Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Where Did Geography Class Go? (Nightside with Dan Rea)

On February 16, members of Massachusetts Geographic Alliance were pleased to return to the airwaves as guests on Dan Rea's program Nightside on CBS affiliate WBZ-AM1030. Broadcast veteran Rea is, as he says, a "huge fan of geography" and has been supporting our efforts to promote geographic literacy and education for several years now.

For the latest conversation, Dr. Kathy Babini, Social Studies Coordinator for Plymouth Schools, joined Dan and Bridgewater State University professor James Hayes-Bohanan in the studio.

Early in this evening's program, the Nightside producer played the audio of a very fun geography video -- Yakko's World,

This has inspired many to attempt their own renditions -- mistakes and all -- including a reverse-karaoke version by the blogger known as snolygoster. Notice at 0:42, 1:06, and 1:50 in his video that he divides his arrow in two -- very clever!

Stewart Clamen has posted Yakko's lyrics and corrections to the lyrics, including corrected names, countries that were omitted in the original, and countries that have been created. Note that these pages include a link from each name in the lyrics to the country or territory's profile in the CIA Factbook, but those links have expired. Since Clamen's update, two additional countries have been created: Timor-Leste (East Timor) and South Sudan.

Our appearance was on President's Day.
Nightside is a call-in show with an audience spanning 34 states (by AM radio) and beyond (by streaming audio). One of the first calls was from very close to home, though, from the director of the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History. A partner of Massachusetts Geographic Alliance, the Spellman Museum is a great place for people of all ages to learn geography through stamps. In addition to the second-largest collection of stamps in the United States, the museum provides an ever-changing series of educational exhibits that can be organized around any theme.

Our conversation touched on the kinds of work that are available to those who pursue geography as a college major. We mentioned just a few; the Career Services office at the University of Tennessee lists many more geography careers, along with ideas about how to prepare for each.

At the end of the program, we briefly mentioned our most recent legislative effort. Once again a variety of Massachusetts legislators -- from both houses and both parties -- are supporting A Bill Relative to Geography Education. If passed, it would establish a commission to study ways to improve geography education in the Commonwealth. MGA is grateful to Sen. Gobi and Rep. Smola for re-introducing this legislation. At the time of this writing, it appears as docket items, rather than bills. The Senate version is SD 1066 and the House is HD 259. There is still time for friends of geography to encourage their legislators to support both versions of the bill.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Geography: What It Is!

From the students in Dr. Anne Mosher's senior seminar at Syracuse University comes a terrific introduction to our field. It was made by undergraduate geographers for other undergraduates and high school seniors considering their department, but it is suitable for K12 levels and our discussions with the general public as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Busy Week for Geography!

Last week was a busy one for geography education in Massachusetts -- especially on local CBS affiliates!

On Tuesday the 7th, news anchor Paula Ebben dedicated her Eye on Education feature to Family Geography Night that had taken place the previous week at North Andover Middle School.

This award-winning night has been organized by MGA member Robert  Poirier each of the past six years, and in 2011 is was recognized by the Massachusetts Senate for educational excellence. As shown in the video above, many teachers and other volunteers commit their time to an evening of truly engaged learning involving both students and their families.
Then on Thursday evening, MGA members Vernon Domingo and James Hayes-Bohanan visited the studios. They were able to thank Paula Ebbens in person for her support of geography while waiting to go on air with Dan Rea. The two had been on Nightside with Dan Rea once before, and were glad to be back on this program, which is heard throughout eastern North America because of the night-time range of strong AM radio signals.

Be sure to listen to the entire hour (the play button is in a black box just below the program description. The many interesting calls from listeners included one from a graduate of our department now teaching in Florida. Brenda reminded us and the rest of the audience that geography is both a physical science and a social science.

Geography is, in fact, at the intersection of STEM Education and Global Education. This is one reason that geography is a vital discipline for 21st-century learning. It is a subject that informs and enriches understanding of many related fields. Geographers are, in fact, especially well prepared for making interdisciplinary connections.

As Dan Rea made very clear during the discussion, however, we cannot rely on a sprinkling of geography in the courses to substitute for a sound education in geography itself.

The discussion included current efforts toward that end in the Massachusetts Legislature. Thanks to broad, bipartisan, and bicameral effort that includes the Legislature's only geographer, the body is considering An Act Relative to Geography Education. The Joint Committee on Education and Senate Committee on Ways and Means have approved the measure, but it is currently awaiting approval by technical committees. The bill provides an opportunity for Massachusetts to declare its support of geographic literacy through an annual Geography Education Week. More importantly, it would create a fixed-term Geography Commission to examine the ways to improve geography education throughout Massachusetts.
Many legislators have become aware of the gaps in geography education through MGA State House visits with EarthView. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Question Machine

EarthView is a question-generating machine!
When Kenneth C. Davis -- of Don't Know Much About Geography fame -- toured EarthView during the NERC45 conference, he soon realized that he was asking questions faster than they could be answered.

It was then that he described the beauty of EarthView as a tool for engaged learning so perfectly. On the outside of EarthView, people sometimes ask what it is for or how it can be used. Once inside, however, they ask about the Earth, and will do so for as long as they are able.

During the policy forum on geographic literacy the prior evening, one educator mentioned the value of having students work with multiple maps of the same area. EarthView offers a similar cognitive workout by depicting something familiar in a very different way.

The questions -- and exclamations of the sheer joy of learning -- were plentiful on the part of the Moran Middle School students who were attending NERC. Seeing the Earth in so many new ways was a thrill for these young geographers. They describe their experience as guest bloggers on BSU EarthView.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Geography Policy Forum

Source: Washington Post blog The Monkey Cage
This evening's Policy Forum at NERC 45 began with a consideration of this map. It represents the answers given by two thousand adults in the United States when they were asked to locate Ukraine on a map of the world. Although the most common answers are actually in Ukraine and the most common wrong answers are in Eastern Europe, the MCSS participants were astonished spatial distribution.

Not only are large errors -- averaging 1800 miles -- common, but as reported today on the Washington Post blog, the greater the error, the greater the likelihood that a survey participant favors military intervention. That is, Americans are most likely to support a war in a place whose location they do not know.

This was an excellent point of departure for the policy forum on geography education that was organized as part of the Northeast Regional Conference (NERC 45) of the National Council on Social Studies. After discussing some of the compelling reasons to improve geographic literacy -- both for employment and for effective civic participation -- the discussion turned to ways to promote geography on several tracks. The first of these is the continued expansion of public outreach programs such as EarthView and Family Geography Nights. Integration of these tools into professional development programs for teachers also has great potential to expand the reach of geography both in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

Finally, the group discussed ways to encourage Massachusetts legislators to approve Senate Bill 200, a no-cost, non-partisan bill that would recognize the importance of geography education and establish a commission to investigate ways to provide for its sustained improvement.


42° 06' 51" N
72° 05' 22" W 

This is the location of the Sturbridge Host Hotel -- and the gathering point of social studies educators from throughout New England. The 45th annual Northeast Regional Conference of the National Council on Social Studies is taking place in Sturbridge, a very convenient and convivial location. 
EarthView has been part of NERC since 2010.
Massachusetts geographers are pleased to be playing many roles in NERC 45, including a keynote presentation, various workshops, a policy forum and of course a visit from EarthView.

EarthView at NERC is currently featured on the EarthView blog. EarthView is a a joint project of the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance, Bridgewater State University Department of Geography and the BSU Center for the Advancement of STEM education.

The policy forum is being held at the hotel at 7pm on Tuesday evening (April 8) and is open to all. It brings together educators and professionals from fields that rely heavily on geographically-educated employees. This blog will carry highlights of the forum and information about future forums that would be required by the passage of Massachusetts Senate Bill 200.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Friday the Massachusetts round of the National Geography Bee took place at the Worcester Academy -- a central location in our state with a famous geographer among its alumni. Read all about this year's Massachusetts Bee on the EarthView blog.
Geography Bee entrants. Map: Jason Covert, BSU
Thanks to Dr. Boellstorff at Bridgewater State for preparing a large map of the state, on which entrants could show their home towns.

The field was so crowded with excellent competitors that an extra round was included to find 10 finalists among the 29 who had perfect scores so far.

In the end, as reported by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the correct answer to a question about a 15th-century whaling station at Belle Isle in Canada allowed Nicholas Rommel of Lexington to advance to the National Geography Bee in Washington, DC. There he will meet journalist Soledad O'Brien, who will be hosting the national competition for the first time.

The winning answer had to do with the establishment of a whaling station in Labrador -- NOT at the island of the same name in what is now Detroit. It is purely coincidental that the Isle is home to  Detroit Boat Club Crew. Green and red arrows indicate traffic patterns for small boats around this island, which is both part of the United States and NORTH of Canada!