Making Real-World Connections with Geography Alive!

Meet Jessica Cooper

“TCI is very easy to work with. If you have a question they respond quickly. I have never received personal feedback like that with any other curriculum company.”

Jessica Cooper

  • Grade: 6th
  • District: Haslett Public School District, Michigan
  • TCI Program: Geography Alive! Regions and People
  • Teaching with TCI Since: 2017

A few years ago, Haslett Public School District in Michigan was looking for a new middle school social studies curriculum. As a part of the selection committee, sixth-grade geography teacher Jessica Cooper reviewed a number of different options. When she came across TCI’s Geography Alive! program, she was impressed with its engaging, hands-on curriculum.

“I love the experience emphasis part of TCI. TCI tries to make each lesson as hands-on as possible, which is a challenge in social studies,” Jessica stated.

Haslett’s selection committee decided to adopt TCI’s Geography Alive! program. As she taught with the program, Jessica grew to appreciate how it fosters real-world connections, makes it easy for teachers and parents to connect with student learning, and provides ongoing teacher support.

Engaging with the Real World

One of the most important elements the Haslett selection committee looked for in a social studies curriculum was rich non-fiction readings to build students’ expository text skills. With a case study in each lesson, students can immerse themselves in the readings and learn about different regions around the world.

“I think that case studies are very real world and so students are very interested in them,” Jessica explained. “We were starting the lesson on the old Soviet Empire when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2021. The kids were completely engaged in the lessons and felt they were learning important information that helped them better understand their world.”

As Jessica’s class read different case studies, students often found personal connections to places across the globe. For example, a Polish student in Jessica’s class was quiet and kept to herself. However, during the lesson about that region, the student would light up.

“She wanted to share about Poland,” Jessica recounted. “She became more involved in class discussions than ever before and felt connected to the subject.”

Geography Alive!’s readings and activities connect students with the world around them, fostering their curiosity and understanding of geography. The program encourages students to make personal connections with the content.

Staying Connected with Online Tools

In addition to the engaging content, TCI’s online tools help parents and teachers stay connected with their students. Jessica found that as students transition to middle school, parents want to continue to know what their child is learning. With the online platform, parents can stay involved with their student’s studies.

“When parents want to help their kids study, I could point them to the lesson games and the vocabulary cards,” Jessica explained. “This allowed parents to be a part of their child’s learning. TCI’s online components help teachers communicate and stay in touch with families.”

high school students

Similarly, TCI’s online tools also allow special education teachers to connect with their students. The special education teachers at Haslett support many students in different classes. The online tools help them stay organized.

“It’s hard for special education teachers to know what’s going on in every classroom in our building,” Jessica pointed out. “When they can access TCI and the kids can log in, it is easier for all of us to work together as a team to support the student.”

From grading dashboards that show class trends to review tools like games and vocabulary cards, TCI’s online platform helps parents and teachers stay connected with their students.

Ongoing Teacher Support

TCI continues to support teachers beyond the first year. Jessica partners with TCI’s sales representatives, content developers, and customer success teams when she has questions.

“TCI is very easy to work with, so if you have a question, they respond,” Jessica reflected. “I don’t feel like you get that personal feedback with any other curriculum. It’s usually in the beginning you get somebody to help you with the curriculum, but then you are left to figure the rest out on your own.

TCI Webinar Library

TCI’s professional development opportunities are available throughout the year. Teachers can learn more about TCI’s teaching strategies and best practices for using the materials through webinars, self-paced courses, and live events. Jessica found TCI’s Virtual Summit which is held over the summer especially helpful.

“I encourage others to take advantage of online professional development provided by TCI,” Jessica advised. I find it helpful that TCI records all of the webinars so you can rewatch them anytime.”

TCI develops ongoing partnerships with teachers. We continue to seek out new ways to support teachers in classroom success.

Jessica’s Favorite TCI Activities

The Global Sneaker: From Asia to Everywhere

Students examine images and then participate in an act-it-out to learn about how sneakers are a product of globalization.

This activity leverages the Visual Discovery teaching strategy, in which students view, touch, interpret, and bring to life compelling images, turning what is usually a passive, teacher-centered activity—lecturing— into a dynamic, participative experience.

Migration to the United States: The Impact on People and Places

Students examine the biographies of immigrants to the United States. They create a presentation to teach others about migration.

This activity leverages the Social Studies Skill Builder teaching strategy, which turns the traditional, rote tasks usually associated with skill-based worksheets
into more dynamic, interactive activities.

Istanbul: A Primate City Throughout History

Students play a trading card game designed to simulate Istanbul’s site and situation.

This activity leverages the Experiential Exercise teaching strategy, which makes abstract ideas or remote events accessible and meaningful by tapping into intrapersonal and body kinesthetic intelligences.

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