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Release: August 12, 1999

Iowa teachers travel to Africa as part of UI program

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Some Iowa students will learn about African geography this year from teachers with firsthand knowledge gained during a month in Nigeria this summer as part of a group led by University of Iowa professors. Some 17 Iowa high school and college teachers traveled to Nigeria July 7-Aug. 7 and will use their experiences to develop curricular material to increase American students' understanding of Africa.

"We will be developing curricular materials based on the National Geography Standards," said Rex Honey, a UI professor and the project director, before leaving for Nigeria. "We will produce written and Internet versions of our materials, so that teachers in Iowa and elsewhere will have sound, appropriate African material at their disposal." Honey is director of global studies and a professor of geography at the UI. The trip was his 11th to Nigeria this decade.

The federal government's Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Program, the Geographical Alliance of Iowa, and UI International Programs provided funding for the $142,000 project.

Before leaving for Nigeria, participants attended a series of workshops and individual activities to prepare for the trip. In Nigeria, the group worked with colleagues from the University of Jos and the University of Ibadan. They spent the first half of the month in Jos, in the country's central plateau, working with geographers and giving a workshop on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The second working site was in the rainforest of southwestern Nigeria, where the group worked with geographers from the University of Ibadan.

Rebecca Roberts, a UI geography professor, was the academic content specialist for the Jos portion of the work. She is an environmental specialist and has the added benefit of having been a secondary school science teacher. This was her fifth trip to Nigeria. Terna Gbasha, who is affiliated with the UI International Center, was the Nigerian director in Jos.

Honey was responsible for the academic content of the Ibadan portion of the work. Last year he and Stanley Okafor, head of the department of geography at the University of Ibadan, published a book on grassroots development organizations in Nigeria. Okafor taught at the UI in 1992 and 1994 and at Iowa State University in 1997. Okafor was the Nigerian director of the Ibadan portion of the project.

Kay Weller, coordinator of the Geographical Alliance of Iowa, was the pedagogical expert for the project. She is professor of both geography and education at the University of Northern Iowa.

Aaron Shields and Brennan Kraxberger, both doctoral students in geography at the UI, worked as graduate assistants for the project.

The teachers involved in the project are:

CEDAR FALLS/CEDAR RAPIDS: Dan Walsh, a student at the University of Northern Iowa, who teaches at a Cedar Rapids youth offender program.

DAVENPORT: Anne Hoeper, who teaches 7th grade world geography at Wood Intermediate in Davenport.

DES MOINES: Chris Joslin, a social studies and foreign language teacher at Holy Trinity School in Des Moines.

DUBUQUE: Cyndi Oldenkamp, who teaches special education at Hempstead High School in Dubuque; Kim Daughetee, who teaches special education at Central Alternative High School in Dubuque.

INDEPENDENCE: David Denhartog, who teaches government, psychology and world geography to 11th and 12th graders at Independence High School.

NEW HARTFORD: Kathy Sundstedt, who teaches social studies at Dike-New Hartford Junior High.

OTTUMWA: Natasha Cooper, who teaches world cultures and geography at Evans Middle School in Ottumwa.

TAMA: George Kuhter, who teaches 8th grade social studies at South Tama Middle School.