Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sweetwater Union High School District Uses World Geography and Global Issues Course as Launching Pad for Civic Action

The CGA has an ongoing partnership with SUHSD and ISTEPCalifornia Global Education Project to support the district’s World Geography and Global Issues Course and use it to develop new and innovative ideas for inquiry-based instruction and student engagement.  The course has incorporated a year-ending action research project, and this year the work of students was showcased in the first ever Student Conference/Showcase on Issues of Personal, Local, & Global Significance.  The event was the brainchild of teachers Kelly Leon and Gina Vattuone, and both the CGA and CGEP stepped forward to help secure speakers, provide refreshments, and offer critical feedback to the students presenting their research.

Photo shows students gathered out front of San Ysidro High School as they check in for the student conference.
Excited students gather at San Ysidro High School early on Saturday morning.
Sign welcomes people to Sweetwater School District's First Student Conference on Issues of Personal, Local, & Global Significance at San Ysidro High School on May 12, 2018.
Event sign reflects district’s partnership with CGA and ISTEP/CGEP.

Early Saturday morning on May 12, San Ysidro High was buzzing with students setting up displays at tables placed around campus.  Parent volunteers and teachers worked diligently to check-in students and guest speakers at the registration table, answer setup questions, and keep refreshment tables supplied with juice, coffee, fruits, and danish.  It was clear that something exciting was happening, with over 300 students connected to 60+ displays of research focused on issues identified as a concern by students in the freshman Geography and English courses at several district campuses schools.  One school even brought dozens of eggs to distribute as part of their school effort to address community hunger while moving toward a zero waste campus.

San Diego State University’s Chief Diversity Officer Aaron Bruce opened the day with a rousing spoken word performance that had the packed auditorium roaring.  After his words of wisdom and encouragement, students chose from a variety of informative workshops to attend before reconvening to present and discuss their work with others in attendance.  CGA Director Tom Herman served as judge and  often had to break into lively discussions among students to ask his own questions about the projects.  In the gathering to end the day, with Superintendent Dr. Karen Janney in attendance, sixteen students’ projects were recognized for excellence, but all of the students were congratulated on their ideas and efforts to take on important issues.  Congratulations to the teachers and students of Sweetwater for outstanding work and exemplary global awareness!

KPBS Education Reporter Megan Burks attended the event and did a story about modern civics education.  Check out the 5 minute vdeo segment here:

Announcing the Winners of the My California GIS Mapping Showcase and Competition for 2018

For the second year, the CGA has coordinated a statewide GIS mapping competition for 4th through 12th grade students.  The state competition is part of the Esri ArcGIS Online Competition for US High Schools and Middle Schools.  Esri provides $1,000 in prize money for 10 student projects, and the competition in California is also generously supported by the California Geographic Information Association (CGIA).  The contest is ably and enthusiastically coordinated by Dr. Waverly Ray, Associate Professor of Geography at San Diego Mesa College.  CGA is very appreciative of Dr. Ray’s leadership on this effort, and we also thank Head Judge Dr. Ming-Hsiang Tsou and all of the volunteers who served as mentors and judges. 

Altogether, our second year of the competition was a success in that we received high quality submissions and are able to advance excellent projects to the national competition.  We are still working on building participation, however, and we look to greatly increasing the number of schools and students participating in future years.  This is a great chance for students to get recognition and a little bit of prize money for doing outstanding work in a field leading to many college and career options.

Now without further ado, let’s meet the students who submitted the most outstanding projects this year.  Click on the title of any project to view the Story Map project.

4th-8th grade division:

1st place (will advance to the national competition):
Jessica Huynh and Sorina Ngin, The Impacts of the Homeless on the American River Parkway
James Rutter Middle School, Sacramento (Teacher/Project Mentor: Karen Sanko)

2nd place:
Shounak Ray Chaudhuri and Gurshawn Boparai, Ten Endangered Animals of California
Morning Creek Elementary School, Poway (Teacher/Project Mentor: Soumya Chennapragada)

3rd place:
Theodore Saechao, The Change of Student Population in Elk Grove Schools
James Rutter Middle School, Sacramento (Teacher/Project Mentor: Karen Sanko)

4th place:
Emma Ruud, LGBT Pride Parades
Rancho Cucamonga Middle School, Davis (Teacher/Project Mentor: Jill Schwartz)

5th place:
Hamza Jaleel and Clay Ballard, California in the Civil War
Holmes Junior High School, Davis (Teacher/Project Mentor: Anna Amsler)

Honorable Mention:
Owen Michaels, The Husky
Vinewood Elementary School, Lodi (Teacher/Project Mentor: Nicole Dickinson)
Mihir Konkapaka, Junior Ranger Programs in California
Morning Creek Elementary School, Poway (Teacher/Project Mentor: Soumya Chennapragada)


9th-12th grade division:

1st place (will advance to the national competition):
Emily Woods and Sangam Sharma, A Sprinkle in Time @ Clark
Clark Magnet
High School, La Crescenta (Teacher/Project Mentor: Dominique Evans-Bye)

2nd place:
Marcello Vazquez, Glendale Crime Data
Clark Magnet
High School, La Crescenta (Teacher/Project Mentor: Dominique Evans-Bye)

3rd place:
Gillian Lowe, California’s Fires at the End of 2017
Clark Magnet
High School, La Crescenta (Teacher/Project Mentor: Dominique Evans-Bye)

4th place:
Anna Fedderen, Oroville Story: Before and After
Clark Magnet
High School, La Crescenta (Teacher/Project Mentor: Dominique Evans-Bye)

5th place:
Justice Garner, OUSD Schools Field Study: Equity and Environmental Justice
Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland (Teacher/Project Mentor: Sarah Bremer)

Honorable Mention:
Abigail Pagila, Alameda Boba Shops
Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland (Teacher/Project Mentor: Sarah Bremer)

Perceptions & Knowledge of Geography on an American College Campus

As part of an upper-division Qualitative Research Methods in Geography class at San Diego State University in Fall 2017, students  under the guidance of Dr. Kate Swanson researched, surveyed and interviewed geography majors and future social studies teachers to measure students’ basic geographic knowledge and determine how they perceive geography’s value as a discipline.   In releasing the report Perceptions & Knowledge of Geography on an American College Campus, Dr. Swanson wrote the following:
“To our surprise, we discovered that interest in and enthusiasm for geography education is high. As stated by one of our interviewees, ‘I just wish that as a teacher, I would have more understanding of geography.’ In our report, we suggest that there may be a window of opportunity to expand geography education, particularly in K-12 schools.
In the report, we present our findings, along with a series of recommendations for incorporating more geography into our educational curriculum. Our main recommendations are as follows:
– Actively promote geography’s interdisciplinary approach as a strength;
– Promote more study abroad opportunities in geography;
– Host more geography awareness events;
– Create a university level ‘Geography for Educators’ course;
– Support moves to bring geography and geospatial technologies into K-12 schools;
– Rebrand geography by highlighting its relevance to today’s global problems;
– Promote tools and technologies that enhance geographic education and spatial learning;
Given our findings, we believe that teacher education in geography is especially important. American teachers recognize the value of our discipline, yet they have little experience with geography education.
Please feel free to share this report widely. I want to reiterate that this report was researched, written and designed by seniors at SDSU!”

California Geographic Information Association Again Sponsoring My California GIS Mapping Exhibition and Competition

The CGA is pleased to announce that the California Geographic Information Association (CGIA) is once again sponsoring our statewide GIS mapping competition for students in Grades 4-12.  The CGIA came forward to support our inaugural effort last year, and we are very pleased that they will continue to provide support for the contest by donating funds that help us to provide incentives and support for the schools that register for the contest.

CGIA is a non-profit, statewide association formed in 1994 to facilitate coordination, collaboration, and advocacy for California’s Geographic Information System (GIS) community. CGIA promotes the creation and maintenance of the best practices in the governance and application of geographic information within the State of California that can become a model for the nation.

Read more about this year’s My California GIS Mapping Exhibition and Competition here.

Bring Geography to Your School! Host a Geographic Bee at Your School or Get Your Students Involved in the My California GIS Mapping Competition

You can go beyond the classroom and the curriculum to help your students get excited about geography.  The CGA is encouraging schools to create a fun and competitive atmosphere for students by (1) hosting a school-level National Geographic Bee (Grades 4-8) or (2) creating a process to support students in entering the My California GIS Mapping Showcase and Competition (Grades 4-12).  Geography is fun, and your students can discover that for themselves in the course of developing their own knowledge, skills, and projects.

A Study of Young People’s Geographical Knowledge, Global Awareness, and Attitudes Toward Geography Education

Students in Dr. Kate Swanson’s Qualitative Methods in Geography upper division course took on a special assignment last year.  They constructed a research project that examined young people’s geographical knowledge, global awareness and perspectives on geography education.  The young people under study included both undergraduates at San Diego State University and high school students in Sweetwater Union High School District who had taken the district’s World Geography and Global Issues course.  While one finding is that there is still a lot of room for improvement in young people’s geographical knowledge, the report also indicates that young people have increasingly global concerns and see geography courses as extremely useful in helping them to make sense of the issues confronting and connecting people around the world.  You can review the report here.

There are some interesting excerpts from interviews conducted with 24 Sweetwater students.  For example,

Question: Do you think American students need a geography education?
Answer: “Yeah, because I don’t think most kids know what is going on in the world. Like, I don’t think a person who doesn’t have a geography class knows what’s going on in Syria…”

BREAKING NEWS – Winners of My California GIS Mapping Competition

The CGA’s first ever statewide GIS mapping competition for 4th through 12th grade students has concluded.  5 students projects have been selected as state finalists in each of two divisions.  The authors of each project will be awarded a prize of $100, and the projects will be advanced to the national competition.  5 other projects have been selected for Honorable Mention.

The CGA wants to thank:

  • the NorCal Chapter of URISA and the California Geographic Information Association for their generous support of this competition;
  • the 29 schools that registered for the competition, including all the teachers and students who invested their time in creating projects about their state;
  • all of the judges who lent their time and expertise to scoring the entries and selecting the very best;
  • and Dr. Waverly Ray who took the lead in coordinating the competition and brought enthusiasm and skill to the task!

Without further ado, we present the winners. Continue reading BREAKING NEWS – Winners of My California GIS Mapping Competition

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

Get Your Students Involved in the My California GIS Mapping Exhibition and Competition!


With registration for the competition now closed, the CGA is happy to report that 29 schools have registered for the competition.  That could mean as many as 145 student entries in the state final!

An illustrious panel of eleven judges has stepped forward to evaluate and rank the student entries, so we are all set for an exciting competition.  Thank you to all of our volunteer judges!

Click here to see a map of schools registered for the competition.


The California Geographic Alliance is hosting an exciting statewide mapping showcase and competition that encourages middle (4th-8th grade) and high school (9th-12th grade) students to harness the power of Geographic Information Systems and get connected with their state by producing an online map that focuses on stories, issues, or ideas that are important to them.

Registrations due March 15, 2017!

Go to the contest page for full details.

Thanks to the Northern California URISA Chapter and the California Geographic Information Association for their generous support of this effort!

Meet the competition judges

Amazing lineup of geography sessions and workshops planned for CCSS conference in Sacramento

Planning on attending the California Council for the Social Studies Conference in Sacramento, March 3-5?

The CGA is proud to be a Silver Sponsor of the conference, and we are even more excited to be sponsoring an amazing array of sessions and workshops. Come visit the booth in the exhibit hall to learn about the latest resources and see some incredible maps, and please check out these great sessions.


10a – 6p
Exhibit Hall: Explore CGA Resources and the Historic Map Gallery

Session: Human Geography with a Global Studies Lens…for Everyone!
Presenters: Kelly León, Joel Rodriguez (Room: Feather River)
Sweetwater Union High School District curriculum specialists will present the new Human Geography course for all ninth graders in the district. Goals of the course, district-wide implementation and training, instructional guides, & formative assessments will be examined. Come find out what 21st Century geography is all about and how to implement it at the district and classroom level.

Strand(s): HS Gen 21st Century Geography

Session: Beyond 13: The enduring legacy of North America’s Spanish colonies.
Presenter: Mimi Coughlin (Room: Feather River)
This session offers a counter-narrative to “British centric” U.S. history that is taught as a progression of people and ideas that move from east to west across the continent. Spanish colonization, especially efforts to settle California, will be considered. Influences on America culture that progressed north from Mexico to the U.S. will be presented through inquiry-based teaching resources.

Strand(s): MS HS Gen Ethnic Studies History Geography


 9a – 4p
Exhibit Hall: Explore CGA Resources and the Historic Map Gallery

Workshop: Become a National Geographic Certified Educator
Presenters: Mary Janzen, Thomas Herman (Room: El Camino)
This workshop will introduce K-12 educators to the National Geographic Teacher Certification Program. By attending, you will complete Phase1 of the process, and you will learn the steps through which you can become certified and become part of an exciting and rapidly growing educator community and get preferred access to unique opportunities, such as connecting your classroom to National Geographic explorers.

Strand(s): EL MS HS 21st Century Blended Learning History Geography

Workshop: Geo-Quest: Embracing New Technologies and the New Framework to Deepen Engagement and Learning
Presenter: Thomas Herman (Room: California 4)
Geo-Quest is an initiative of the California Geographic Alliance that provides students at all grade levels with the tools and scaffolding needed for in-depth learning and critical thinking. By examining topics from all social studies disciplines in geographic context, students become active, geo-literate, and knowledgeable citizens who can develop solutions to contemporary problems and succeed in college, career and civic life.

Strand(s): EL MS HS Gen PBL 21st Century History Geography Economics Civics

Workshop: Get Your Feet on the California Giant Traveling Map
Presenters: Joshua Bess, Amanda Marcus (Room: Maxi’s)
This session will introduce teachers to the California Geographic Alliance’s brand new Giant Traveling Map and a set of engaging, standards-based learning activities for third and fourth grades.

Strand(s): EL 21st Century History Geography

Session: Teaching 21st Century Geography and Global Education
Presenters:  Emily Schell, Stacey Greer, Thomas Herman (Room: California 3)
What is contemporary geography and global competence? What are the most effective and engaging ways to teach these standards-based concepts and skills? Teacher Leaders in the Sacramento region are engaged in a year-long professional inquiry project to explore and implement answers to these questions. Come learn about our project findings and share your insights and experiences with project leaders.

Strand(s): Gen PBL 21st Century Blended Learning History Geography Civics


Session: Using web-based mapping tools to enhance spatial thinking
Presenters: Greg Sloan and Robin Herrnberger (Room: Garden)
Make use of free web-based technology to have students interact and create geospatial presentations of data. Attendees will learn how to access ArcGIS Online for themselves and their school, learn about existing lessons, and how using spatial thinking can enhance the relevance and experience of data and mapping projects in the classroom.

Strand(s): MS HS PBL 21st Century History Geography