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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Personal Geography #4: The Great Watermelon Conundrum of '78

Summers were great fun in the deep south!  Afternoon stiflingly sticky heat was often quenched with the timely arrival of the ice cream truck as you hear "The Entertainer" tune from far away...plenty of time to plead with Mom for 50 cents!  Often those summers included family journeys to the lake house or our family farm.  My Popie, my Dad's father, grew up doing quite a bit of farming on the family acreage in Branchville, AL.  My brother, my cousin and I would often jump in the back of the truck and "help out," especially at harvesting times.

One summer Popie decided to let us help plant.  He had done all the heavy lifting (plowing, fertilizing and such) and called us in for the fun stuff...seeds!  He always planted the usual suspects so that our winters were filled with my Mema's canned beans, peas, okra, corn, tomatoes and such...included in the annual plantings were those delicious watermelons that were just the thing you needed after a day boating and swimming in the lake...cracked open on the porch like manna from Heaven.  A little shade, a breeze and sweet watermelon still makes me smile.

Okay so the process was simple.  He gave each of us a row and a small handful of seeds (dozen or so).  We each looked at the  paltry pile and said, "Popie, this is not enough seeds!  Can we please have more?  We want to have plenty of watermelons."
He replied, "Oh, now, that's plenty of seeds."
"But Popie...."
"Well, okay, but if you plant 'em, you've got to pick 'em!"
"Oh YES!  No problem, Popie!  We'll pick 'em!"
So with that we scampered into the field to plant our personal crop of melons.  As the time goes by we look at the plants grow...and grow....and grow.  Seems that we had the perfect mix of rain and sun that year for a bumper crop!  Before we knew it, it was time to pick melons!  We hauled in melons all day and enjoyed the bounty on the porch along with a few neighbors and friends. (By the way did you know standard melons weigh about 20 pounds each?) We were so proud!  Another bit of time goes by and Popie calls, "We need to go to the farm.  More melons!"  Excitedly we go haul in another bounty!  Now this was fun the first two trips but after that...not so much.  By the time the season was done we must have filled his pickup truck three times with watermelons.  We couldn't give them away, we had so many!  Lesson learned!!!  Needless to say, we didn't volunteer for watermelon duty the next summer!

The story brings home some personal geography and understanding crops.  Geography, math and spatial awareness are key to really understanding the watermelon conundrum.  If you have a row that is 100 yards and you plant the entire row six inches per plant, how many plants will you have?  Given the standard yield of the crop, how many pounds of melons will you harvest?  Will you have the same crop yield in Maine as you do in Alabama?   Why?  What weather do you need for optimal growing?

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Also, what a valuable story!  Take these opportunities to bring students' personal life into English Language Arts class!  What is the story in agriculture?  What literature gives us a new look into agriculture? Also look into the Ag in the Classroom resources.

Little did I know that my grandfather was instilling in us spatial concepts, math and geography along with some valuable life lessons!  Thank you Popie!

If you're inspired to grow some watermelons, here's some info to get you started!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Personal Geography #3: Listen for THE whistle!

Geography is personal from an early age, as demonstrated by some cleaver little boys in an airport (see post Personal Geography #1).  I can empathize with that little boy; home is a beautiful place!  I felt like that as a child.  For me, it was Farley Place in Birmingham, Alabama...steeped in pine tree towers, a creek, a fort in the woods and great places to journey on my bicycle.  Yes, my entire world was accessible with try trusty electric blue Schwinn with the sparkle seat, handlebar streamers and playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes so you heard me coming!  

The rules were clear.  Anywhere on the loop was fine for a ride around but no stopping.  Stopping and visiting had to be pre-approved by the management (Mom and Dad).  In general, the measure of an okay distance was within ear shod of Daddy's distinctive whistle which you really could hear for about a block and a half long as you stayed outside...also a rule.  

Just once, I made the mistake of playing inside Kelly's house and missed the "come home for dinner" whistle.  As I didn't respond (and he had a good idea where I was), Dad came to her house to "drag me home."  BIG MISTAKE!  My beloved electric blue adventure machine was imprisoned in the shed, locked away, for a the summer!  I cried.  Lesson learned.

I've often had students  (young and old) make personal maps when teaching geographic or introducing spatial concepts.  Just draw it out...what do you see?  How do you remember it?  It's also powerful to share your map.  My students, especially middle school and high school students, love seeing "my house."  They can also see that you don't expect a Picasso-quality work of art!  This kind of activity is a great starting point and makes students appreciate the cool GIS maps that appear on the screen so easily.  Remember that personal perspective is an integral part of reading, writing and thinking about any subject.  

Feel free to share your personal geography with someone today!

Personal Geography #1:
Personal Geography #2:

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Friday, September 03, 2010

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on

I enjoy many of the #TED talks but this one should strike a nerve across disciplines...not just my field of education but all others. My friend and colleague, Dr. Joseph Kerski, often talks about the "whys of where." If we start with "why" then we're at the core. Have a look and think about how these concepts can impact your world.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on