I want more than anything for my kids to be good global citizens: respecting all cultures, religions, traditions, languages, and food.
I believe that tolerance is one of the greatest gifts we can give our fellow human beings.
I have this deep desire because I did not grow up as a good global citizen.
My folks were very traditional parents. We were Polish-Italian Catholics living in Chicagoland. Everyone we knew was Catholic. Everyone we knew ate typically American food and celebrated holidays a certain way.
That was what I knew. That was my world. Different cultures were just things you read about in textbooks.
My reaction to anything that was outside of my little world was to think: “This is wrong/weird/icky.”
Once I moved out of state for the first time and got to experience the amazing cultural diversity that is San Francisco, it changed me at my very core. Cultural traditions and experiences that once felt weird, wrong or unsettling to me were now things I welcomed learning about.
I began to practice tolerance. Tolerance turned into acceptance. Acceptance turned into embracing and celebrating these cultures and lifestyles.
Since then, I’ve lived in 6 other cities and been exposed to even more new and varied cultural experiences.
I’ve watched as we’ve traveled a bit with our kids and it’s almost as if I can physically see their minds opening. It’s amazing to witness, and I feel blessed that we’ve been able to give our kids this gift.
But it’s important to know that you can put the world at your kids’ feet without ever leaving your house. That’s what Geography Awareness Week is all about.
Having a sense of place is one great first step. As the folks at Nat Geo say, “To tackle many of today’s everyday problems, we must be able to understand the connections that link places and people.”
That’s what I was thinking about this week, as I watched my kids and their classmates literally stand on the continent of Asia with the National Geographic Giant Traveling Map.
I won the use of this 26′ by 33′ map for several weeks as part of my ambassadorship with National Geographic Kids.
They learned that Asia is the largest continent on our planet, with the biggest population at 4 billion people. They learned what latitude and longitude are, and where the mountains are in central China. They pretended to swim across the Indian Ocean and laid down in the country of Russia.
My daughter’s 3rd grade teacher pointed out the Philippines and tied it to the news they had heard about Typhoon Haiyan. Kids ran over to Iraq and Afghanistan and said “my dad was deployed there.”
The world was coming to life, and they didn’t even need to leave Carlsbad.
A few days later, I got a giant stack of thank you letters from my son’s 5th grade classmates.
Awesome, amazing, grateful letters where each child really shared what they took away from this one-in-a-lifetime experience. “I felt like a giant.” I am thrilled I got to be a part of it.” “Can you bring the map next year?” “Did you know the freshwater dolphin lives near Pakistan?” “I was so excited to see Vietnam – my mom and dad were born there.”
Geography matters to everyone. That’s why Geography Awareness Week, celebrated all this week, is so important! Chances are that our kids will need an solid understanding to be successful in their future careers. This infographic from National Geographic shows why geography matters and how it’s an essential skill for many careers.
I want to thank National Geographic Education for giving my kids, their school, their teachers and classmates, such a wonderful learning opportunity. It was so exciting to watch the kids with the world at their feet.
Help put the world at your kids’ feet, too. There are plenty of resources on the Geo Week website to get you started. And I’m helping it along by hosting a little giveaway.
One lucky KludgyMom reader will win a copy of the National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers! The 3rd edition is full of bright, bold icons that allows kids to go beyond the printed page and experience online the sights, sounds, and movements of the world’s people, places, and animals. This makes a GREAT Christmas gift.
Enter by using the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway will end on Wednesday, November 27 at noon. Only U.S. residents are eligible. Your mandatory entry? Leave a comment here telling me what country you’d most like to take your kids to visit. Optional entries are also available.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I am a National Geographic Kids Insider. I receive access to products and other benefits, but no compensation was received for this post. All opinions are my own.