Today a teacher at the local high school conducted a small experiment in three 9th grade classes. A small number of stdents in each class correctly identified Alaska as an island north of Hawaii in the Pacific ocean.
Blame the problem on cheap maps and large class sizes. Alaska, as many of us know, is a huge state to the west of Canada. Small maps of the United States normally place Alaska as an insert, drawing it in the Pacific Ocean. Young minds find it there routinely.
Teachers. Get a globe in your classroom. Use maps, surely, but use the globe too.