Geographic Gives Inner-City Children Scholarships

National Geographic News
November 20, 2002

Hundreds of inner-city kids will explore glacier-capped mountains, groves of giant sequoias, waterfalls, meadows and the rugged Pacific coastline as part of a series of grant commitments announced today by the National Geographic Society's Education Foundation.

This year more than $3.7 million in awards will be distributed to nonprofit organizations and teachers across the country as part of the Foundation's continuing efforts to increase geographic literacy among students. Key commitments include:

• $100,000 scholarship support for 750 inner-city youth to participate in geography field trips in Yosemite and Olympia national parks;

• $124,000 to support 38 "teacher grants" for innovative projects around the country, such as field trips to local aquatic gardens and parks, and the creation of schoolyard habitats;

• More than $1.5 million to promote advanced professional development for teachers and student experiential learning on geographic topics, such as studying the loss of longleaf pine forests in Georgia and the use of the International Space Station's "EarthKAM" images.

"These programs reflect our commitment to reach kids—both inside and outside of the classroom—to arm them with a valuable geographic perspective and skills," said Education Foundation Executive Director Barbara Chow.

"Americans are increasingly members of a global village, impacted by their jobs, international business markets and country-to-country relations. Responsible global citizenship requires basic geographic knowledge. From issues of environmental degradation to the loss of cultures, geography can play an important role in understanding the context in which change is occurring—and potential solutions.

"We are especially redoubling our efforts to reach urban and disadvantaged youth. All children should have equal opportunities to learn about their natural and cultural world," Chow added.

The grants were made from the Society's three educational program areas: venture grants, which support learning beyond the classroom; Grosvenor grants, which support professional development for school teachers and experiential learning opportunities; and teacher grants, which support classroom teachers in the development of innovative geography education programs. All grant programs emphasize outreach to urban and disadvantaged communities.

Grants are awarded to partner organizations on a competitive basis, favoring projects with high-quality geographic content, proven management teams and clear performance targets, among other criteria.

The Society also offers states an endowment challenge grant to create permanent funding for geography education. More than 25 states have established these funds.

Since 1986 National Geographic has supported a national system of "geographic alliances" offering free professional development in geography for teachers. As a result of this work, geography standards are now in place in 48 states, while 37 states require geography in the elementary curriculum, 25 states require geography in the intermediate curriculum and 26 states require the subject in the high school curriculum.

Alliance activities include statewide leadership training and professional development. The Society hosts summer teacher-training workshops at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. A recent study using data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) showed that students whose teachers have participated in National Geographic's professional development programs outperform the national average.

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