Thursday, June 7, 2012

Where in the World is Poppins San Diego?

Grandma Pam, affectionately known as Poppins for some reason no one entirely remembers, is quite the traveler. Pretty much every week she packs up her suitcase and heads off to somewhere new to meet, as she calls the clients of the software company she works for, her New Best Friend.

Mom is a software trainer and former teacher, so teaching is a hot topic of conversation when we get together. We've thought for a while now that we needed to come up with a way to tie in her travels with the kids' geography studies. I was originally thinking something along the lines of the Traveling Gnome meme, but my mother is not going to haul a garden gnome from city to city with her already fully packed luggage. She'd be down with the sentiment of it, but the reality is that those things are bulky.

Instead we decided to do Where in the World is Poppins San Diego? Remember Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? It's kind of like that but with a software trainer grandma instead of a gang of criminal masterminds.

Everyday she posts another clue to her whereabouts, usually along with a picture, on her facebook wall for the kids to see.

Clue #1

California has often been referred to as the breadbasket of the world. In fact the California Department of Food and Agriculture notes that California is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food and agriculture commodities. Some of the leading agriculture commodities in California are dairy, grapes, almonds, walnuts, various varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables. Over 400 different crops are grown in California. Where I am going is known for asparagus. (which the Poppins loves...YUM)

Clue #4

With the aid of maps and internet searches, the kids research the answers and attempt to pinpoint Poppins' whereabouts for the week. When they have guessed correctly, they get to put a pushpin in our wall map.

It's been quite a hit, not only with my kids but with my mom's friends. I think geography is one of those subjects where adding a bit of relevance to a lesson is really important. I remember looking at map worksheets with fake locations (What street is the school on? Spring Street or Main Street?) and wondering why I should care. I can only imagine what kids who have watched their parents get turn-by-turn directions from their iPhone GPS are thinking when faced with similar assignments.

Our own travels have gone a long way towards sowing the seeds of relevance in this particular subject, but this project has kept that enthusiasm growing. Even my mom and I are excited about it. It has taught both of us a lot of facts we might not otherwise have known and added a sense of adventure to her weekly travels.

The skills they are learning go beyond just reading a map. For one thing, they are learning to sift through a pile of information and figure out which bits of information are relevent for solving the problem and which bits of information are not. That is an extremely useful skill in a world where information is flung at you 24/7. They are learning how to research and how to apply deductive reasoning to make an educated guess.

So any guesses on where she is?

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