Cultural Diversions with North Star Geography Sidebars

We have been using North Star Geography for a few months now and I am continually impressed with all that it encompasses as well as how flexible the program is for our homeschool lifestyle.

Cultural Diversions with North Star Geography Sidebars @EvaVarga.net

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Cultural Diversions with North Star Geography Sidebars

Embedded within each of the sixteen high-level geographic lessons are green sidebars that bring attention to real-world examples of the concepts and topics addressed throughout the curriculum. In the introduction author Tyler Hogan writes,

“The hardest part of writing this curriculum was deciding what NOT to include. So many interesting places, facts, and stories are with discovering ….”

I love this! These sidebars not only provide clear examples of geographic concepts but introduce students to places of cultural importance around the world.

As we travel internationally each year, the sidebars embedded within each lesson are of particular interest to us and we have often jumped around in the text seeking them out as they relate to our travels. We use the sidebars as points of comparison and as the carrots of our rabbit trails for student-led learning.

The Tube Map

In the first unit, Geography Skills, one of the sidebars focuses on subway maps. I love that the author describes how the London subway came to be called the Tube and how maps of the underground transportation system evolved to more user-friendly.

My children first experienced a subway when we were in Sweden. Though my husband and I had experience on the New York subway – navigating one in a foreign language added to the difficulty and we had a few moments of stress. stockholmtubemap

Fortunately, the people were very helpful and we made our way from our hotel, to the T-Centralen station where we transferred to a trolley before reaching our final stop on the island of Djurgården, though one stop farther than necessary so we backed tracked on foot.

We further practiced our skills at reading a tube map in China as we utilized the subway to get around the major metropolitan areas of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Having experience reading a tube map was particularly useful as fewer people spoke English.

The Three Gorges Dam

One sidebar that was of particular interest from the Physical Geography unit was that of the Three Gorges Dam in the Hubei province of China. While we hadn’t visited this area when we were traveling, we enjoyed comparing the construction of this dam to that of Shasta Dam, which we toured a year ago.

The sidebar briefly mentions the ecological results of constructing the dam and from this a discussion ensued. The kids were able to recall watching an Oregon Field Guide episode on breaching the Condit Dam.

The Chinese One-Party System

An understanding of the culture and politics of China is of growing importance and as students of Mandarin Chinese, we found the sidebar describing the Chinese One-Party System from the Human Geography unit of interest.

Utilizing this sidebar as a starting point, we then used the graphic organizers in the Companion Guide to direct us in researching our own state and national government.

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Linked up with The Massive Homeschool Geography Guide at iHomeschool Network.

An Open Letter to Marriott

Dear Bill Marriott,

My name is Eva Varga and together with my husband and two young children, we recently enjoyed staying at three of your hotels during our family holiday in China (Marriott Hotel City Wall in Beijing, Courtyard Xujiahui in Shanghai, and the Renaissance Harbour View in Hong Kong).  We love the Marriott brand and as reward members, we have enjoyed our stay at many other locations around the world.

Our thoughts on the environment & sustainability

While staying in Beijing, we enjoyed watching a short documentary on Marriott’s efforts to contribute to the local economy and sustainable agriculture.  The focus of the piece was on apiculture in China and it was of particular interest to us as we hope to someday have hives of our own.  While I was personally interested in the story, I was most delighted to hear of Marriott’s interest in sustainability and the local communities in which it serves.

marriott and nestleAs many travelers are aware, it is unsafe to drink tap water in China and it is advised to purchase bottled water.  While I appreciated that Marriott provided bottled water to its guests, I was saddened when I thought about the quantity of plastic that is consumed as a result.  The impact of our consumption of plastic alone is concerning enough, but what really struck me was that the water provided was bottled by Nestlé.

It struck me as odd that Marriott – a company that markets itself as one dedicated to the environment – would choose to partner with a company like Nestlé, whose CEO has stated that drinking water is not a human right, but a privilege.  The atrocities committed by Nestlé are not limited to drinking water, however. Large multinational beverage companies are often given water-well privileges (and even tax breaks) over citizens because they create jobs, which is apparently more important to the local governments than water rights to other taxpaying citizens. It is bad enough that they are depleting our natural resources of water, but they also promote GM/GMO foods, investing money to thwart labeling of such products.

In the 1970s, Nestlé was accused of getting third world mothers hooked on formula, which is less healthy and more expensive than breast milk.  To save money, mothers diluted the formula with water, often with contaminated water, thus preventing their child from absorbing the necessary nutrients. As a result, millions of babies died from malnutrition.  Poor labeling, mostly due to poor literacy rates, was also a contributing factor.  The allegations led to hearings in the Senate and the World Health Organization, resulting in a new set of marketing rules.

Considering the negative press and global reputation of Nestlé, I strongly urge Marriott to reconsider using Nestlé products.  While the need to provide safe drinking water is important, I hope Marriott will seek out alternatives.  Perhaps installing purifiers in each room or providing a reusable (aluminum) water bottle filling station on each floor.

Sincerely,

Eva Varga

Nestlé Products to Boycott