Playing to Learn
Gathered by Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan
Department of Geography
Bridgewater State College
Version: November 9, 2012
Geography is about much more than place names, but not knowing where things are really is a problem! The internet is full of geography quizzes, some better than others. On this page, I am sharing the best resources I know of for learning where things are. I also include quizzes and games that do a bit more: teaching about places. Some of the games -- particularly the board games -- do quite a bit more: teaching about ways of understanding the world, which is what geography is really all about!
Newest edition -- my tie! On the BSU-EarthView blog, read all about how my neckware became a vexillology game, and then try your luck.
Photo: Dr. Bob AmeyLaguna, at the southern end of the 1494 Tordesillas (or Tordesilhas) Line, is the ideal place for this geographer! My feet planted in two worlds -- the left in Spanish America and the right in Portuguese America! I am standing on a line that was intended to divide the entire world, though it was determined in Europe.
As suggested on Wikimapia, a similar marker is located in the city of Belém, though Brazil eventually claimed territory far to the west of the boundary designated by the treaty.
JetPunk is a quiz site that came to me. That is, someone from the company asked me to include it on my site. I tried several of the quizzes, and I can recommend them. The variety of topics within geography is similar to some that I have seen on other sites, but there are some I had not seen and the list quizzes (such as Africa countries) have a very nice interface. As correct selections are made, they change on the map and disappear from the list of remaining options.
Many of the quizzes are basic place names, but a few are somewhat higher-order as well, such as the photos of national leaders.
Additional geography quiz right now: what is wrong with the map shown in this screen capture? Give up? See the answer here.
|National Geographic Traveler
of a Lifetime -- a series of fascinating locations
throughout the world, with photographs, quizzes, and other
tools for learning about them.
I would be happier if more African and Latin American destinations were included, but the site will keep you busy with the rest of the world for hours.
National Geographic also sponsors My Wonderful World, a campaign for geographic education. The Kids & Teens page tells 10 cool things about geography and has links to games, maps, and news.
Geography is about much more than memorizing place names. Learning where things are is fun, however, and the abandonment of geographic education in the United States has led to profound ignorance of where things are.
The Lufthansa game to the left is a fun way to learn some places and develop map-reading skills. I played for part of an evening and moved from the middle of the player population to the 98th percentile. I might do a bit better if I study a Lufthansa map of Europe.
Sheppard Software has an incredible array of engaging games to help children and adults learn place-name geography, ecology, and many other areas of science, math, and history. To be honest, I should spend a bit more time with some of the games myself!
There is hope, though: see My Wonderful World!
is a quiz site that makes the world a better place in two
ways. Sponsors contribute rice to the UN World Food Program
every time a player gets a right answer and the quizzes push
back the boundaries of ignorance with every click! The
vocabulary game is the most popular and I enjoy it. The
geography games are not very sophisticated, but they do
teach countries and capitals.
|Like FreeRice, Sporcle
provides hours of diversion with quizzes covering many
subjects. The geography selections are a bit more
interesting, often focused on a particular region or
country. Unlike other quizzes, spelling counts on this site,
and each quiz is timed.
I did pretty well identifying the 25 largest cities in the Americas. I really should have gotten Porto Alegre, since I have a partner school there, but I did not realize it was so big! And the only city I could think of in Minas Gerais was Campinas, not Belo Horizonte. Actually, from this game I learned that I have been able to visit eighteen of the twenty-five largest cities in the hemisphere!
|Quizzes can be humbling! I
only found 14 of the top 20 producers of one of my favorite commodities
(though spelling worked against me on #11). Can you guess
what it is?
The BSU-EarthView blog includes quite a few links to interesting maps, as does the older BSC-EarthView blog archive. Although these are not games, many of these maps are so interesting that they will help students learn geography in some similar ways.
ChartBin is a map site that is so full of geography lessons that I mentioned it on my "grown-up" Environmental Geography blog. It includes thematic maps -- such as the map of flags -- that make very good use of the graphics technology so that a single screen contains dozens of screens worth of information. Explore ChartsBin for maps at a global scale covering everything from national holidays and animal symbols to crime and health data to capitals and crime rates.
I use a variety of videos, especially music videos, to augment my teaching efforts. The best video to start with is Yakko's World!
YouTuber snolygoster has created what he calls a karaoke version, in which he points to each location on a paper map. Notice at 0:42, 1:06, and 1:50 in his video that he divides his arrow in two -- very clever! I am hoping to film something like this in EarthView some day!
Stewart Clamen has posted Yakko's lyrics and corrections to the lyrics, including corrected names, countries that were omitted in the original, and countries that have been created. He had created a link from each name in the lyrics to the country or territory's profile in the CIA Factbook, but those links have expired. Since Mr. Clamen's update, two additional countries have been created: Timor-Leste (East Timor) and South Sudan.