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Where in the USA is Ms. Amber?

Photo by Amberdenise Puckett

Geography and History Clubs at the Library

It’s 3:00 on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m standing in our smaller meeting room, the Summit Room, waiting for my 7-9 year olds to arrive. Last month we went through an overview of the United States. We learned about our highest elevation (Mount Denali at 20,310 feet above sea level– a very imaginary number to my Floridian students), the largest mammals in North America (the bison), and even the origin of the Secret Service (President Lincoln signed them into being on the very day he was assassinated).

Today, we are officially beginning our road trip across the United States with the first stop– Washington, D.C. The room is set up with three tables and four chairs at each. Each spot has a pencil, a worksheet, a glue stick and the symbols of the District of Columbia. The laptop is hooked up to the tv in the front of the room and we are ready to get started.

Once my 7-10 year olds file in they find a seat (and their grownups sit down too) and we begin. Every Geography club starts with an Animaniacs song. When we are working through the United States, we listen to Wakko’s America. If we are working through World Geography (like we will be this summer), we listen to Yakko’s World. After either one of those Animaniacs numbers we listen to the song of the state or country. We talk about the symbolism behind the state or country flag. With the D.C. flag, we talked about how it was based on George Washington’s family coat of arms.

We talked about several of the landmark buildings in Washington, D.C.– from the National Cathedral and the view of Darth Vader’s head to the many buildings that make up the Smithsonian Institution. We virtually toured Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen house, learning about the last hours of President Lincoln’s life and the aftermath of his assassination, not shying away from the darker moments of American History.

We took time to talk about the symbols of Washington, D.C.–the bird (Wood Thrush), flower (American Beauty Rose), the tree (Scarlet Oak) and dinosaur (the “Capitalsaurus”). We talked a bit about D.C. history and how it is completely intertwined with American History. We talked about how D.C. doesn’t have a Governor, but a mayor who does the same job. And we talked about how the citizens of Washington D.C. finally received the right to vote for President in 1964, but still don’t have actual representation in the halls of Congress.

We talked about the White House, from the famous residents, their pets and the War of 1812 where the White House burned. Do you know which presidents had alligators as pets? We talked about how the D.C. area has 17 universities including Howard University and Gallaudet- the only Deaf University in the world. Did you know that the football huddle originated at Gallaudet in 1892?

Why do I take the time to teach these things to my kids? I do it not only because I love history (it was my major), but because the kids aren’t learning them at school-at least not here. For the past few years and especially the past few months, there has been a battle in the Florida legislature and Department of Education over what kids can learn in school, even rejecting an AP African American Studies course. So many social studies text have been rejected within this past year that there are definite gaps in their education. I’m doing what I can to help teach American and World history in a fun way, from cup stacking to line dancing, sharing my love for history as I go.


Amberdenise Puckett is a Children and Teen Specialist with the Palm Beach County Library System. She focuses her programming skills with Kindergarten Readiness programs, educational STEAM and History classes and Dungeons and Dragons for both 8-11 year olds and Teenagers.

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