It was 2004. Imagine being in a 5th grade classroom in Washington, D.C. where not one student in the class could locate the neighboring state of Maryland on a United States map or had even HEARD of Maryland. Shocking, yet true! Based on testing, a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office confirms that those students are not alone – most U.S. 8th graders lack knowledge about geography. With careers in GIS, mapping and location-based technology on the rise, the study questioned whether students’ skills and exposure to geography are adequate for current and future workforce needs.
Fast forward to the 2005-06 school year. Students from that same Washington, D.C. school WON the first GeoPlunge tournament! Later, students from that same school, and schools throughout the Washington D.C. area, not only knew where Maryland was located, but they knew important information about all 50 states: where each state was located, the state capitals, rankings in size, population and statehood, and much more. They knew more than many adults. How did this transformation occur? They played GeoPlunge!
As one D.C. Public School System Elementary School Teacher said, “This program is true to the words ‘learning can be fun’ because in the span of a week [playing GeoPlunge] my students learned more [geography] than they had in a whole year of fourth grade social studies.”
And, since GeoPlunge is packed with strategy, consistent feedback has shown that playing develops critical thinking skills, motivation, and self-esteem, as well as social emotional learning in areas such as leadership and teamwork. These benefits can spill over into other subjects.
Teachers and coaches repeatedly tell us stories about students who have a hard time staying focused in school who become laser-focused during GeoPlunge activities. We observe the same thing at our tournaments; we see hundreds of students excitedly playing an educational game for hours.
Teachers and coaches tell us about students who were not having academic success but realize that they CAN be successful learners after playing GeoPlunge. In addition, those same students started engaging more in school as a whole.
We hear stories about students who have extremely difficult experiences in their home life, but embrace GeoPlunge as a bright spot.
Teachers and coaches tell us that they have students who were once timid and did not speak up in class but learned to communicate more effectively through GeoPlunge activities. Some of those students have been pointed out to us at tournaments. They certainly didn’t look shy to us; they looked like leaders!
Parents, teachers and coaches tell us that being on a GeoPlunge team creates a special bond among teammates because students navigate successes and failures as they work toward a common goal.
Our Title I teachers and coaches tell us that their students don’t usually explore the world outside of their neighborhoods. Many live in the nation’s capital but have never seen the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Participating in GeoPlunge takes them to the Smithsonian Institution, and playing the game opens their eyes to a whole new world.