CHARLESTON -- The Eastern Illinois University geography department is taking part in an effort to shed light on their field, which those in the department consider woefully underserved.

Jay Gatrell, EIU provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor in the department, will be presenting a lecture titled, “Urban Greening: Assessing Urban Change and Uneven Development using Proxy Data,” at noon Monday in Room 3040 in the physical science building.

Gatrell said the lecture “investigates how greenness varies by socioeconomics.”

This coincides with Geography Awareness Week next week, a few days set aside to recognize geography and its importance. Christopher Laingen, an EIU geography professor, said a week like this is a step to address the disparity in geography knowledge in the country.

“Unfortunately, geography is neither widely taught nor well-taught in our schools today,” Laingen said. “Illinois does not require geography to be taught in middle schools or high schools.”

Laingen said this disparity follows students to college.

“By the time students move on to college, geography is a foreign concept to them or, at best, courses where they think they might have to memorize world capitals or continents' longest rivers,” he said. “While that is geography, it's the equivalent of saying that all of mathematics is about knowing how to count from 0 to 9.”

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, about three-quarters of eighth-grade students were not “proficient” in geography in 2014.

“Specifically, these students had not demonstrated solid competence in the subject, and the proficiency levels of eighth-grade students have shown no improvement since 1994,” GAO reports.

Laingen said a week is not enough to pay attention to geography but it is a start.



Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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