How to combine walking and teaching geography
I just paid for my first App for my iPhone. I chose cyclemeter because it measures and maps my walks as well as bike rides. It even has a setting to measure swimming, but since it works with a GPS, and most phones don’t do well in water, I am hesitant to try that one.
Today my dog and I walked out the front door of our South Carolina apartment, down three flights of stairs and out onto our apartment yard. We passed the dumpsters and boats and followed this grass way to the entrance of a neighborhood directly across from us. This is a highly controlled neighborhood of large new houses on tiny well-kept lots, interspersed by two small ponds. Although the houses are new I find most of them ugly, with strange mixtures of brick and colorful siding. The last pond as I leave the neighborhood has two alligators enjoying the sun on the far side. One is medium size and the other pretty small. This pond is also my daughter’s bus stop.
I cross the road back to the property owned by our apartment complex and enter the nature walk. My dog is happy because I take her off the leash. She runs in ever-larger circles until the woods close in, then she simply stops to enjoy the smells, realizes I am ahead of her and races down the trail, only to stop for another smell. I love the trail full of Spanish moss draped over live oaks as well as other hardwoods. We circle around to walk along a marshy river. I can see water birds along the river and crazy mullet fish leaping quite a distance just to land on their sides, creating a large splash.
The trail includes a crab dock and I always stop for a few minutes to enjoy the view and watch the mullets. This time when I stop I think of the walking app counting down my time. I have never walked for speed or cared what kind of pace I keep, but today I think about the clock counting, and I continue on my walk. My dog is happy to keep moving, and she runs back into the shade of the live oaks.
We finish the walk and I check my iPhone. We walked 2.64 miles in 46 minutes. I can see my average pace, fastest pace, ascent and descent. More interesting to me I can see the map of our short walk superimposed on a google map of the area. I think about this short walk I have discovered and enjoyed as I get to know my new town and state. I think of all the walks I have enjoyed, getting to know new towns and neighborhoods. My husband and I have had 17 different addresses in 27 years of marriage. In each of these homes I have explored and enjoyed walks, almost daily. We have lived in various apartments, some nicer than others; we have owned 3 homes and have lived in 4 states. I have walked out my front door, each and every front door for shorter and longer walks in every type of weather. I have walked alone, with my dog, with my husband, and with the three kids and with friends. I have walked in heat, rain and even once in a blizzard. I only enjoyed the first 5 minutes of that walk.
I wish I had maps of all these walks, with all the variety of terrain, and I would love to know how many miles I have covered in those years. I also walk on vacations and have strolled across quite a few states as well as Canada and Costa Rica. I do not think I am unique; walking is such an easy and popular pastime. It is relaxing, mood altering and great exercise.
In West Virginia I lived just a block down the street from an elementary school. One year the school decided to incorporate walking into their curriculum. They gave students pedometers and the different classes would walk around my neighborhood. The students always seemed happy. I could hear them through my open windows on warm days. I think each grade participated, and each teacher kept a record of how far the class walked. Then with a map the class charted their miles. I believe the goal was to “cross the USA” on the map. I don’t know if they completed the task, but I do know the students got lots of exercise and fresh air. I am sure they returned to class energized and more ready to learn. What a great way to combine physical activity with geography. As the class walked and mapped enough miles to cross into a new state they could learn a little about that state, its rivers and geography, history and culture. I wish I had thought to do this in my home school. I can see the map right now on my wall. The walk would relieve restlessness and the mapping and lessons would keep them interested. I no longer home school, my kids are grown, but maybe I will walk across the country to California, or even China; who knows!