All posts by Thomas Herman

Making calgeography.org a One-stop Shop for Your Geography Education Needs

At the CGA, our goal is to help build geo-literate citizens who care about the planet’s people, places and environments, and who feel empowered to strive for a more sustainable and equitable world. Teachers, informal educators, parents, students, policy-makers, and the media are all partners in helping us achieve this goal, and the Alliance website is a vehicle for educating, activating, coordinating, and supporting those partners. With this understanding, our team at SDSU, with input from CGA members, has completely revamped the site and is continuing to build out its utility. While the site is changing weekly and should present more value to all audiences as we continue our work, I am going to take this opportunity to give you a quick overview of what you can find there and how you can help us build a better online resource. From the welcome page on, we want the site to support our collective mission.

Teachers (and by extension their students) are our primary audience, and that is reflected in the content we have put online. Under the RESOURCES tab on our main menu, you will find three categories:

CALIFORNIA ATLAS: Our excellent print atlas, California: A Changing State, is available on the site as individual pdf files. You can print pages as needed for student work or project the maps for instruction. The atlas is aligned with fourth grade curriculum and has accompanying lessons for that grade, but it can be a valuable resource at many different grade levels and across a variety of subjects. In addition to the individual maps, the atlas contains great info about how to understand and use maps. If you dig deep into this section (or link directly from the menu on the left margin of the site), you will find “Atlas 2.0” – our working title for a suite of exciting new interactive resources. We have created several web maps and StoryMaps based on the topics covered in the print atlas but incorporating greatly expanded information in a format that allows teachers and students to explore important aspects of California’s history and environment through integrated maps, texts, and images. These are early prototypes, and we will continue to develop them with the help of some talented graduate students at SDSU and the input of teachers. Tell us what you think, suggest additions, or get online with Esri at http://storymaps.arcgis.com/en/ to see many more examples and experiment with making your own StoryMaps. Then share your work.

CONTRIBUTED LESSONS: This is a list of geography lessons, sorted by grade level, that have been created by CGA Teacher Consultants and other teachers who have attended past workshops. We would like to be able to make this list more valuable by adding new model lesson plans and including some info with each lesson plan about what teachers find useful about each lesson plan (kind of user reviews, as we have all become accustomed to online). So send us your best lesson plans, tell us what you think about the ones that are online now, and help us build a better resource.

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES AND MULTIMEDIA CONTENT: One of our concepts for creating a valuable one-stop shopping experience for geo-educators of all types is to be a curator to help people access the best of literally thousands of amazing resources that already exist online. Again, we are very open to reviews and recommendations, but you will find links to sites with lesson plans and online tools, and you will also find links to a lot of short videos that could be used to introduce students to a topic or stimulate critical discussion. For example, The Economist magazine puts out very informative “videographics” on topics such as global migration flows (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcoOENLfpUI), and series of videos created by independent filmmakers such as one entitled Gas Rush explores the boom in natural gas and fracking from a variety of perspectives and features interviews with real people working in or affected by the industry (http://www.gasrushstories.com/grs/Stories.html).

There is also some useful information for educators under the ABOUT tab on the main menu, including:

ABOUT THE CGA: This gives a brief history of the organization. We should all be proud of being the first alliance in the country and one of the places where the movement was first imagined and nurtured.

GEO-LITERACY AND GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION: This page includes texts and links to videos explaining exactly what geography is and why it is vitally important. Geo-literacy is a term that is used within the geography education community to underscore the central importance of geographic knowledge and spatial thinking. We see it as a core competence for the students of today and the citizens of the future. On this page you will also find links to the California content standards and curriculum framework for history and social studies, common core state standards (Did you know there are free iPhone/iPad and Android apps with the Common Core standards?), and the Next Generation Science Standards. Those are the crucial policies for teachers, but the CGA is also looking beyond what is in place to think of what geography education could and should look like, and you can get some ideas about that from following links to A Road Map for 21st Century Geography Education or Geography for Life.

GEOGRAPHY MAJORS AND CAREERS: When the SDSU leadership team decided to take on hosting the CGA, we set a goal to increase the number of incoming college students who declare geography as a major. Unfortunately, this is a rare occurrence, and we think it would be good for our economy, our communities, and our students’ futures if more chose to study geography and prepare themselves for careers as geographers or in many other professions where geographic knowledge and skills are valued. Toward that end, we have included information about why a student might choose geography as a major and where in the US a student could pursue an education in geography. We also link to the site of the Association of American Geographers that includes profiles of professional geographers. And while you are on the site, check out one of our latest blog posts that confirms that geographers’ sensibilities and skills are prized in the workplace and jobs for people with the technical ability to work with geographic information are well-paid and more numerous than job-seekers with the required training. This message needs to get out to our high school students. Geography is relevant, interesting, integrative, and a pathway to a great career.

Thanks for reading! I hope you will visit calgeography.sdsu.edu again and again because it is a valuable resource. And please contribute your own content or suggestions to make it the best possible reflection of the important work we are all doing in geography education.

Cheers,

Tom Herman, CGA Director
therman@mail.sdsu.edu

Geography in the Workforce: Good News to Share (from the President of the American Geographical Society)

If ever there was any question that geography is foremost among professions, the last shred of doubt has been dispelled by reports on employment trends over the past decade. The U. S. Department of Labor, The Guardian newspaper, MSN.com, Money Magazine, and PayScale.com stated our case better than we geographers have. Let’s start with the most recent and work backward in time. MSN.com in its Money section on May 5, 2014 covered “America’s most and least common jobs.” Geography was among the least common, and I’ll talk about that aspect later, but there was good news too: “Still, some of these uncommon jobs do have growth potential and include relatively high salaries.” The data cited by MSN.com came from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): “The average geographer earned more than $75,000 annually as of 2013.” What’s more, “The BLS forecasts that these jobs will grow by 29 percent…between 2012 and 2022.”

On April 22, 2012, Debra Auerbach of CareerBuilder.com wrote about “10 jobs with above average salaries.” Then at $74,170, geographers were second highest, and all jobs on the list were projected to grow more than 29 percent over the subsequent decade. Auerbach explained, “Geographers study the earth and its land, features and inhabitants. They also examine political and cultural structures as they relate to geography. This is a good occupation for lovers of travel, as geographers often travel to conduct fieldwork.”

In 2010, The Guardian published a poll showing that geography graduates had the very lowest unemployment rate of all disciplines in the United Kingdom (source). Among the previous year’s graduates, 7.4 % of geographers were unemployed in January 2010, compared to 16.3 % of information technology (IT) graduates. “What makes…geography grads the most employable?” Alison White asked, and the answer came from Nick Keeley, director of the Careers Service at Newcastle University: “Studying geography arms graduates with a mix of skills employers want to see: Geography students generally do well in terms of their relatively low unemployment rates. You could attribute this to the fact that the degree helps develop a whole range of employability skills, including numeracy, teamwork through regular field trips, analytical skills in the lab, and a certain technical savviness through using various specialist computing applications. Also, the subject area in itself cultivates a world view and a certain cultural sensitivity. These all potentially help a geographer to stand out in the labor market.”

For many years the U.S. Department of Labor has recognized geospatial technology as one of the three top growth industries today, alongside nanotechnology and biotechnology. “Over 500,000 professionals in fields ranging from environmental engineering to retail trade analysis are asked to use GIS in their jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists (a subset of GIS occupations) are experiencing faster than average employment growth – anticipating growth at 19 percent between 2008 and 2018” (source).

Money Magazine and PayScale.com placed “geographic information system analyst” in its list of the “Top 100 Best Jobs in America” in 2010. The 2011 list of the “Best Jobs in Fast-Growth Fields” included various careers that utilize GIS.

Why, you may ask, with all these striking figures high salaries, rapid growth, low unemployment, aren’t students beating down the doors to get into our classes? Why are geography departments not booming in every university in the country? Why, in fact, are geography departments closing at a disturbing rate? Why do parents routinely ask, when their sons and daughters announce they want to study geography, “How on earth will you make a living?” Most puzzling of all, why are departments changing their names to attract students concerned about employment? The answer is pure, unadulterated ignorance among the U. S. public. Geography is one of the least common professions because few employers know to call geographers “geographers.” Few know to advertise for a geographer when that’s what they need to hire. Our students, however, find high salary jobs, seldom called “geography,” because we give them skills and attitudes that warrant high pay.

Clearly, we geographers aren’t making our case as convincingly as we could and should. We aren’t informing students of the disciplines true potential of employment. We aren’t informing employers that there are plenty more good prospects like the ones they have already hired, if only they will support our programs and seek our graduates.

The American Geographical Society will continue to fight to get this message out: Geography is the key, not only to understanding, but also to success.

Note: From the August 2014 newsletter of the AGS.

From Edutopia: Students Map Real-World Issues with (Free) Geospatial Tools

Suzie Boss, journalist and project-based learning advocate, published an article on Edutopia yesterday (7/28/14) underscoring the value of the free access to ARC-GIS Online to K-12 educators. I recommend taking the time to read it, but here is a snippet: “Being able to analyze data and present information visually are important skills, whether you are investigating global issues or trying to solve problems in your backyard. Adding GIS to the project-based learning toolkit opens all kinds of opportunities for rich inquiry.”

What was exciting to me about this article is that it was shared with me by an educational technology specialist immediately following a meeting I had with her regarding a mapping project for third graders. The CGA is working with the San Diego History Center and the School in the (Balboa) Park program to develop a week-long map skills module during which students will learn to read and interpret maps and also will get experience producing their own maps using digital technology.

Teacher Professional Development Workshop – California Atlas – Placer County Office of Ed. – Wed., July 16

As a result of generous support from the Bechtel Foundation, the CGA is offering professional development workshops for 4th grade teachers focused on our state atlas, California: A Changing State.

Our latest workshop to be announced will be held in Auburn at the Placer County Office of Education, from 8 am to 4 pm on Wednesday, July 16. These workshops are free for any fourth grade teacher, and each participant receives a set of 18 atlases for classroom use, activities and lesson plans to get their students using the atlases, and a selection of other books and materials, all valued at over $250. Space is limited, so reserve your spot now by visiting the Professional Development page.

Exciting News from Esri – Making GIS Accessible to K-12 Educators

It was announced yesterday at the White House that Esri will provide free ArcGIS Online subscriptions for all K-12 schools (instructional use) in the United States as part of the White House’s ConnectED initiative. More information is available here.

Resources to help schools get started with ArcGIS Online are available at http://edcommunity.esri.com/connected.

In conjunction with this initiative, we encourage GIS professionals to become GeoMentors who volunteer to help schools set up their ArcGIS Online account, provide data for the local community, and provide local expertise. More information about the GeoMentor program is at http://www.geomentor.org.

ArcGIS Online subscriptions for K-12 schools include 500 named users. The July release of ArcGIS Online will include a new custom role (“Student”) and new account administration tools for managing student accounts.

Please contact connectEDschools@esri.com with questions.

Understanding the Crisis in the Ukraine: a Lesson Aligned to Common Core and California History-Social Studies Standards

The full lesson is found here: http://www.crf-usa.org/online-lessons-index/the-crisis-in-ukraine

Overview

This lesson examines the crisis in Ukraine. First, students hold a brief discussion on what they think is the most important news story going on. Then they read and discuss a background piece on the crisis in Ukraine. Next, in small groups, they role play international lawyers and analyze Ukraine’s 1994 Budapest Memorandum, an agreement among Ukraine, Russia, the U.S., and the U.K.

Objectives

Students will be able to:

    > Explain why the protests in Ukraine took place.
    > Describe the cultural divisions in Ukraine.
    > Analyze and answer text-dependent questions on a primary document, citing evidence from the text (Ukraine’s Budapest Memorandum).

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standard RH.11–12.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

National High School Civics Standard 22: Understands how the world is organized politically into nation states, how nation states interact with one another, and issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy. (1) Understands the significance of principal foreign policies and events in the United States’ relations with the world (e.g., Monroe Doctrine, World Wars I and II, formation of the United Nations, Marshall Plan, NATO, Korean and Vietnam Wars, end of the Cold War). (12) Knows some important bilateral and multilateral agreements to which the United States is signatory (e.g., NAFTA, Helsinki Accord, Antarctic Treaty, Most Favored Nation Agreements).

California History Social Science Standard 11.9: Students analyze U.S. foreign policy since World War II.

National High School U.S. History Standard 30: Understands developments in foreign policy ….

California History–Social Science Standard 6.4: Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of Ancient Greece. (1) Discuss the connections between geography and the development of city states in the region of the Aegean Sea, including patterns of trade and commerce among Greek city states and within the wider Mediterranean region. (2) Trace the transition from tyranny and oligarchy to early democratic forms of government and back to dictatorship in ancient Greece, including the significance of the invention of the idea of citizenship (e.g., from Pericles’ Funeral Oration).

National World History Standard 8: Understands how Aegean civilization emerged and how interrelations developed among peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia from 600 to 200 BCE. (1) Understands the political framework of Athenian society (e.g., the influence of Athenian political ideals on public life; major changes made to the Athenian political organization between the initial monarchy and the governments of Solon and Cleisthenes . . . ).

Atlas Professional Development Workshop: Long Beach, May 31 (CLOSED)

This atlas workshop has been announced in response to a high level of interest from teachers in the Long Beach area. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 31, with the exact location to be determined. Participants receive training in use of the California Atlas, with lesson plans aligned to content standards and educational best practices. All participants receive a classroom set of atlases and other valuable free materials, all at no cost.

These workshops are free for any fourth grade teacher, and space is limited, so reserve your spot now. For more information about this workshop and to register, visit the Professional Development page.

Report from BioBlitz 2014 at Golden Gate National Parks

BioBlitz2014

By Roni Jones

#BioBlitz2014 at Golden Gate National Parks in San Francisco was an exhilarating and inspiring event for students, educators, scientists, and citizens. National Geographic Education staff started the week by spending Tuesday, March 25 at John Muir Middle School in Corcoran, California, just south of Fresno, to conduct a Schoolyard BioBlitz with 240 7th grade students. Over three hours, students visited three different sites in town and on campus to observe birds, insects, animals, and plants. JMMS is a Verizon Innovative Learning School and an Apple Distinguished School, and has implemented a 1:1 iPad ratio for students and teachers. With this technology, students were able to utilize the iNaturalist app to identify and document different species throughout the day. Students were most excited to observe owl pellets containing animal bones, feathers, and other indigestible matter. Information and video collected during the Schoolyard BioBlitz will ultimately be available for educators so they, too, can organize and conduct their own local species inventories.

At noon on Friday, March 25, BioBlitz 2014 was officially launched, although students and scientists had started collected data early that morning. The staff at Golden Gate National Parks, as well as Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Presidio Trust, coordinated hundreds of naturalists, docents, birdwatchers, and other volunteers to work with more than 3,000 students throughout the day. Students were scattered throughout the Bay Area from San Mateo to the Marin Headlands to conduct inventories about what types of bird, reptile, mammal, plant and insect species were observed. It was amazing to see so many students actively involved in field science and engaged so fully with their local environment. The weather was spectacular and the students were also able to enjoy a large festival of hands-on activities at Crissy Field, in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The public and scientific inventories continued into Friday night and Saturday morning, even though the weather turned stormy and wet. Volunteers returned to the field throughout the 24-hour period to inventory tide pools and identify nocturnal creatures. The first-ever inventory of the canopy of the redwood forest in Muir Woods was conducted. In total, 300 scientists, 3,000 students, and over 5,000 volunteers took part in this unique and exciting event.

Next year, #BioBlitz2015 will take place at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, so make your vacation plans now to participate!

Bringing GIS into the Classroom: Ideas for Teachers of All Disciplines

By Trevore Humphrey
Note: This article is based on a presentation given at the 2014 California Council for the Social Studies Conference.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. Google Earth as well as other modern online GIS tools has greatly added to the list of free and accessible geospatial technology that teachers can use as a powerful tool in their classrooms, and this article will provide some ideas for science, Math, and English classrooms.

While great traditional map sources like National Geographic “One-Pager Maps” offer great hands on opportunities for students to work in geography, geospatial technology offers students a far more dynamic medium to work in. There are two main paths to using GIS in the classroom; Instructional and Project Based Learning (PBL).

PBL can be easily implemented by combining a research project with GIS to have students create content on their maps and present their research to their classmates using this medium

  • EX: Student(s) creates basic map and tour that shows the paths of migration and settlement in early America.
  • EX: Student(s) creates map that compares and contrasts basic U.S. census data from two different decades. Map highlights and describes significant changes over time.

Links to sites where students can create maps:
http://mapmaker.education.nationalgeographic.com/
https://mapsengine.google.com/map/

Instructional uses fall into three major categories that are as follows.

  • Direct Instruction: Part of lecture or activity. GIS programs can be quickly and easily used as an instructional reference map with greater detail and accuracy than any paper or static map.

    EX: Showing student(s) historically significant physical markers like the Panama Canal or the Great Wall of China.

  • Independent Study: Excellent digital resource.
  • EX: Have student(s) complete an “Earth Quest” in which they explore the map you have created and answer questions and prompts as they go.

  • Review: Good format for unit review.

    EX: Create a comprehensive review for a unit exam by narrating an audio tour (Google Earth) which covers the content and concepts students need to know for the exam. Post file online for students to access at their convenience. Include content check questions along the way.

Geography has been often restricted to the Social Studies classroom and is often only covered there but with the opportunities that GIS offers we can bring geography into multiple disciplines. The following are brief descriptions with links that support geospatial technology use outside the social-studies.

Science: The core subject of science and in particular, earth science and environmental science are areas that can be greatly aided by using geospatial technology. There already is a plethora of models and data out there for teachers to use. For some great k-12 earth science activities and lesson plans for Google Earth visit the Earth and Space Science QUEST by Penn State.

Math: To make math more tangible, real world based GIS offers the ability to measure distances, area, latitude and longitude: intersecting lines, angles, etc. Instead of having students answer the classic, “If train A is going 50mph and is 340 miles…” have students actually find a railroad and calculate a real distance (S.F.-L.A.) that they measure. For more examples and full lesson plans visit http://www.realworldmath.org/

English: We ask students to look up vocabulary terms that are new to them when they are reading. They should also be looking up locations and places they read about but are not familiar with. This will strengthen understanding through generating geographic context, mental maps, and spatial relationships. A great resource for teachers is Google Lit Trips which is a site full of Google Earth models for a variety of fiction and non-fiction books k-12 students read. And creating a Google Lit Trip could be a great project to accompany reading a novel.
While geography still remains a largely social studies discipline GIS offers teachers a technology that can support interdisciplinary work as well as help meet the goals of the new Common Core standards. The following are some of the few benefits of having students work with GIS no matter what class they are in.

geospatial technology benefits graphic

In conclusion, there are a wide variety of GIS programs; some that are simple and quick to use such as National Geographic MapMaker interactive or Google Maps; some that are a bit more advanced and offer greater complexity such as Google Earth or ArcGIS Online. No matter what GIS program you might use for your class the result will be a new, dynamic, and engaging approach to incorporate geography and technology into your classroom.

– Trevore Humphrey

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USS Midway Museum Summer Teacher Institute – Opportunities for CGA Members!

CGA has reserved spaces for a few members (high school teachers) to participate in the USS Midway Museum’s 2014 Midway Institute for Teachers. The institute offers two weeks of professional development on teaching about the Cold War era, its origins and effects, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and era, and presidential decision-making. These CGA members will join a group of thirty teacher/scholars selected to participate in a specialized institute in downtown San Diego from June 16-27, 2014. The seminar will be held aboard the USS Midway, an artifact of that era and the only aircraft carrier to serve the entire duration of the Cold War.

For more information and to apply to this program, go to: http://www.midway.org/midway-teacher-institute

Please indicate on your application that you are a CGA Member. Travel costs and stipend are provided.