Parkville teacher's idea wins her a trip anywhere Contest based on 'Carmen Sandiego'

April 05, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

When a call came from Boston, Kathryn Robinson thought she might have won the "Carmen Sandiego" sweat shirt she was hoping for, and she was excited.

When she found out that she had won a trip -- anywhere in North America -- the Parkville Middle School teacher was shocked. "I made the poor woman repeat it about six times. I have never won anything."

Until now.

Mrs. Robinson was the first-place winner in the national "Carmen Teacher Contest," which rewards successful teaching ideas that incorporate Carmen Sandiego, the fictitious international thief and her band of lowlifes who lead geography gumshoes on worldwide chases on a television show and in popular computer games.

Her winning unit on the regions of Canada sends students to maps and atlases to determine the whereabouts of Carmen's cronies, such as Sue Slammer, Ann Grabgold and Bob Lyingface. Students must put together their clues, draw a conclusion on the characters' whereabouts, then defend that conclusion, she said.

The unit fosters a knowledge of Canada and "cooperative learning," in which students must work together to be successful. Because the unit is taught in the fall of sixth grade, the two-day activity gives students a chance to get acquainted, too.

"Each child has to contribute; it gives each child a feeling of self-esteem," Mrs. Robinson said.

She tried the unit last year at Woodlawn Middle School and shared it this year with the sixth-grade teacher at Parkville, where Mrs. Robinson teaches world culture and American history to seventh- and eighth-graders.

The prize includes two round-trip plane tickets to anywhere in North America and a week's lodging. The contest and trip are sponsored by Broderbund Software, which developed the Carmen San diego game, and by the public broadcasting stations in Pittsburgh and Boston that produce the television show.

They also produce activity guides, which are distributed to more than 100,000 teachers nationally.

Next year, Mrs. Robinson's "Regions of Canada" will be included in a new teachers' guide on North America. Her material can be adapted to any country by making new clue sheets, she said.

This summer Mrs. Robinson will be enjoying her own geography lesson, when she claims her trip and goes to California with her husband and daughter. "I've never been West of Chicago," she said. The family will start in Sacramento and travel south along the coast. "My daughter knows there's a Disney-something in California."

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