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Life Arts    H4'ed 10/7/18

Most people on this planet do not perceive Maps nor Directions in the same way Americans do?

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Teaching Foreign-born Students Culture & Language in the USA

Since last year I have been back in the USA teaching immigrants and refugees. After we have been studying a bit about the various regions of the USA, I usually have my students attempt to create their own maps of the USA. The exercise is intended to help them to understand that the USA has a specialized two-dimensional view of maps, grids and locations. Many foreigners live in the USA for years without being able to find their way around areas outside their own immediate neighborhood without google maps helping them to get about--or asking someone else to drive them (making them dependent on others to get around).

As students create their maps, I find that nearly half of the foreign-born students whom I work with have trouble working with and drawing maps, but so do ever more American-born students these days--as they become dependent on Google maps or others to move them around the USA and its cities and towns.

Simply put, to create a map--either by copying, tracing, or drawing--requires a lot of patience and persistence. One must learn from one's mistakes--erase, study, and redraw. This skill is evidently not practiced much anymore.

Yet, the drawing of maps of my students also shows that students from other lands are happy to wrestle with the idea of borders and the emphasis that American development placed on city and state planning over the 19th and 20th centuries. This development affects the way Americans perceive the world.

This American state and city planning had emphasized making it clear when someone crosses over one border or road to another.

For this reason, some parts of Kansas and Missouri are labeled with street names, like State Line Road or County Line Roads.

In addition, signs welcome often us to each new county or state with state Line Roads between neighboring counties and states.

Due to rivers, hills and mountains, almost no city is a perfect grid, so street names that cross diagonally through a town or city are important too.

Similarly, river and mountain roads are important everywhere to distinguish one people from another in terms of wealth, power, and status. In this way, too, maps distinguish Americans by region based on which states border each others and which ones have most interstate connections with one another.

in summary, I have become so sensitized to the fact that other peoples around the globe (from Africa to Asia and back to Latin America) think of traveling through spaces around (a city or around an entire country) quite differently than most Americas do.

This is possibly because of (1) how earlier generation were taught to drive cars and (2) how many cities and states were built on grids of streets with names clearly labeled. [1] The settlements of the USA followed the Ohio planning model in creating most cities and towns west of the Appalachians starting in the early 1790s through modern times. In any case, understanding how we create our own maps (in our heads or on paper) to understand our world is an important concept for thinking teachers and students to be aware of.

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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