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National Geographic grant awarded to UH-Clear Lake

From The Office of Communications at University of Houston-Clear Lake

December 14, 2006

HOUSTON — A popular University of Houston-Clear Lake Geography of Texas field trip now has the stamp of approval from the National Geographic Society Education Foundation, which awarded the project $44,129.

“Growing Teachers in Texas Soil” involves a partnership between UH-Clear Lake and the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education that takes 14 UH-Clear Lake geography education students on a 14-day trek to explore geography of Texas in May 2007.

Held every summer for the past five years through the university’s Geography Program, the field trip provides students with an opportunity to experience the geography of Texas firsthand, exposing students to many of the state’s major geographic regions, including the Gulf Coast , the prairies, the Texas Hill Country, the South Texas plains and Big Bend country.

“The 2,500-mile field trip is designed not only to increase the students’ knowledge of Texas geography, but also to drive home the fact that experiential learning in geography is a critical component of geographic education,” says Project Director and Assistant Professor of Geography Jeffrey Lash.

With the financial support awarded to students and faculty through a grant from the National Geographic Society Education Foundation, Lash can now take the field-based learning to a higher level through extended travel time; months of prior preparation; use of the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education partnership resources; an increased number of facilitating faculty; and much more.

“Most importantly, the National Geographic grant allows us, for the first time, to offer financial assistance to students who otherwise might not be able to afford to participate in the field trip,” says Lash.

“In the end, our trip helps the National Geographic Education Foundation fulfill its mission to motivate and enable a new generation to become geographically literate.”

Participants include students preparing to be social studies teachers. They will be required to enroll in two, three-hour geography courses at UH-Clear Lake , including Geography of Texas and Fieldwork in Geography. Coursework will be divided into pre-field trip, field trip and post-field trip components.

During the pre-field trip component, and in addition to their required coursework, participants will receive first-hand map making and navigation training, plus technical training in the use of geographic tools such as compasses, Geographic Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems.

Students will also attend workshops on the production of short documentary films and will receive instruction from professional photographers.

During the field trip, student teachers will be guided through the art and science of geographic examination, recording their field observations for later analysis and presentation.

“With the numerous field stops and activities provided through this grant project, I am thrilled by the opportunity students will have to enhance their knowledge of agricultural, cultural, economic, environmental, historical, physical and urban geography, as well as resource management,” says Lash.

The post-field trip component will allow students to meet with professors and create digital educational resources that will eventually chronicle their experiences on the Geography of Texas Virtual Field Trip Web page. The bilingual, multimedia Web page will be designed for use in kindergarten through 12th-grade social studies classrooms with the intent of fostering greater understanding of the state’s diverse people and places.

Finally, students will be required to present the Web page’s utility in specialized workshops at the 2007 meeting of the Texas Council for the Social Studies in El Paso , Texas .

“By the time the students finish presenting in El Paso , I’m confident that they will not only have a firm grasp of the geography of Texas , but will also feel comfortable implementing field trips in their own classrooms.”

For more information on UH-Clear Lake ’s geography program or the Growing Geography Teachers in Texas Soil project, please call UH-Clear Lake ’s School of Education at 281-283-3600.

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