All posts by Thomas Herman

Superintendent Torlakson Announces Approval of History–Social Science Framework

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on July 14 that the State Board of Education voted to approve the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, which will update and upgrade history and social science instruction in California.  This is great news that has been a long-time in coming.  It is important to note that NO CHANGE has been made to the state’s History-Social Science Standards.  Our friends at the California History-Social Science Project explain that and other important points about the new framework and what it means here:

What You Need to Know About California’s New History-Social Science Framework

And while a properly formatted and printed version of the framework is not yet available, you can access the full contents of the document here:

2016 History-Social Science Framework

We are excited about building our PD programs around the framework and look forward to a future revision of the standards.

California State Geographic Bee to be Held Friday April 1 at Fresno State University

It is that time of year again!  Hundreds of school level bees occurred throughout the state from November to January, with a winner being crowned at each school.  Now the top 105 school winners have been selected by the National Geographic Society and invited to take their talents to Fresno to see if they can emerge on top of a very intense competition.

The competition will begin at 8 am on Friday, April 1 at the Satellite Student Union on the Fresno State campus.  Once the preliminary rounds have been completed, the general public is welcome to come and watch the final and championship rounds, which will begin around 11 am.

State Bee Coordinator Sean Boyd, of the Fresno State Geography Department, was recently interviewed on the Central Valley Today television news program, and you can view that segment here:

Sean Boyd from CVT 2016

And a group of Mass Communication/Journalism students at Fresno State created a theatrical trailer for the Bee, which you can also view:

GeoBee Trailer

Good luck to all 105 competitors and congratulations to the thousands of students who participated in bees held at their school sites.

Team from Clark Magnet High in La Crescenta Use ArcGIS Online to Highlight Possible Solution to Global Crisis

Millions of people on Earth depend on fish as a source of protein along with beef and chicken. However, the growing population’s demand for fish has resulted in over fishing. Fish that are large in size are usually the targets for fishers and these species are usually what humans consume. For example, “of the 465 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 74 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered” (Wild Seafood).

The Cricket Busters, a group of ten students from Clark Magnet High School, have identified a solution to this problem. Eating insects such as crickets and worms are a much better protein source because they do not require land like cows and chickens do and they

are not endangered like fish. Cows are also bad for the environment because they release methane gas into the environment and they don’t give as much protein per gram than crickets.

Check out their Story Map here: http://arcg.is/1jovu1e

Professional Development Opportunity: Biodiversity in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Sat., March 19

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Join our BioBlitz partners at the King Gillette Ranch for this FREE workshop to investigate biodiversity in the Santa Monica Mountains and life’s enabling substance, water. By blending EEI and Project WET activities together the workshop will illustrate the three dimensional learning cycle that is integral to the Next Generation Science Standards. Educators get research-based planning tools that, when implemented with integrity, will bring immediate benefits to students. Ample time for collegial co-planning is built into the workshop as we explore biodiversity in the parks. This workshop is designed to support teachers planning to visit a National Park area with their class or participate in Bio-Blitzes in the park or at their own school sites – but all are invited to attend this training and get outside with us!

 

Cal State Fullerton Geography Department Welcomes AP Human Geography Students and Teachers

The CGA’s goal of creating a geographically competent workforce depends on increasing the quality of geography education in K-12 and making sure students see geography as a viable college major and career field.  Professor Zia Salim at CSU Fullerton is helping to build the bridge between high school and college-level geography.

Dr. Salim (far right of the photo) and the CSUF Geography Department hosted 100 students from La Habra High School on Dec. 4, 2015 as part of an outreach program to Advanced Placement Human Geography classes. The program included an exercise utilizing geographic information systems and presentations on a variety of geographic topics.  AP Human Geography is the fastest growing AP course nationwide, and we are excited to see high school students being exposed to what is happening at the university level so that they can give full consideration to geography as a field of study.

Creating links between geographers at the college and university level and geography and social studies teachers in their local area is one strategy that the CGA is looking to expand.  If you are a geographer that would like to connect with K-12 teachers and students, or a K-12 teacher looking to make a connection to a college or university in your area, please let us know!

Kimball Elementary in National City: Biodiversity Hotspot?

Under the direction of teacher Stephanie Buttell-Maxin, students in two 3rd grade Spanish immersion classes took to “the field” to study biodiversity firsthand as part of a schoolyard BioBlitz.   “The field,” in this case, is an area immediately adjacent to the school campus that includes a tidal creek.  While the area is far from pristine, it provides valuable habitat within an area that is heavily impacted by high density and industrial land uses.  Paradise Creek has provided a focal point for environmental education and community activism at Kimball, with students participating in water quality monitoring and site clean ups over the years.  BioBlitzing has also been a regular activity.

Kimball Study Area

Before even starting the BioBlitz, Mrs. Maxin oriented the students in a thoughtful way by posing two compelling questions about biodiversity and plant and animal adaptations.  For the activity, we prepared materials to aide the students in making field observations.  Each was given a worksheet and a site map for taking notes, plus magnifiers and cameras that were shared among the students.  Mrs. Maxin keeps a wonderful collection of photos and plant samples so the students could use those as resources when trying to determine what they were observing.  Prior to heading out into the field, students were provided with some instruction on what naturalists do and coached in using all of their senses to examine the natural world closely. Each small group of 3-5 students was led by an adult, but students decided what to document and collected all of the data on their own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The students really enjoyed taking a closer look at a place they already knew well, and they were able to uncover new information.  They realized how many different kinds of plants occupied this small space, and they also experienced how challenging it can be to get a good photo of a moving target.  Their knowledge of the site also proved useful in guiding their investigations.  Students referred to their site maps and used map reading skills to mark the locations of their observations on that map.  While being naturalists, students also commented on how the trash left behind by people (and washed in by the tides) presented a challenge to the health of the plants and animals, and therefore to the well-being of the students themselves.  Civic involvement often means taking care of the place where you live, and they were motivated to make improvements to this place.

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Kimball BB #2 026

Classroom activities reinforced the field activities.  Students reflected on their experiences in the field and responded to the questions about biodiversity and adaptations.  They made presentations about what they had learned.  A table top-sized reproduction of that site map was used in the classroom to transfer all of the observations onto a single map, reinforcing map reading skills and providing extra help for those students who struggled to relate the site map to the real space that they had just explored.  Finally, their best observations – those that included good photos and definitive locational information – were entered into iNaturalist, where a project had been set up specifically for the Kimball BioBlitz. With assistance from other users on iNaturalist, the group’s 28 observations yielded 17 confirmed species identifications within 24 hours of completing the project.  Another exciting development is that 13 of the observations have been certified as “Research Grade,” which means the students are contributing to scientific knowledge through “crowdsourcing” or “citizen science.”

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Congratulations to Mrs. Maxin and the 3rd graders at Kimball Elementary for a job well done.  And thank you to the volunteers who helped make this a great experience for the students: Patricia Simpson, Christopher Maxin, Emanuel Delgado, and T Herman.

 

Placer Union High School District Brings Geospatial Technology into the Classroom

On October 16, 2015, the CGA provided a workshop on using ArcGIS Online to a group of 18 enthusiastic high school educators who teach science, social science, journalism, and career technical education courses at Placer UHSD.  Gregg Ramseth, the district’s director of technology and assessment, has led the way in utilizing the free AGO Organizational accounts made available by Esri as part of the President’s ConnectEd Initiative, and a number of the teachers in the district are stepping up and engaging in the technology.

Placer Union High School District teachers utilize ArcGIS Online during professional development workshop on Oct. 16, 2015.
Placer Union High School District teachers utilize ArcGIS Online during professional development workshop on Oct. 16, 2015.

Teachers Robin Herrnberger and Greg Sloan participated in the first workshop held at Placer UHSD in the Spring, and then they attended the GeoTech Center summer workshop held at San Diego State University.  They are now eyeing the possibility of attending Esri’s T3G Institute in the Summer of 2016!  Greg will begin acting as an instructional coach for the district in January, which will further assist the district in supporting the inquiry-based learning promoted in the C3 Framework, engaging students in the kinds of practices called for in the Next Generation Science Standards, and building 21st century job skills.

Greg and Robin are demonstrating how teachers can ramp up their own skills in order to utilize the GIS software to its fullest educational potential, but at the workshop we also emphasized that teachers can make good use of ArcGIS Online with minimal training on their part.  Teachers explored the standards-based GeoInquiries that Esri has created for teachers of earth science and history, and they also found that they could create their very own simple map within a matter of minutes.

The CGA looks forward to continuing to support the Placer Union High School District.  Other districts interested in taking advantage of the free, industry-standard GIS software now available to K-12 schools should visit http://edcommunity.esri.com/ and reach out to the California Geographic Alliance to schedule a teacher professional development workshop.

Teachers discover opportunities for data visualization and effective communication presented by ArcGIS Online.
Teachers discover opportunities for data visualization and effective communication presented by ArcGIS Online.

California Geographic Alliance Trains High School Teachers to Incorporate GIS into History and Geography Courses

From July 15-17, the Spatial Analysis Lab at San Diego State University’s Geography Department was buzzing with energy and exciting ideas.  Twenty-one educators were receiving their first instruction in using geographic information systems, having conversations about how the technology could enrich teaching and learning of history and geography, and establishing free ArcGIS organizational accounts for 13 high schools, plus the San Diego History Center and the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio County.  The California Geographic Alliance (CGA), which is funded by the National Geographic Education Foundation, organized the professional development workshop with support from leading GIS software provider Esri, as part of their participation in President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative.  Teachers, educational technology resource teachers, and curriculum specialists from San Diego City Schools and Sweetwater Union High School District made up the majority of the group, but they were joined by 4 pre-service teachers who recently completed the Linked Learning program at SDSU, as well as a museum educator and a STEM Program Manager for the Girl Scouts.

Guided by Professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou (who serves as CGA’s Geospatial Technology Coordinator) and experienced mappers and patient mentors Cynthia Paloma and Yi-Ting Chuang, workshop participants learned to use ArcGIS Online to create their own web maps, build story maps that integrate maps with other multimedia content, and even use crowdsourcing to collect observations in the field that feed directly into a web map.  They were motivated by the possibilities presented through the tools made accessible by Esri, and they were quick learners.  By the end of day one, teachers were presenting their own maps!

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A Sweetwater Unnion High School District teacher works on a story map about the importance of the Silk Roads

CGA’s Professional Development Coordinator Emily Schell (who is also Executive Director of the California International Studies Project) and teacher leader Trevore Humphrey then helped the educators think strategically about how to integrate GIS into the classroom to create dynamic standards-based learning experiences and enhance students’ understanding of the world.  Each educator is now working (independently or in a team) to develop a new educational resource for use in their own classroom.  With input from the other participants and CGA staff, these resources will be refined and then shared with other teachers via the CGA website (www.calgeography.org) and future professional development workshops.  The educators who came to the workshop are now part of the CGA team working to unleash the power of geospatial technology!

Thank you so much for including me in the GeoQuest training last week. I enjoyed the opportunity and I look forward to moving forward with new programs based on what I learned. I already have a meeting scheduled for next week with a girl who is interested in using a Story Map as part of her Silver Award project. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as I build up our GIS based programs.”     – Carrie Raleigh, Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio County

“Thank you for putting on such an amazing learning opportunity for teachers.  I was in amazement all day at the level of excitement.  This will carry into classroom practice.  I appreciate the efforts the team went to in order to make this an engaging experience.”
     – Linda Trousdale, Director of Teaching and Learning, SDUSD

A particularly exciting aspect of the GeoQuest JumpStart Workshop was the fact that it continued and supported work that the CGA has been involved with to design and launch a new year-long Human Geography/World Geography course in Sweetwater Union High School District.  Four of the participants in the workshop were SUHSD teachers, and it was exciting to see them using ArcGIS Online to create  teaching and learning tools that will make the new course dynamic and enable students to develop spatial thinking and geographic reasoning skills.  One teacher is creating a Story Map illustrating how the development of the Silk Roads and associate international trade facilitated the transmission of religious philosophies and institutions, another is illustrating commodity chains and globalized business practices associated with fast food meals, while a third project will follow the experiences of the Lost Boys of Sudan from their initial experiences in their war torn homeland to their relocation and experiences as refugees in the San Diego area.  It is exciting to see teachers using such a variety of issues and stories to help students gain insights into the power of geography.  The CGA team is thrilled to be able to collaborate with Sweetwater’s Human Geography team.

 

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San Diego Unified School District teachers working to create a Story Map and learning activities focusing on the relationship between demographic variables and voting patterns in presidential elections.

The workshop was the first event coordinated as part of the CGA’s GeoQuest Initiative.  GeoQuest seeks to integrate geographic perspectives and the tools of geographical analysis into a diverse range of courses at all grade levels, with an overall focus on building 21st century leadership and problem-solving skills that will enable the U.S. to address the challenges of sustainability, economic competitiveness, and global security while at the same time embracing a diverse citizenry and their varied experiences.  The CGA works to promote geographic literacy and support geography education – at all grade levels and in out-of-school programs as well as formal educational settings.  While just one of a network of alliances, California is where the first geographic alliance was established in 1982.  SDSU’s Department of Geography has served as the host institution for the CGA since 2013.

Semifinalists Get Ready for the California State Geography Bee – Friday, March 27 at CSU Fresno

On Friday, March 27, the top 110 qualifiers from among all winners of school-level geography bees will convene in Fresno to compete for the state geography bee championship.  The event will take place on the campus of CSU Fresno and will be hosted by State Bee Coordinator Sean Boyd.

Two-time top three finisher Rhea Mitr is one of many standouts among the participants in the geography bee.  Rhea was one of 28 students who got a perfect score on the state bee qualifying exam last year.  Rhea was interviewed by the Fresno Bee and urged other students, especially girls, to participate in the Geography Bee as a means to become a better-rounded citizen of today’s global world. She went on to say that “the Geography Bee is [about] knowing all about the world we live in. It is not just limited to continents, countries, capitals, currencies etc. It is about having an in-depth knowledge in several other things as well – earth and physical sciences, monuments, wonders of the world (man-made and natural), history, events in the news, disasters, human geography comprising of habitats, culture, religion, language, ethnicity, etc.”

National Geographic has released a complete list of all semifinalists who have qualified to compete at their state bees, and you can see the list here.  Local media reports from across the state have begun to report on the successes of their local students who are headed to the state bee.  Here are some links you can follow to get to know a few of the competitors:

Semifinalist Rhea Mitr, Quarry Lane School
Semifinalist Sydney Gamble, North Creek Academy
S
emifinalist Alex Topp, Vaca Pena Middle School
Semifinalist Tobey Shim, The Bishop’s School
Semifinalist Max Bhatti, Longden Elementary School

If you know of any other local media reports about school bees or state bee competitors, please send links to cga@geography.sdsu.edu.

 

Bringing Insights of Geographic Research to Geography Education Practice

Greetings from the Alliance Network Annual Meeting at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, DC.  We are hearing about changes in the way in which the Alliance network is organized and supported, and in the coming months there will be news to share about new initiatives and new activities, and we think there will be some things you can get excited about and use to get students engaged in learning.  More on that to come, but for now we want to share something that is a little bit outside the box of our usual Alliance work, but still very related.

Many of you may not know that the CGA team at San Diego State – in particular Stuart Aitken, Thomas Herman, and Kate Swanson – are also involved in conducting geographic research on the geographies of children, youth, and families.  The concept of “geographies of children and youth” may be new to you, but because most of you work with children and youth on a daily basis, you will find it a familiar topic.  It is an interdisciplinary field including education, environmental design, and sociology researchers who share an interest in places and spatial relationships.  They examine the ways in which adults make space for children, youth, and families (playgrounds and suburban neighborhood design are simple examples). They are also interested in ways in which children and youth interact with and modify their environments (think about the old Family Circle cartoon that shows how the child who says she came straight home from school actually took a circuitous route throughout the entire neighborhood or the way kids tend to gravitate to forts and treehouses away from adults’ spaces).  This field has grown significantly over the past 20 years, as is reflected in academic journals and in the number of disciplines who are using geographic thinking to examine the lives and well-being of children, youth and families.

In January, we hosted the 4th International Conference on the Geographies of Children, Youth, and Families in San Diego.  Over 160 researchers from 32 countries attended the conference, and they presented a wide range of ideas and evidence about what is happening in the lives of children and young people.  If you are interested in learning more about the conference, you can check out the conference web site at: http://icgcsandiego.wix.com/ypbw or the ISYS Center web site at http://geography.sdsu.edu/Research/Projects/ISYS/.

One big takeaway message for us as Alliance leaders and for all geography educators is this:  Valuing the perspectives, concerns, experiences and voices of youth with regard to issues such as life in their community, what it means to be a Californian or an American, and how do we conserve our global environment will create incredible motivation for students to accumulate geographic knowledge and activate geographic thinking.  You already know that, probably, but it is helpful to have an occasional reminder and some encouragement.  We have lots of things to teach, some grounded in standards and some grounded in personal values, but we would encourage you to make sure that on a regular basis you are giving students an opportunity to exercise their voices, analyze their environments from their own perspectives and the perspectives of others, and express their ideas for a brighter future.

An example of this came from a plenary speaker at the conference.  Professor Katharyne Mitchell from the University of Washington gave a talk entitled “Counter-mapping with Children.” She taught students about the fact that maps reflect one view on a place, and that they reflect power relations and, often, official designations.  They leave out some features and labels to make room for others that the mapmaker thinks are important to show on the map.  Maps can therefore exclude the perspectives of minority groups or of people who do not possess official power and status (i.e., children).  Dr. Mitchell then worked with the children to examine the perspectives of specific groups in the Seattle area where she works.  The students focused on the perspectives of women, Asian-Americans, and African Americans and produced alternative maps for the city that elevated those perspectives.  The activity built social and historic knowledge of the students while also engendering empathy and, wait for it…..geographic knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking!  Sounds great, right?  Only a shame she is not in California.  However, immediately after the talk we had a chance to learn that Dr. Nancy Erbstein at the University of California-Davis is doing very similar work in California.  A new collaboration is hopefully emerging from that conversation so we can share Dr. Erbstein’s work (and methods) with all of you.  But you don’t need to wait.  Have your students map their community.  Have them look at maps of their home area and talk about what is shown on the map.  Have them talk to others in the community about the places that are significant to them and check to see if they are shown on the maps you can access.  Have them produce alternative maps that do reflect these features.  It will be fun and relevant and it will build geographic knowledge and skills.  It will hopefully also tap into their natural curiosity and lead to lifelong learning.