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FFCHS Geography Teachers Share Lessons Learned From South Korea Trip with Students

Miranda Lopez
Mrs. Jeffords and Mrs. Duffey wear their I love Korea shirts

Fountain-Fort Carson High School Social Studies Teachers Tinya Duffey and Amber Jeffords traveled to South Korea in June for a geography education conference and field study. This trip was possible thanks to the Northeast Asian History Foundation (NAHF), which covered all the costs. Here's a summary of what they observed and learned.

Mrs. Jeffords:

The first half of our trip to Korea was spent in the capital and largest city, Seoul. The city is densely populated and is full of thousands of skyscrapers.  It’s also full of art, history, culture, and modern technology. We only saw and experienced a fraction of what the city has to offer.  

Mrs. Duffey and MRs. Jeffords in the city of Seoul

The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) is the most heavily guarded border in the world. It's a lasting symbol of the split of the Korean Peninsula. We were in awe of the history and the present-day energy. We hiked into Tunnel 3 and found ourselves feet from North Korea. We also were able to see into North Korea from the Dorasan Observatory and our hearts were heavy knowing the condition of those just on the other side of the border.

Sign in the The Demilitarized Zone that says "DMZ"
The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)

The Harijan Fish Market was an experience very new to us, as there is nothing quite like it in Colorado!  Hundreds of vendors shared their daily catch, and we witnessed sea life that we have never seen before. There were the biggest crabs ever, jellyfish, octopus, and other sea life being sold and auctioned off for the fresh catch of the day.

Harijan Fish Market
Harijan Fish Market
Harijan Fish Market

 After over a week of taking in the high-rise and fast pace life of Seoul, the Gamcheon Cultural Village took us back in time. It was a hillside of hundreds of dwellings and thousands of people. We were able to meander the hilly roads and literal doorsteps of those who have occupied this area for over a hundred years. This village has seen a boom in visitors since the early 2010s when a local university took on the task of painting the village and filling it with public art. Now, visitors contribute $2.00 to buy a map of the village and all of the money goes to supporting the trash and water services. This village is nicknamed the “Santorini” and “Macchu Picchu” of Korea.

Mrs. Jeffords and Mrs. Duffey at the Gamcheon Cultural Village

Mrs. Duffey:

During our cultural tour in Seoul, we visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace, built in 1395. It was the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty and was rebuilt after burning down during the Japanese invasion. We witnessed the royal changing of the guards. 

 Gyeongbokgung Palace in South Korea
 royal changing of the guards at the Gyeongbokgung Palace

 Another Seoul stop was Dokdo Museum. Operated by the Northeast Asian History Foundation (which funded our trip). The museum has a collection of maps and documents focusing on territorial disputes between Korea and Japan over the island of Dokdo. South Korea lay claim to the “East Sea” (currently recognized as the Sea of Japan) and Dokdo Island. We will be referencing these renamed geographic areas in our classrooms.

A group of teachers pose for photo at the  Dokdo Museum
Dokdo Museum in S korea

Another part of our tour was shopping at Namdamun Market, a large traditional market in Seoul. It is the oldest and largest market in Korea. We are so impressed with the low crime rate and how Koreans genuinely care and respect each other’s property. We had left a cell phone at an ATM in this market for over 20 minutes and when we returned, expecting it to be gone, a Korean eagerly asked if we were missing a phone. 

Namdamun Market

After the conference in Seoul, we took a 200mph speed train to explore Busan, the second-largest city on the southeast coast of the Korean Peninsula. It was the only part of Korea not captured by North Korea during the Korean War.

In Busan we visited the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. It was originally built in 1376, then rebuilt in the 1930s after it burned down during the Japanese invasion. The Buddhist Temple is nestled in the rocky shoreline landscape overlooking the ocean.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Conference Day was truly life-changing. We presented our researched topics alongside Korean professors. Mrs. Duffey’s topic was geographic name changing in Arkansas “Telling a Story and Making a Difference”.  Mrs. Jeffords’ topic was “South Korea and Colorado Connections” focusing on the FFC8 military population.  

Mrs. Jeffords and Mrs. Duffey on stage at the South Korea conference
Mrs. Jeffords and Mrs. Duffey at the Geographic Naming and Geographic education conference in South Korea

What lessons will you bring back to our teachers and district?

We are excited to share our experiences with fellow teachers and our students.  Experiencing the Korean culture was truly life-changing.

We are also eager to use Korea as a case study for our AP Human Geography and Global Studies classes. In particular, our conference focused on Geographic Naming issues with the East Sea and Dokdo Islands. These can be used as case studies for other issues around the world concerning this topic.

Further, we can connect each unit of our AP Human Geography curriculum to aspects of Korea. From the declining population to the rich culture, to the original phenomena of the DMZ, we have already introduced our students to the highlights of our Korea trip.