible new ideas to design meaningful, engaging instruction. Thank you COGA!

Debbie Bascomb

Debbie Bascomb, Kim High School

I think the most helpful, as well as amazing, experience the NCGE conference provided was the opportunity to see how to think like a geographer. Thinking as a geographer is not the same as thinking as an historian. This became painfully clear to me as I taught geography last year to my 6th and 9th grade classes. In one class during the conference, the professor taught about the War of 1812 as it affected Kentucky. Soldiers from her state participated in the war traveling to Canada to fight. The historian in me thought, "That's interesting.  Kentucky was a relatively new state.  Her citizens showed great patriotism and some self-interest in participating in this war."  The Geographer asked the question, "What was it like to walk 1200+ miles across the country to get home from Canada? What kind of terrain did these soldiers cover? Did this trek change how they perceived their world? Are there any primary accounts about this trek that might add to the overall understanding of the movement of these men through new terrain as well as thier ideas of self--their ideas of their neighbors?" What an eye opening experience it is to observe the thinking process of the geographer! Another terrific outcome of the NCGE conference was the opportunity to talk to other teachers who are involved in the geography program. I teach in a very small community where I am the only one in my department. Consequently, I am the history/geography and art teacher for 6th to 12th grade.  Lessons are many and varied while time is extremely limited. So much to do, so little time to get it accomplished, so many questions, so few answers. Often I feel isolated and a little lost as I wear my many hats.  The class I attended concerning teaching geography in isolation was a terrific opportunity to touch base with other teachers. I have great hopes for the new geography community created on Edmodo as a result of this class. It was also nice to talk to teachers who teach AP geography. They suggested that I join the AP geography group on Facebook. I have gained some great ideas from thier web page already this year. This conference opened the door for a richer curriculum as well as a better understanding of the world that I can introduce and share with my students. As a teacher, nothing is better than this.

Brandi Bellefuielle

Brandi Bellefuielle, Arickaree School

The NCGE conference provided opportunities for connecting with other geography educators, which can be difficult to achieve in rural Colorado. The school at which I teach is very rural, about 100 miles east of Denver, with roughly 110 kids K-12. Because I am the only geography instructor (and history, civics, and economics instructor) for 6th -12th grades, the chance to converse with those of similar geographic mindsets is beneficial to my classroom instruction and ultimately my students.  The conference as a whole was outstanding, but two conference sessions stick out in my mind as highly interesting and will provide learning opportunities in my classroom. 

The first session concerned the history of wildland fire suppression and management. The presenter, Kenneth de Masi from the Arizona Geographic Alliance provided attendees with resources that will benefit classroom curriculum on the history and geography of wildfires and wildfire management in the United States. Wildland fire management is especially concerning to rural Colorado during drought years, as is indicated not only by the numerous forest wildfires in the state, but also large grassland fires including the Last Chance fire of 2012.

The second session that intrigued me was one of the very last of the conference: "Energy in Place". Michael Jabot from State University of New York at Fredonia presented the importance of energy literacy and regional, rather than national, energy policies. Several thought-provoking and energetic discussions resulted from Mr. Jabot's presentation, not only on energy policy in the United States but also on energy policy in Colorado and the increasing number of wind farms in the state. 

A big thanks to the Colorado Geographic Alliance and NCGE for giving me the opportunity to attend the NCGE Conference in Denver!


James Wilson

James Wilson, Fort Morgan High School

Attending the NCGE this summer in Denver was a great opportunity for me. Having spent the last 15 years working in schools out on the eastern plains, I had not even heard of COGA, let alone NCGE. Their outreach program got in touch with me through my principal and opened my eyes to the different possibilities that exist to enhance Geography instruction. On the surface, there are many different things I am bringing back to my building. My TA and I are going to bring Geography Awareness Week for the first time to our school which has been around since the 19th century.  ESPeN notes and the corresponding presentations are already bringing a little more energy into the classroom as we read articles about their environmental footprint.

There are plenty of resources from organizations such as Population Connection, TCI and Arc GIS that I have plans to incorporate as well, but have yet to get to that point in the year. I hope that as an organization we continue to reach out to the teachers beyond the Front Range and help them access the resources that are available through our organization and events such as this.

Steve Cline

Steve Cline, Windsor High School:  ArcGIS Workshops Are Among the Most Applicable at 2013 NCGE Conference

Instruction that includes application of skills is always more powerful than traditional instruction. In a recent Journal of Geography article, Donna Goldstein and Marsha Alibrandi found that "GIS integration enhanced student learning and academic achievement." (2013, p. 72)

Over the past year ESRI has made ArcGIS Online (AGOL) services more accessible to students who are new to GIS. In addition ESRI is participating in a grant through eNetColorado.org which allows Colorado schools to receive a site license for an organization account through AGOL. In the past, in order to use this GIS software teachers required a dedicated lab with resources available on a network location and the installation of ArcGIS desktop. Now it is possible to bring these tools into the classroom with only internet access and a set of computers.

ESRI maintained a lab in the hotel for most of the 2013 NCGE Conference in Denver. These presentations were aimed squarely at helping secondary teachers utilize this new service in the classroom.  Lessons included study of demographics, plate tectonics, historical maps and many others. Like our students, participants in these sessions could use the AGOL service in the lab at the conference hotel.

In my Freshmen geography classes as the year has started we have already begun using our organizational account. In just two classes all of the students know how to log in to AGOL, create a new map, add content, analyze the data presented and save the map. As the year continues we will return to AGOL to analyze specific data for the theme or region we are covering in class. This hands-on application of geography will open new possibilities for our students. In the end, we believe, our students will become better geographic thinkers by being able to apply the tools of geography. I strongly encourage geography teachers to use these resources.

Craig Boss

Craig Boss, Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy:  Using Children's Literature to Help with Geography Instruction

Chances are pretty good that more teachers are satisfied with their success teaching reading than they are with their success teaching geography. A common theme among presenters at this year's conference of the National Council for Geographic Education was using children's literature in Geography. Here are two ideas to pass along. Choose books that identify places, physical features and associated geography concepts in their texts. Extend out from there. One presenter shared an experience of how he used Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen to spark interest in Berlin (and anywhere else a plane can get to from Berlin). A presentation was given with How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti, and This Is the Way We Eat Our Lunch: A Book About Children Around the World by Edith Baer and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. These books used food as an introduction to people and places. Another presenter read 2 books with her classes. One dealt with the Underground Railroad, the movement of fugitive slaves away from Southern States. The subject of the second book was the Orphan Train, the movement of orphaned children away from cities, particularly New York. The relevant geography was mapped and compared. With all of these books there are opportunities for mathematical extensions such as calculating distances or charting and graphing goods and services. Perhaps there are teachers who are not given the liberty to select the literature read in class. Look no further than the books in student desks. Of course Social Studies and Science books are filled with geographical ideas to be exposed, but a basal reader can be a source too. Don't overlook it. One teacher shared her experience with such an occurrence from her classroom. Her reader included The Armadillo from Amarillo, written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry. While she filled her district's literacy demands she created a fine geography lesson and activity using the book as a reference to teach about locating one's self in place and on a map. Teachers might truly be more satisfied with their classroom reading instruction than their geography instruction and a lack of resources might be a good reason, but thinking of literary resources as geography resources might be a good way to start feeling better about geography in school. 

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