The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency co-hosted a GeoPlunge Tournament for fourth-graders at the T-Rex Innovation Center in St. Louis Nov. 15.
Twenty-seven students from St. Louis' Hodgen Tech competed in teams of three to play GeoPlunge, a card game that tests knowledge of U.S. Geography.
For the past six weeks, 18 NGA volunteers have worked with the Hodgen students nearly every day, for a half-hour, teaching the students how to play the game.
Triniya Sonnier, 10, said GeoPlunge helped her learn the states and capitals. “My favorite state is Hawaii, because that's the easiest to remember,” she said. “The capital is … Honolulu!”
Sonnier said GeoPlunge also helped her and her classmates practice working as a team.
Zion Drew, 9, agreed. “I like my team,” he said. “We learn together it gets the job done quicker.”
Drew said that before he started playing GeoPlunge, he didn't know all 50 states. “I only knew Texas, Missouri and Illinois. All the other states names were so weird to me. And capitals are even harder than the states. Now I've learned Connecticut is a state and its capital is Hartford, and Austin is the capital of Texas.”
Ana Irby, a fourth-grade teacher at Hodgen, said many students worked at home to learn U.S. geography in preparation for playing the games. “They really liked that they could work to get better on their own,” Irby said. “And it was easy to see their growth. As we played the game, they could see themselves getting better.”
Visits from NGA volunteers helped keep the students motivated to learn, Irby said. “The kids looked forward to having the coaches there,” Irby said. “They wanted to be at school and were on good behavior because they knew coaches were coming.”
NGA volunteer Emily O'Brien said students' scores on before-and-after U.S. geography quizzes improved by an average of 40 percent after six weeks of learning the GeoPlunge game with NGA volunteers.
“Our goal was to help students get excited about geography,” O'Brien said, “and it’s been so rewarding to see how much these students have learned and their enthusiasm for the game.”
The tournament was held as part of NGA's Partners in Education program -- in partnership with LearningPlunge, T-Rex and Boundless – to promote geographic literacy, or the knowledge of where people, places and things are located on a map and how they relate to each other. Fifteen ninth-graders from St. Louis' KIPP charter high school also participated as judges and scorekeepers.
NGA Partners in Education program's aim is to help foster a passion for learning and prepare students for careers in science, technology, math and engineering fields.