Category Archives: Events

Meet the Judges for the My California GIS Mapping Exhibition and Competition

Janet Brewster

GIS Specialist, California Department of Fish and Wildlife

  • My career has spanned multiple disciplines, and GIS has moved right along with me. From environmental planning to facilities to land and wildlife conservation, I have been able to use GIS to conduct analyses, create and manage data, and make connections that weren’t otherwise possible. But perhaps best of all, I can share all of this information on a map, rather than in a dry list of names and numbers. Who doesn’t love a good map?!

Continue reading Meet the Judges for the My California GIS Mapping Exhibition and Competition

CGA Supports GIS Day Event at CDE

On November 15, the topic of the day at the California Department of Education was Geographic Information Science.  More specifically, an internal event organized by CDE staff encouraged staff from a number of different departments within CDE to explore the potential of GIS as a tool in education.

The event had three components aimed at engaging the audience of education professionals.  CGA Director Tom Herman and CGA Geospatial Technology Coordinator Dr. Ming-Hsiang Tsou joined Dr. Hugh Howard (American River College) and a GIS Specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers on an expert panel.  A highlight of the day was hearing from a group from the Math Science & Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. roosevelt-high-students-at-2016-gis-dayThe students attended with their outstanding English teacher, Alice Im, and presented their work examining relationships between school segregation and graduation rates and exploring environmental racism by comparing the health problems and government responses related to the Porter Ranch gas leak and the Exide Technologies toxic contamination case in Vernon.  The CGA also hosted an informational table with our friends from The History Project at UC Davis to share GeoInquiries and how we are helping educators to engage their students in geographic inquiry using GIS.

One important message from the day was that GIS provided powerful tools for managing resources and making decisions in complex environments, but the value of GIS is unlocked by human understanding.  People still need to be able to ask good questions, and this means geography education is foundational and must be strengthened if we are to fully benefit from the potential of GIS in education and society.

The CGA was thrilled to be able to support this event, and we look forward to more exciting developments coming out of the State Department of Education regarding geography.

CGA brings 250 children to Cabrillo National Monument BioBlitz

As a key sponsor of the Cabrillo Urban Island BioBlitz in San Diego, the CGA helped bring 250 High Tech High elementary school children to the park for a 24-hour BioBlitz on May 21st. This very successful event was organized in coordination with National Geographic, the National Parks Service and 119 other participating parks across the United States.

Kids had a wonderful time at the event. There were 68 exhibitors set up at the BioBlitz headquarters, offering an array of hands-on activities for kids. At the CGA exhibit, children had the opportunity to go on a BioBlitz scavenger hunt to help them with their map reading skills. Thanks to our SDSU Department of Geography cartographer, Harry Johnson, visitors were also able to examine an amazing air photograph and topographical map of Cabrillo National Park.

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Cabrillo National Monument BioBlitz

Participants in the Cabrillo BioBlitz collected an incredible array of species observations. In fact, over the park’s 166 acres, citizen scientists logged 1,551 observations of 405 different species. This placed the Cabrillo BioBlitz as #3 in the nation for iNaturalist BioBlitz observations!

To see these observations, please visit the Cabrillo BioBlitz iNaturalist site: http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/6824/stats_slideshow

240 Students Participate in Sacramento Capitol Park BioBlitz

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Photo by TC Clark

On April 12th the CGA co-hosted a BioBlitz on the Sacramento Capitol grounds with 240 elementary school children from Bowling Green Elementary School. At this event, educators, naturalists, and students came together to learn about, and celebrate biodiversity in one of California’s most recognizable urban parks. The CGA collaborated with the Education and the Environment Initiative of CalRecyle to organize this hugely successful day. We all had a wonderful time, and students came to appreciate the importance of geographic, environmental, and outdoor education.

A BioBlitz is an intensive study of biodiversity carried out in a specific area over the course of a day. At our event, students from 3rd through 6th grade at Bowling Green Elementary observed and documented as many plants, birds, insects, mammals, fungi, and other organisms as possible. This gave them a great opportunity to become citizen scientists in their own backyard. They learned how scientists collect observational data, explored the diversity of life that exists even in an urban environment, and came to appreciate how humans influence biodiversity. Experienced naturalists were also on hand to help students identify local plants and animals. Additionally, the event hosted information booths on biodiversity, agriculture, recycling.

The Capitol Park BioBlitz is one of over 150 BioBlitz events being held around the country this year as part of a National Geographic Initiative marking the National Park Service Centennial. The California Geographic Alliance has joined with a wide range of partners in the California Outdoor Engagement Coalition to support over 25 BioBlitzes in California parks and schoolyards.

“Outdoor learning is an incredible opportunity available to any student,” said Tom Herman, Director of the California Geographic Alliance. “Geography education is about connecting students to the world and helping them understand their place in it, and engage in a meaningful way. Examining what is happening right outside your home or school is a great place to start, and biodiversity is an important issue.”

The media attended the event as well. Our Sacramento BioBlitz was featured on Sacramento’s Fox 40 news, as well as KCRA’s Channel 3. Watch our BioBlitz in action and watch CGA’s Director, Tom Herman, speak about the importance of geography education.

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Photo by TC Clark

For more information on BioBlitzes being conducted across the state this year, visit the California BioBlitz website and National Geographic.  To see some of the species students found at the Sacramento Capitol Park BioBlitz, see our iNaturalist data page.

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.

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.

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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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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.

 

Building Leadership Skills with Geography and GIS Education: Notes from the SDSU Colloquium by Dr. Joseph Kerski

Written by CGA Geospatial Technology Coordinator Ming-Hsiang Tsou

What are the key skills required for a team leader? An effective leader needs to provide a 360 degree perspective and to have capabilities to solve problems by using multiple tools with limited resources. With hands-on skills and technological expertise, a team leader should be able to communicate with his/her team members effectively and to accomplish challenging tasks with collaboration from multiple people in different fields together. All these leadership skills and trainings are the key components in Geography and GIS education. As a teacher of Geography and GIS, I would like to ask every Geography teacher and GIS educator to re-think the goals of Geography and GIS education. To equip students with leadership skills and deep-thinking capability, we should transform Geography education toward the development of team leadership for our community.

Understanding local to global challenges, learning geospatial technology and tools, using geo-enabled devices effectively (such as smart phones and navigation systems) are exemplars of important geography education content that can build the fundamental skills of team leadership for students. These examples were highlighted by Dr. Joseph Kerski during his colloquium speech on September 12th, 2014 at San Diego State University.

In our GIS education community, Dr. Joseph Kerski is a perfect example of a true team leader who is also an outstanding geographer. With a full house at SDSU’s Colloquium on Friday afternoon, Dr. Kerski delivered an insightful and inspiring presentation focused on learning geospatial tools and thinking critically and spatially about our world.

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It is a great honor for California Geography Alliance and the Department of Geography to host Dr. Joseph Kerski’s colloquium. Dr. Kerski received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 2000. He is the Geographer and Education Manager at ESRI and an adjunct Professor at University of Denver. With an impressive publication record (five books and over 40 journal articles, papers, and book chapters), Dr. Kerski is probably the most well-known GIS education “guru” in the world.

To demonstrate the definition of “guru”, I would like to share the SDSU story map made by Dr. Kerski when he just arrived to SDSU in the morning before his talk (Figure 1). Here is the actual link: http://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/?appid=61035b310fcd425dbf9d722da62c80de. He created this wonderful Story Map by using his mobile phone only and revealed these beautiful scenes around the campus visually and spatially. Very cool and effective!

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Joseph is my life-long friend (over 18 years) and one of the most admirable scholars in the GIS community. He and I spent 4 years together in the University of Colorado at Boulder during our Ph.D. programs.

In order to share his great presentation to the members of California Geography Alliance, we have posted a few sections of his colloquium videos in our YouTube Channel. You can access them from here: http://calgeography.sdsu.edu/featured-talks/.

Let’s train our next generation of geographers to become the team leaders in the 21st Century!

Ming from San Diego
mtsou@mail.sdsu.edu

Why We Need Geography Education

Good news: This week is Geography Awareness Week! Why do we need Geography Awareness Week? Because in order to become well-informed global citizens, American students need geography education. As the world becomes more interconnected through globalization, geography education can help us make sense of rapid global change. This is essential, particularly in light of political and military interventions abroad. For instance, when Russia moved into the Crimea in March 2014, a survey revealed that only 1 out of 6 Americans could locate Ukraine on a map. The further Americans believed Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they supported US military intervention (Washington Post, 2014). This is a problem.

Geography as a discipline has changed substantially over the last several decades. We do a lot more than maps! In our department at San Diego State University, our research spans the social and physical sciences. We study everything from vegetation, climate, hydrology, and soils to urbanization, migration, sustainability, and globalization. Many also specialize in Geographic Information Science (GIS) to develop applied solutions for real world problems.

For this year’s Geography Awareness Week, the theme is ‘The Future of Food’. By exploring the geographies of food, we gain a better sense of how the food we eat is part of a global commodity chain linking people, places and environments around the world.

The California Geographic Alliance, along with National Geographic, invite students, teachers, and community members to participate in GeoWeek 2014. GeoWeek is an opportunity to learn more about geography, while drawing attention to the need for policies to improve American students’ access to geography education. Get started by going to GeographyAwarenessWeek.org, where you can discover ways to participate in GeoWeek and find ideas and free resources to organize your own GeoWeek celebration.

Celebrate GeoWeek and spread the word about the importance of geography education!