As a Massachusetts Geographic Alliance host institution, this year Elms will be the scene of numerous professional development opportunities for teachers and geography-related events for students.


Elms will host EarthView, a 20-foot globe visitors can go inside, as its first event as a regional geographic center for the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance. The event will be held in Berchmans Gym on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance)

Geo-literacy Grant Kickoff Provides Chance to Enter the Earth

How geo-literate are you?

Simply put, geo-literacy is a keen awareness of the globe and one’s place in the global community. This awareness is sorely lacking among Americans ages 18 to 24, says the National Geographic Society, as its survey revealed that six in 10 couldn’t find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.

The Massachusetts Geographic Alliance (MGA) wants to improve geo-literacy not only among college-age and younger students, but among teachers as well.  A grassroots organization comprising hundreds of teachers in the Commonwealth dedicated to improving geography education,  MGA recently received a $27,500 grant from the National Geographic Education Foundation.

Geography-related educational events held under the grant will be hosted beginning this week, at Elms, which will now become one of MGA’s regional geographic centers.

“Clark University in Worcester could not longer accommodate the program, so I thought why not the Elms?” said Arlene Kowal ’67, one of MGA’s two coordinators. In addition to having a connection to the college as an alumna, “I had managed a state grant for professional development years ago that was hosted by the Elms,” she said.

Elms College also hosted a summer leader institute in July 2012 for the New England Geography Education Network (NEGEN), a regional collaborative of geography alliances, Kowal added.

Elms Becomes Host Institution

To kick-off the grant program, MGA is bringing a 20-foot inflatable globe of the Earth – called, appropriately enough, Earthview –  to Berchmans Gym on Saturday, Sept. 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event will also include free educational materials for students and teachers and is open to all students, teachers and their families.

Providing information about geography (and inflating Earthview) will be Professor Vernon Domingo of Bridgewater State University, an MGA regional geographic center. MGA’s other such centers are Framingham State University, Salem State University, and the Five College Center for East Asian Studies.

“Geography education is an integral part of the preparation of early childhood, elementary, special needs, English as a Second Language, and secondary history teacher candidates,” said Mary Claffey Janeczek, Ed.D., chair of Elms’ Education Division.  “We are thrilled that our alumna, Arlene Kowal, has chosen us as the site for the work of the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance. Our students, alumni, and local teachers will all benefit from this collaboration, as they experience standing in giant globes, walking across huge world maps, and sharing cutting-edge lesson plans with other teachers of geography.”

Other Elms-hosted activities the grant will fund in the next year include professional development opportunities for teachers, Geography Awareness Week teacher workshops, a teacher share fair, a geography fair and the display of National Geographic’s giant floor map in area classrooms, with associated lesson plans and activities for students.

MGA is one of the 50 state geography alliances affiliated with the National Geographic Society. Membership is free and available at