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How I taught the Geography of New York City

East New York Broooklyn  Where I taught

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Views I took  from the World Trade Center in 1999


Art and Photographs by Cybrary Man

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.