UT Students Volunteer to Explore Fresh Water with Geography Awareness Week

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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee, Knoxville, undergraduate and graduate students will visit Knox County schools to celebrate Geography Awareness Week.

This week about 30 UT students will pair together to present a lesson on fresh water in 23 area classrooms. Presentations will be offered to third, fourth and fifth grade classes.

“We plan interesting, interactive lessons that we hope they will remember,” said Melanie Barron, a first-semester graduate student in UT’s geography program. “Teachers are very enthusiastic about having us visit. It’s just something different from the everyday classroom experience.”

Geography Awareness Week was established in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that established the third week in November as Geography Awareness Week. It is sponsored by the National Geographic Society and other geographic organizations at the national, state and local level. Tennessee Geographic Alliance, a part of UT’s geography program, sponsors it locally.

Geography Awareness Week is an annual opportunity for schools to engage in fun, educational experiences that draw attention to the importance of geographic understanding. All students involved volunteered to be a part of this project.

Geomorphology, or landscape evolution, which includes looking at fresh water environments in Knoxville, is a research specialty in the geography department. These research efforts helped Barron translate her classroom activities to lesson plans for kids.

“It is an incredible amount of work for graduate students to take on, but we’re happy to serve the community and spread the word about the relevance and importance of geography,” said Barron.

Kurt Butefish, coordinator of the Tennessee Geographic Alliance, wants to use this week to expose elementary students to college students who are majoring in geography and are excited about their major.

“There is so much more to geography than elementary teachers can fit into their jam-packed curriculum,” Butefish said. “We want to plant a seed because you never know what might spark a student’s interest. Maybe one day, one or more of the Knox County students will remember the UT student came and spoke to them and did that cool activity with them causing them to want to investigate geography further.”

C O N T A C T :

Bridget Hardy (865-974-2225, bhardy4@utk.edu)

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