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California couple on mission to promote geographic literacy soon to arrive

A California couple who have embarked on a 424-day around-the-world journey to raise geographic literacy in students from kindergarten to seniors will arrive in American Samoa on Feb 10, 2012. Darren and Sandy Van Soye will be sailing in on a Princess Cruise Ship.

The purpose of their around-the-world journey is to instill a greater awareness and curiosity about world geography and its people and cultures—and the fragile planet— to as many kids as possible. The couple, in achieving their 424-day around-the-world journey to the six continents are hoping to visit at least 50 countries, and among those countries is American Samoa.

“We have always wanted to see the South Pacific but never had the opportunity to visit.  We made sure that, on this trip, we would include this beautiful, green and warm part of the world” they noted.

The Van Soye’s started Trekking the Planet after learning that 29% of U.S. young adults—ages 18 to 24—could not locate the Pacific Ocean on a map.  In fact, Americans scored second to last on overall geographic knowledge, trailing Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Sweden.

“We currently have 700 classrooms representing 52,000 students from 19 countries following our journey over the Internet. “The Journey started last Saturday, January 28, 2012”, said the Van Soye’s.

The couple was inspired to take this trip because of how international travel impacts the children. They are hoping to visit both public and private schools on this trip.

“By presenting at schools in American Samoa, we hope to help kids learn more about world geography”, said Darren Van Soye.

They plan to engage students by providing enrichment materials, a 64 page weekly overview that will use the framework of the Geography Standards of 1994 developed by the U.S. National Council for Geographic Education.

They will also present a video which consists of four important parts, defining geography, challenging the students with pop quizzes testing their knowledge of geography, and also giving an example of how geography is used to plan the location of a new school.

The couple wants to raise geography education and awareness by sharing information with students about the places they will visit and the activities they will be doing. Their hope is to instill a greater curiosity about the world in others, especially in young people. At the end of their presentation, teachers will know how to sign up to receive their free materials, they say.

Speaking with Samoa News via email, the couple said they planned to send out weekly supplemental emails with their impressions during the journey, along with images and videos.

Darren told Samoa News that after 25-years in the IT industry, prior to this trip, they had traveled to over 40 countries on six continents, most of it using independently organized itineraries.

“To date, we have spoken to over 2,000 students, mostly in the Southern California area. Every visit, we are surprised with how enthusiastic teachers and students are about our trip and the free materials we have developed.”

“Currently, we have over 700 classrooms from 19 countries following us, representing a total of 50,000 students”.

Darren and Sandy both hold Bachelors degrees. Sandy has a BA in Social Science and Darren has a BS in Computer Science. They also hold Masters degrees in Business Administration. The couple is from Anaheim, California, not far from Disneyland.