EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 30, 2013

Sixth-graders, parents have fun while learning at Geography Night

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Where is the one place where the American flag is always flying, never lowered and no one salutes it? Also, no other flag is there.

Many adults would be stumped by that question, but Mitali Gupte, a sixth-grader at North Andover Middle School, had no problem giving the correct answer: the moon.

Mitali was among the hundreds of students and their parents who attended the Sixth Grade Geography Night at the middle school last week. This was the fifth year English language arts and geography teacher Robert Poirier has organized the event.

Poirier said he is committed to doing what he can to improve geography education in America. He pointed out that American students lag behind their peers from around the world when it comes to knowing what is where.

Mitali displayed her knowledge during a game of geography baseball, which drew dozens of participants who undoubtedly had a certain team on their minds. Mitali’s accurate answer earned her a home run.

Mitali, daughter of Seema and Sanjeev Gupte, said she knew that American astronauts had placed the Stars and Stripes on the moon. She also knew that the flag does not get saluted because “no one visits the moon,” she noted.

Zach DiSalvo, son of Bonnie and Paul DiSalvo, scored a double by giving the name of the continent where Mount Kilimanjaro is: Africa.

Geography baseball, enthusiastically coordinated by two teachers, Aaron Drosdek, special education, and Barry Connell, eighth grade science, was just one of numerous activities at the school, which was liberally decorated with flags, maps and other geographical objects.

Many students and parents flocked to the large inflatable Earth in the gymnasium, where Bridgewater State University professors Vernon Domingo and James Hayes-Bohanan gave them a tour of the outside and inside of the planet.

Both professors wore ties featuring various national flags.

A giant map of Asia, where people could walk all over the continent, was featured on the second floor. For those who gave up a night of bingo to attend Geography Night, no problem. Landform bingo, in room S107, tested participants’ knowledge of land forms: fjords, capes, deltas, faults, among others.

At an exhibit offered by the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History of Weston, people could create an atlas with real stamps.

Principal Joan McQuade called Geography Night “a wonderful community event.”

“It’s grown every year,” she pointed out.

Poirier said he wants that growth to continue.

“I want it to be bigger and better,” said Poirier, who has taught at the middle school for more than 20 years.

He said next year’s Geography Night may include food – from all parts of the world, of course.