SERVICE LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

By Sue Keane

Massachusetts State Coordinator for Geography Awareness Week

GEOGRAPHY AWARENESS WEEK (GAW) was celebrated from November 11th to the 17th.  This year’s theme is “Declare Your Interdependence!”  The National Geographic Society has created activities, lesson plans, and resource materials for educators at http://www.geographyawarenessweek.org to explore “the idea that individuals are connected to the rest of the world through the decisions we make on a daily basis, including what foods we eat and the things we buy.”  Lessons suggested include The Geography of the Pencil and Your Global Closet. The Massachusetts Geographic Alliance’s website (www.massgeo.org/) for The Geography of a Pizza is another useful resource.

Two years ago, the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance (MGA) initiated a statewide service learning project centered on the theme: “Fresh Water, Safe Water…Oh Well.”  The MGA teamed with the charity Mission to Liberia for this project.  As a result, students, educators and the Bridgewater State University raised enough funds so that four wells could be constructed in Liberia providing clean, fresh drinking water for approximately 4,000 Liberians.

This year the MGA is again teaming with Mission to Liberia. Schools are invited to participate in an initiative that would extend the activity Your Global Closet so that students could use an item in their own closets to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. This year’s project will link Massachusetts’ students to Liberian students by donating an item from their closets to be repurposed to students in Liberia. (Remind students to be aware of the climate in this part of the world.)  Your students’ goods may be tracked on line with updates from the Steamship Line at every port of call.  Or American classes may be linked to Liberian classes to provide notebooks, paper or pencils.  A further extension for a class would be to support the education of a Liberian student for an entire school year, which includes tuition, supplies and uniforms for $100.

The people of Massachusetts have already made a significant difference in the lives of Liberians with the water project and we can do it again supporting schools and students.  Mike Cambra, Chairman of Mission to Liberia has offered, “to arrange for elementary schools in Liberia to become partners with their U.S. counterparts.” Please check both the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance’s website (www.massgeo.org/) and the Mission to Liberia website (http://www.missiontoliberia.org/) for more information.

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