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$1m endowment will boost alliance's efforts
to improve geography teaching in schools
March 30, 1998

Special activities in geography for students across the state, teacher workshops, and youth programs will be given a lift through an endowment that will support the Connecticut Geographic Alliance at UConn.

A $1 million endowment from The National Geographic Education Fund and the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority (CRRA) will support the Alliance's work to enhance geography education in Connecticut schools.

An agreement signed recently at North Haven Middle School makes Connecticut one of 10 states to receive endowments from the National Geographic Society Education Fund to support the teaching of geography to primary and secondary school students. The endowment will be managed at the National Geographic Education Foundation.

The society has been a strong supporter of geography education nationwide, providing matching grants of $50,000 each to 50 state alliances to support geography education and teacher training. The new endowment program offers an opportunity for states to establish a more permanent funding base for geography education.

The Connecticut Fund for Geography Education is the outgrowth of a committed group of individuals and organizations from throughout the state. The initiative for the effort to improve geography education has been led by the Connecticut Geographic Alliance, headquartered at UConn. The 10-year alliance of geography education advocates, program providers, and teachers was created with the support of UConn's geography department, the state Department of Education, and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.

"For the last 10 years we've had funding to support outreach to K-12 teachers in the state," says Judith Meyer, a founding coordinator of the alliance. "Most of the faculty in the geography department have been involved with programming. We run summer workshops for teachers, after school conferences for teachers, and most important, we train teachers to be trainers themselves, she says. "It is a multiplier-effect model. A small number of people at the University can have a big impact. Teachers were interested in our programming because we have excellent faculty involved in it."

Leading the campaign to develop a permanent endowment were Meyer, a professor of geography and director of the UConn/Hartford Schools Partnership; Daniel Gregg, also a founding coordinator of the Connecticut Geography Alliance and social studies consultant for the state Department of Education; and Nancy Ruther, associate director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.

The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority decided to provide matching funds because of its commitment to the environment and to education outreach.

During the first three years, the income from the endowment will be used to support and expand the activities of the alliance, including: The Geography Bee, a statewide competition for grades 6-8; The Geography Olympiad, a statewide competition for high school student teams; the Family Geography Challenge, a school-based program that encourages families to watch the news together and identify the locations of newsworthy events; enrichment programs for Connecticut youth; summer and advanced institutes on geography, international studies and environmental issues for K-12 teachers and administrators and in-service training programs for teachers.

Sherry Fisher