Sioux Valley geography class analyzes high school football towns, picks state championship winners

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In three years, Jordan Fast’s 10th-grade world geography class has correctly picked 17 of the last 22 South Dakota High School Activities Association football state championships.  

And Fast’s class is looking to add seven more correct picks this year. But rankings, records, stats and players don’t factor into these selections. Instead, students have to analyze a variety of geographic factors for each matchup to pick a winner. 

“We just look at all the categories and score it by one,” Fast told KELOLAND News. “It was basically anything the students and I could come with for what is relevant for where you live in South Dakota.” 

This year, there were eight factors for students to analyze — total population, SD education statistics, average daily school attendance, community income, community growth, distance to the nearest Wal-Mart, fan bus distance to the DakotaDome in Vermillion and the distance to either Interstate 29 or Interstate 90. 

And based on those factors, here are the winners: 

Class 9B: Dell Rapids St. Mary over Potter County
Class 9A: Howard over Herreid/Selby 
Class 9AA: Canistota/Freeman over Platte-Geddes 
Class 11B: Winner over Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan 
Class 11A: Madison over Milbank
Class 11AA: Tea over Pierre 
Class 11AAA: Harrisburg over Brandon Valley

The class went 5-2 in 2020, 6-2 in 2019 and 6-1 in 2018. Fast, who is also an assistant football coach for Sioux Valley, said the process continues to evolve with each new geography class. 

He said one of the standards for the geography class is “analyzing characteristics of population distributions and human migration.” 

“I’m always looking for ways to create authentic projects which really make geography relevant,” Fast said. “This is what I came up with and the kids kind of helped me formulate it.” 

Volga, where Sioux Valley is located, would score very high in the geographic factors, Fast said. But he doesn’t want any towns or schools feeling slighted by the “Geography Battle in the Dome.” 

“If the geography went against you, show up to the game and I’ll still cheer you on,” Fast said. “We’ve got five games wrong in our four years.” 

Fast said the geography factors become harder to analyze in the bigger classes where sometimes it’s Sioux Falls school vs. Sioux Falls school. He said the nine-man schools always result in unique geography matchups. 

Fast calls high school football its own community for a lot of smaller South Dakota towns, but he also wants his students to understand factors that impact populations.  

“I want students to know there’s information about geography that impacts their daily life,” Fast said. “If you can make tangible, authentic assignments and creations it’s more than just a term out of a textbook.” 

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