By Megan A. Smith
Forest Hills Elementary, Florence City Schools, Alabama Geographic Alliance
University of North Alabama professors Dr. Lisa Keys-Mathews and Dr. Bill Strong have been busy the last several months preparing to host ten states at the Geo-Literacy Leadership Institute at the university’s campus. The leadership institute consisted of professionals in the fields of education, geography, and geo-spatial technologies from the following states: Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
From June 22-27, the participants of the leadership institute learned about communication, advocacy, and leadership in order to promote geographic literacy in their states and nationally. Various presenters, including Roni Jones from National Geographic, shared vital tips with attendees about how to give “elevator” speeches, write opinion/editorials, design public relations strategies, and develop talking points to advocate for geography education policy.
Louisiana participant Susan Keith shared, “The Alliance and Leadership Institute really opened my eyes to how broad geography is. Geography includes people, places, and how they relate to each other. You use geography in space programs, meteorology, routing school buses, railroads, trucking, urban planning, airlines, defense, and so much more. A world where people don’t know geography is too dangerous to live in.”
Texas participant Joe Ostrowski said, “The question I find most frequently asked is ‘Why do you care so passionately about geography?’ The question posed should actually be ‘Why don’t we care enough about geography?'” Thanks to the hard work of the ACs coordinating this leadership institute, presentations and guest speakers left participants feeling empowered to speak out about the importance of geography education.