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:
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.
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!
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.”
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:
And a group of Mass Communication/Journalism students at Fresno State created a theatrical trailer for the Bee, which you can also view:
Good luck to all 105 competitors and congratulations to the thousands of students who participated in bees held at their school sites.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.