I really struggled how to teach the
geography of New York City to my students who were from the
inner city and were very insular.
One day (1970's), while riding the subway on the
way home from a long day of teaching, working a second job at a
nursing home and attending a graduate class, I was standing in
front of the subway map on the wall of the subway car. It was
hard to read the map because there was graffiti on the plastic
covering the map. At this moment I had an "Aha" moment and I knew
how to teach it.
The next day I told my class we were
going to talk about a gang war. This immediately got their
interest as gangs proliferated in their neighborhood. They
started remarking about gang colors, and turf. They knew more
about weapons and I had been trained with many different weapons
courtesy of the U.S. Army.
I started by drawing on the board an
island that stretched out 100 miles. At the far left end I told
them there was a gang called the Bad Dudes. Next to that gang
was another called the Quiet Rebels. I left the balance of that
island blank. I added the Savage Islanders and Mad Men & Women
or Mad Islanders as well as the Boss Xers. I showed them that
four of the gangs were on islands. I asked them of ways to get
from one island to another. The students came up with using
boats, bridges and tunnels. I drew some of these to show how
the islands were connected. After a while I asked them what
this was all about and eventually they got the idea we were
talking about New York City. Many of the students had “Aha”
moments when they realized they were the Bad Dudes from Brooklyn
and the Quiet Rebels, their neighbors was Queens.
New York City is composed of five boroughs:
Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan and The Bronx.