Building Geography Skills with The New York Times
Yesterday, September 18, The New York Times published its first “Country of the Week,” South Africa. This new feature will make use of the paper’s 30 international news bureaus around the world with activities and quizzes to build students’ geography skills.
The quiz for South Africa first asks responders to find the country on a map of Africa. Then responders are asked about the country’s three capital cities, the two oceans along its coasts. IsiZulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa, and a video features the unique language. Users can also watch a 360 video “to catch a glimpse of life in South Africa.” And The Times will publish a new “Country of the Week” quiz every Monday throughout the school year.
This new urgency to teach geography skills is the result of a New York Times Upshot article reporting about an experiment where researchers asked Americans to locate North Korea on the map. Only 36% of respondents could correctly identify the country, but the interesting part was the second question asking opinions regarding foreign policy: Those who could correctly identify North Korea favored diplomatic and nonmilitary strategies and were opposed to direct military engagement. Those who could not correctly identify North Korea on a map actually favored direct military engagement with the country.
The article continued: Harm de Blij in “Why Geography Matters” wrote that “geography is a superb antidote to isolationism and provincialism.” Geographic literacy of a country’s citizens provides an excellent “check and balances” review for foreign policy actions of their government.
The Ball State University Libraries GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) provides access to online educational resources that can be used in the classroom—or at home—to promote geographic literacy. The GRMC creates custom maps, tutorials, games, lessons, and exhibits for use in educational research and learning. Teachers and other users can download the files for use in the classroom or other learning.
For more information about using cartographic resources from the GRMC, please call 765-285-1097 Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 5:00 pm.