People often ask me about what sparked my interest to travel and experience different places and cultures around the world. The answer is simple: when I was eight, my parents gave me a geographic encyclopedia. This simple act had a profound impact. Little did I know but geography would go on to play an important role in my life, shaping the person I am today and the choices I’ve made over the years.
Why geography matters
At eight, I possessed a boundless curiosity in everyone and everything around me. A whole new world opened up when my parents gave me the geographic encyclopedia. The maps, illustrations and pictures captured my imagination and I realised that the world I lived in extended a lot farther than the boundaries of my neighbourhood. The fact that there were so many people beyond those boundaries who lived in different conditions and spoke different languages intrigued me endlessly. In addition, my fascination with the various climate zones and huge diversity of flora and fauna around the world ensured I was occupied for hours on end, pouring over the colourful pictures and illustrations. The importance of geography in stimulating interest in our world is undeniable.
…my early interest in geography … opened my eyes to the world and nurtured a great spirit of adventure.
Some years later, I had a circle of pen-pals (remember those?!) across the globe and through them, I learned more about their every day lives and cultures – my pocket money was spent buying postage stamps for those hundreds of letters.
My experience has taught me that it was my early interest in geography, encouraged by my parents, that opened my eyes to the world and nurtured a great spirit of adventure. The way I see it, geography is a lot more than being able to point out a country on a world map or knowing the capital city of every country in the world (though if you did, I would be VERY impressed!). It’s about getting to know our world and its people better and understanding what makes societies tick. Geography helps to trigger our curiosity and as we become more curious, our awareness grows. It opens our eyes to different cultures and perspectives, and helps us grow as well-rounded, emphatic individuals.
And all this can be attributed to one simple act: giving a kid a geographic encyclopedia.
How to encourage an interest in geography
My parents sparked my interest in geography when I was eight by giving me a geographic encyclopedia as a birthday gift. There are many more ways in which parents can encourage their children to take an interest in geography. Here are some ideas from me and fellow bloggers:
- Aye, a fellow blogger, bought a shower curtain with a world map on it and teaches her daughter about the world during every bath.
- Andy Jarosz brings an inflatable globe with him on his travels to teach kids he meets about where he comes from. You could of course use your phone but the inflatable ball is also perfect for the beach or pool!
- There are many geography games that can be downloaded from the app store. The one that currently keeps me busy is World Geography.
- Or choose a fun board game for the whole family. I particularly like this one called Continent Race which was created by a kid called Byron who loves geography as much as I do.
- Social media platforms like Twitter can play an important role in bringing the world into our classrooms. As an example: get out a big world map and a box of pins. Send a tweet asking your followers and their followers to introduce themselves (for the purpose of a little geography lesson). Request some information about where they live and maybe a photo of the most famous landmark in their hometowns. As the tweets pour in, get your child(ren) to pin the locations on the map and show them the photos of these places.
- Purchase a geographic encyclopedia or a family reference atlas that’s full of colourful illustrations and facts. Encourage your children to look up travel stories and photos from magazines or travel blogs to complement the information in the encyclopedia. Zoom into these places on Google Earth.