Teaching your child

Our neighbor to the north furnishes much to the U.S.

Our neighbor to the north furnishes much to the U.S.

November 04, 2005|by LISA PREJEAN

Lately in history and geography class we've been traveling north of the border. Our unit on Canada might have seemed daunting at first, but I think we've all been surprised at how much we've learned about our neighbor to the north.

Why study Canada? For one thing, the majority of its population lives within 200 miles of the United States.

Most Americans will travel to Canada at least once in their lifetime, even if it's only to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

Canada has two official languages, English and French. It's fun to greet each other with French words such as "Bonjour!" (Hello) or to congratulate a correct answer with "Tres Bien!" (Very well).

Here's one fact of particular interest to newspaper readers: Canada leads the world in production of newsprint. If you've ever driven by The Herald-Mail's office on Summit Avenue when the press is running, you've seen the long, wide strips of paper that are threaded into the machinery from large rolls. This is newsprint, and without it, you wouldn't be holding your newspaper today.


Canada's geography also is quite interesting. Only about 5 percent of Canada is suitable for farming, but it is one of the world's leading wheat exporters.

When I told my class we'd be learning the names and locations of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories, plus the capitals of each, I sensed that there was hesitation.

I can understand why. How many American adults can name the Canadian provinces and territories and find them on a map? How many could you name? Perhaps you've heard of most of these:

  • Victoria, British Columbia

  • Edmonton, Alberta

  • Regina, Saskatchewan

  • Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • Toronto, Ontario

  • Quebec City, Quebec

  • Fredericton, New Brunswick

  • Halifax, Nova Scotia

  • Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

  • St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Whitehorse, Yukon

  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

  • Iqaluit, Nunavut

Learning the locations of the provinces and territories was made much easier by a geography Web site introduced to me by an editor friend.

The site,, offers several levels and various types of geography challenges.

My favorite one involves dragging a selected province onto a map and dropping it onto its location. During our computer lab time, I challenged my students to see how many levels they could pass with a 93-percent accuracy or above. Within 20 minutes, most of them had mastered the locations and capitals.

A week later, most of them had retained the information and did well on the map portion of a test on Canada.

The Web site offers similar games for other countries. Most sections have categories for capitals, states and geography.

If you know a student who is struggling with geography skills, point them to this Web site. Good, old-fashioned puzzles work well, too. I remember learning the location of the states by taking apart our United States puzzle and putting it together time and time again.

I'll probably suggest this to my fifth-graders.

Since we'll be spending the rest of the year studying the United States. I'm hoping we'll have just as much fun with our own 50 states and capitals as we did with the 13 capitals of Canada's provinces and territories.

We've been learning bits and pieces about the states in our "State of the Day" contest. Each day the students have been given three clues for that day's state. On the 50th day of school next week, the last clues will be given and the students with the most correct answers will receive prizes.

When it comes to learning geography, most of us need all the incentives we can get.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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