When Mike Farley was a young boy, he used Canadian Geographic magazine as a window to another world, far from his home in Toronto's suburbs. Fifteen years ago, Farley started teaching to share with students that passion for geography he cultivated as a child. Today, Farley is the Department Coordinator for Canadian and World Studies at University of Toronto Schools and the recent recipient of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s Innovation in Geography Teaching award. We sat down with the award recipient to hear his thoughts on geographic education in Canada.
Why is geography important?
Geography is all about connections. It's important because it helps people make sense of their own lives and the lives of others. More than any other subject, geography has the ability to touch on all subject areas while giving a birds-eye view on complex local and global issues. Students today are prepped and primed to think like global citizens, they walk into classrooms with previous knowledge of complex global systems and are ready to act on them. Geography gives them perspective.
What are some challenges geography teachers face today?
There are so many different ways to teach geography and so many different tools. Taking risks to discover what works and what doesn't can be a big challenge. Geography teachers need to be comfortable with their strengths, while keeping in mind their students' interests and exploring new ways of learning. A big tool kit and an open mind are all you need to overcome these challenges, but it is also important to include lessons that are tried and true.
Where do you see the future of geographic education?
More and more, technology is used to increase the interconnectedness of students and engage them at a higher level, especially across borders. There is so much potential to allow students and teachers to work virtually together and learn from one another. Game-based learning (a pedagogical technique explored by Farley earning him recognition throughout Canada) is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope to explore how geography overlaps with other subject areas and help students approach complex issues through a geographic lens.