By Alexandra Puffer
Bridgewater State University is known for its education programs and many students choose the university because they dream of becoming educators in the subject they are most passionate about. It often comes to a surprise then that Massachusetts’ students cannot study secondary education and geography together.
Macee Doyle, was a passionate student of geography throughout middle school where she attended the geography fair here at Bridgewater State, but lost her passion for the subject in high school when it was no longer offered. Doyle is now a Geography and Elementary Education major with a concentration in Special Education from the class of 2015.
“Geography is only taught at one grade level in Massachusetts which is generally sixth or seventh grade,” Doyle said. “Teaching geography as its own subject to my students would allow me to develop geographically aware students in hopes that it would eliminate egocentric thoughts, as well negative stereotypes about other countries and cultures.”
The geography department at Bridgewater State is trying to change the way geography education is taught in Massachusetts by creating awareness of the need for geography education in middle school classrooms, high school classrooms, and even at the State House.
Their weapon of choice in fighting to bring Senate Bill 200 into action is a giant inflatable globe known as EarthView. The globe is 20 feet tall, 22 feet in diameter and one of only two in the world. It is an interactive way to teach geography to others.
Ashley Costa, a 2013 graduate of Bridgewater State, who studied Elementary Education and Geography, got a head start in related work experience as a wrangler for the EarthView program in schools. The lack of geography awareness she saw in schools and the traveling she has done throughout her life inspired her to get more involved in geography education.
“I have had the opportunity to witness geography education in motion in many other countries and I am discouraged at the lack of geography in U.S. classrooms,” Costa said. “Passing this bill will ensure that both the higher educational departments in our state, teachers, and students are getting adequate geographic education.”
Passing this bill would change the way geography is taught in Massachusetts schools, as right now students are only exposed to geography in fourth, sixth or seventh grade. The bill contains many tactics to strengthen the presence of geography in schools, most noticeably in its demands for an assessment of geography education and a geography education day. A major goal is to have geography taught in the upper grades once again.
Working on getting this bill passed is the Massachusetts Geographical Alliance of Bridgewater State University. Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan and Dr. Vernon Domingo are particularly invested in the passing of this bill and often go to the State House together with Bridgewater State students to discuss the importance of geography with legislatures in hopes of gaining their support.
“We have not been able to figure out why it was taken out, or what it would take to bring it back, but meanwhile everyone knows geographical literacy is getting worse and worse,” said Hayes-Bohanan.
Hayes-Bohanan and Domingo are scheduled for their next hearing on behalf of Senate Bill 200 at the State House on October 31.
Alexandra Puffer is The Comment’s Digital Editor. Follow her on Twitter at @AlexandraPuffer or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.