Pennsylvania Alliance for Geographic Education (PA Alliance)
The Pennsylvania Alliance for Geographic Education works in conjunction with the National Geographic Education Foundation to promote geographic literacy in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Alliance joined the nationwide Alliance initiative in 1988 thanks to efforts by then Governor Robert P. Casey and NGS Chairman Gilbert M. Grosvenor. The inspiration behind the Alliance movement was to develop a grassroots organization of professional geographers and K-12 teachers to encourage geographic literacy (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) as well as inspire people to care about the planet.
Initially, the PA Alliance was housed at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where Dr. Ruth Shirey and Dr. Jim Wetzler (Pennsylvania Department of Education) served as co-coordinators. The early years of the PA Alliance were characterized by summer institutes in Pennsylvania as well as PA teachers participating in Leadership workshops conducted by National Geographic. These Teacher Consultants followed the “train the trainers” model where the teacher consultant conducted outreach and workshop in their region of the state. This grassroots effort paralleled growth in the inclusion of geography in both the social studies and the sciences in Pennsylvania schools.
In 2002, the Alliance moved to Bloomsburg University under the direction of Dr. Karen Trifonoff. The Alliance focused its energies on professional development workshops at local and regional levels during these years. As NGEF changed their funding protocol and focus, there was significantly less grant money available for larger summer institute initiatives. During these years, the Alliance worked to build its financial security with a partial endowment with the National Geographic Education Foundation. The trained teacher consultants in the state remained active and connected through several annual spring meetings.
Dr. Jim Wetzler coordinated the Alliance in conjunction with Jodi Vender (Penn State University) at its institutional home at the Army Heritage Center from 2006-2009. Summer Institutes were held across the state as part of the Governor’s Institute for Social Studies Educators. The Alliance was active with Geography Awareness Week programs, My Wonderful World public engagement outreach, and sponsored numerous workshops across the state for teachers at all levels.
The PA Alliance came to Shippensburg University in July of 2009 when Dr. Jan Smith became coordinator. Since this transition, the Alliance has been actively engaged in their strategic planning initiative. In terms of operations, the Alliance has developed an extensive database of school district, PDE Intermediate Unit, and college and university geography contacts, created a new member listserve at Shippensburg University, begun the renovation of the Alliance website now also housed at Shippensburg University, and created office space on campus for the Alliance. The Alliance has undertaken several modest programs to support teacher professional development and leadership including a grant opportunity for teachers to attend the NCGE meeting in 2010, workshops at PCSS, PGS, PSTA, the State Geographic Bee as well as many local and regional in-service activities focusing on the Geography Awareness Week theme and geography content in general. The Steering Committee has established a bi-annual meeting schedule and looks forward to developing procedures and organizational documents through our strategic planning initiative.