Gridiron Geography Professional football players will give 5th-grade teachers in Denver, Kansas City, and Philadelphia a little help in teaching U.S. geography this year.
In a program designed to "enliven" geography lessons, 56,000 students in the three participating school systems will study geography by ''following" their hometown football teams as they play in cities across the country.
The "Gridiron Geography Program" is jointly sponsored by the As-sociation of American Geographers, the three National Football League teams, and local businesses and school districts. The aag, a professional association based in Washington, helped develop the gridiron curricula and has donated regional and national maps to the classes.
The football teams provide the classes with gridder memorabilia and the promise--for high scoring in geography--of classroom visits from such nfl stars as quarter-backs John Elway of the Denver Broncos, Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Bill Kenney of the Kansas City Chiefs.
This year, the Philadelphia team has added an extra incentive, announcing that the city's top geography students will be invited to spend a day at the Eagles' spring training camp next season.
Teachers in Kansas City developed the program in 1981 with the cooperation of the Kansas City Chiefs, according to Christine H. O'Toole, a spokesman for the aag The geographers' association has promoted the gridiron project as a model program, and in March the nfl owners endorsed it at their annual meeting and encouraged franchises to participate.
The nfl stamp of approval attracted the Eagles and the Broncos this year, Ms. O'Toole said, adding that several other teams are considering joining the program.
Program sponsors are concerned, said Ms. O'Toole, about the "weakness" of U.S. students in geography. She cited a recent survey in which more than 20 percent of 12-year-olds incorrectly identified Brazil on maps as the United States.