Select Page
Human Geography: A Syllabus
By Mark Heintz
Aug 12, 2020

Human Geography Syllabus 2020-2021

Note before reading: I attempted to cite as much of the work as possible. I am not the only who is doing this work nor did I start these educational practices. While I compiled the resources in this document, I want to give credit to those who have done the work before me and from those who I learned from. It is their work and credit needs to be given to those who did it. If anyone reading this feels something is wrong or needs a different citation, please let me know. In this course, students will do the same as they learn. I want to model the expectation I ask my students to live up to. 

A CLASS FOCUSED ON LEARNING

Schools are institutions of learning; therefore, the primary function of them should be to create conditions for students to not only learn but to develop as learners. This course will be based on the foundation of conditions under which people learn best. People learn best when they direct their own learning, ask their questions¹, curate their learning for accessibility, set their goals and monitor progress, be allowed to make mistakes, be allowed to reshape their world view, collaborate, want to learn more, and advocate for their needs. bell hooks describes schools not as a 

“paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility, we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”²

 This class will embrace that possibility. 

THE PURPOSE OF THE COURSE

The purpose of Human Geography is to examine how humans develop, control, and use power, placemaking, and identity in the context of a given environment.  This course analyzes these constructs through the local, regional, national, and global scales. At the same time, the analysis is through each students’ own understanding in order to help create the world they want to live in. 

Human Geography also engages in civics. Civics is not “narrowly defined as voting, paying taxes, and knowing how the government works.”³ As Dr. Bettina Love, professor at the University of Georgia and an award-winning educational researcher4, states, civics additionally means mattering.  Mattering is the desire to matter to ourselves, community, country, and planet.

The approach to this course will center around intersectionality that will “lead (students) to a better sense of their full selves.”5 Once students know who they are and matter to themselves, community, country, and globe, they will “take the office of citizen.”6 They will identify problems they will to learn more about and ultimately attempt to solve.  Once students know themselves, they can more deeply connect to and evaluate how humans develop, control, and use power, placemaking, and identity in the context of a given environment in order to solve problems of “intersectional social justice.”7

Overview of the course

The director of the Oregon Writing Project and educator of over thirty years, Linda Christensen reminds us that “our curricular choices demonstrate who we believe counts and what beliefs about society we promote.”8 Therefore, the choices we make in this classroom are a reflection of who we are and striving to be.  

With the foundations of how people learn best and the overall purpose of human geography in mind, this course will “engage students in social problems solving by enabling them to think about which problems are worth solving, according to whom, to what ends, and in whose favor.”9

As this course examines how humans develop, control and use power, placemaking, and identity, students will recontextualize their understanding through various scales and ultimately identify and try to solve problems they see fit to solving. The questions spiral through each unit focusing students to keep all scales in mind.

First Focus: Local 

Identity:

How do I identify myself?

What is the identity of my physical community?

What is the identity of my virtual community?

How does my identity and the identity of my communities change how I interact with my local physical community?

How do others identify me in these communities?

How does that change how they interact with me?

Who is excluded and included?

What do I see as problematic and what do I wish to change?

Power:

What is power?

How is power created and maintained in my community?

What are the rules in the community?

How am I reflected in those rules and those in charge?

What do I see as problematic and what do I wish to change?

Placemaking:

“Why do we live where we live?”10

How is the community “inclusive, collaborative, transformative, sociable?” 

What is the impact on the environment of how and where people live?

What do I see as problematic and what do I wish to change?

Each quarter will focus on a different scale. The questions will be the same, but the scales will be different. We will cycle through local, regional (Chicago), national (USA), and global. 

METHODOLOGY OF THE COURSE

Each week students will analyze data, read, and write to further understand the world around them to continually answer the questions in the overview section in order to identify and solve a problem they see worthy. In order to do that, students will approach each source and piece of information through a critical race theory methodology by “the rejection of objectivity and neutrality.”11 Students will look at the history and context of each document. 

As students approach each source, they will answer the questions “Whose knowledge is important? Whose story is being told? Whose voice is being heard? And whose isn’t?”12 As they approach each source they will “work in tandem with (their) own knowledge”13 to answer their questions. Combining each student’s individual prior knowledge and experiences and looking at each piece of information with its history and context enables them to become critical thinkers and ultimately think for themselves. 

With the beliefs about how people learn best as students explore the world and find problems worth solving, Frances E. Jensen Md professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology cites “what we know now is that no two human brains are wired exactly the same, and experience shapes us all differently.” Using critical race theory as a framework to approaching each piece of information allows for each student to direct their own learning, ask their questions, curate their learning for accessibility, set their goals and monitor progress, be allowed to make mistakes, be allowed to reshape their world view, collaborate, want to learn more, and advocate for their needs. 

Wayne Au is an assistant professor in the department of secondary education at California State University Fullerton and he is a Rethinking Schools editor states “knowledge is multifaceted and simply reading tough books does not mean that students are engaged in understanding the complexities of any particular historical episode or time period.” Students will be challenging themselves through a rigorous approach in every aspect of this class that enables them to continually learn for their entire lifetime.

GRADES

As with everything in this course, the learner is at the center.  The course is set up to provide genuine learning opportunities for all. It is responsive and nimble enough to adjust to the needs and interests of all users.14 As Gloria Ladson-Billings who was former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.Students, states that this approach will help all students grow academically, gain sociopolitical consciousness, and cultural competence.15

This course will make “infrequent use of standardized tasks, marks, and grades, all of which theoretically allow individuals comparisons.”16 Instead we will make “use of intensive individualized private feedback to students as the preferred method of evaluation.” Scales and rubrics serve the teacher in deciding a grade, not helping the students learn and grow (p. 32).

Furthermore, they oversimplify reading, writing and analyzing which reduces growth to a numerical score (p. X and 5). This course focuses, as Cornelius Minor states, on the learner, the learning process, and the growth of each student which isn’t identical for each student. And they’re a thorn in the side of Critical Pedagogy. Jesse Stommel, a Digital Learning Fellow and Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies at University of Mary Washington, cites that this process brings humanity back into the classroom

Students will be required to complete the journal assignments each week. In addition to the journal assignments, students will identify a problem and attempt to solve it. Students will not have to find the answer in order for it to be completed, but instead rather work towards the solution. At the end of each semester, the students will complete a reflection on their growth academically and their learning from the project.

If students complete all of the weekly tasks and make progress towards their journal, they will earn a minimum of B for the semester. Each student will meet with the teacher to share their story of learning to finalize the end of semester grade (p. 46).  Throughout the semester students will complete a learning portfolio that allows for “complex expressions of student learning, growth, and development.”17 This portfolio will help serve as the talking points for the end of the semester.  

LEARNING PORTFOLIO

In addition to the skills and content required in this class, you will develop as a learner. Becoming a learner in the twenty-first-century18 is essential19. A learner has agency and control over the ability to gain new skills and new understandings of the world in order to adapt to the ever-changing nature of it.21 According to Stephen Sawchuk, “futurists increasingly predict a rapidly changing workplace in which employees will be required to update their learning frequently, and on short notice. Employers, they say, will want flexible, adaptable workers who can pick up new content and technologies quickly and efficiently. With this in mind, students will gain the necessary skills they need now, and become a learner to adapt to the skills they will need in the future. 

In this class, you will create a portfolio to showcase how you have grown as a learner. You will highlight the struggles, the “a-ha moments” and the process of learning. The portfolio is not the end goal, but rather it is a reflection of who you are as a learner.22

Likewise, I will reflect as often as I can on what we did in class in an attempt to stay focused on developing them as learners and be transparent with my own learning. TheLearningGiant.com will serve as a medium for my portfolio. 

 

End Notes

  1.  Dewey, John. Experience And Education. New York: Macmillan, 1938.
  2. hooks, bell. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. New York: Routledge.
  3. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 7)
  4. https://bettinalove.com/about/
  5. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 7)
  6. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 19)
  7. https://bettinalove.com/about/
  8. Watson, Dyan, et al. Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 323)
  9. Parker, W. (2001). Toward enlightened political engagement. In W.B. Stanley (Ed), Critical issues in social studies research (pp. 97-118). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Press)
  10. Watson, Dyan, et al. Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 175)
  11. Watson, Dyan, et al. (Howard, Tyone) Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 28)
  12. (Christensen, 2011; Janks, 2014; Ladson-Billings, 2018; Leland & Harste, 2005)
  13. LOVE, B. (2020). WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. S.l.: BEACON. (p. 19)
  14. Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014) Universal design for learning: Theory and practice, Wakefield MA: CAST P. 68
  15. Ladson-Billings, Gloria Harvard Educational Review; Spring 2014; 84, 1; ProQuest pg. 74
  16. Cohen, E. G. (1982). A multi-ability approach to the integrated classroom. Journal of Literacy Research, 14 (4), 439-460.
  17. Watson, Dyan, et al. Teaching for Black Lives. Rethinking Schools, 2018. (p. 248)
  18. Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools – Ira Socol, Pam Moran
  19. Learner-Centered Innovation by Katie Martin
  20. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
  21. Learning How to Learn Could Be a Student’s Most Valuable Skill
  22. The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School In The Age Of The Computer by Seymor Pappert

Subscribe

Archives

Goodreads

Categories

%d bloggers like this: