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!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Geography Education and The Five College Center for East Asain Studies

Geography can serve as a platform to teach other disciplines. On Saturday February 1, 2014, the Five College Center for East Asian Studies hosted a workshop for educators from all corners of New England at Smith College in Northampton, MA.  Dr. Darrin Magee of Hobart and William Smith Colleges presented an overview of China’s environmental challenges to 25 teachers. These educators teach in both public and private schools and serve the needs of students in grades K-12.

Key items discussed during the lecture included a brief introduction to the environmental challenges faced by China’s people and leaders, with a focus on water pollution, water scarcity and air pollution. Dr. Magee incorporated small group discussion time in which the participants were invited to brainstorm ideas about bringing China environmental issues into the primary and secondary school classroom through curriculum modules and class projects.

With a central focus on water resources, participants were able to examine more deeply issues connected to water resources in China including scarcity, quality, and connections to food and energy security.

As a first year teacher, I seek out opportunities to deepen my understanding of pedagogy and curriculum development.  Events like this workshop and the networking possibilities that stem from it allow for the collaborative opportunities from which many educators benefit.   Listening to others share their ideas about the Six Essential Elements of Geography as they relate to  environmental education, political systems, anthropology, and chemistry helped me to see other ways of teaching China that could spiral into other disciplines, thus allowing for more collaborative efforts at my school.

The Five Colleges for East Asian Studies offers many opportunities to educators throughout the year. Aside from gleaning information from a lecturer attendees also received handouts, resource lists, and a SPICE curriculum unit. If you would like to know more about this workshop, or other resources, contact the Five College Center for East Asian Studies at or 413-585-3751.

Resource page, click here

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Globe Gallery

Thanks to teacher DeeDee Chang of Mansfield for sharing these very creative pumpkin globes created by her students at St. Mary's Catholic School. Pumpkins are round, of course, and come equipped with meridians to help guide creative cartographers in the recreation of a globe in a fun new context! And the whole thing is just in time for Geography Awareness Week approaching in just a few days!

The artists pose with their work.

Creative textures give each globe a unique look!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SENATE Bill 200 Update

Submitted by Sen. Brewer forThe Massachusetts Geographic Allliance

Annual visits of EarthView at the State House
have helped to increase legislative interest
in geography education.
The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering a no-cost bill to create a commission to evaluate the status of geography education in the Commonwealth. 

Geographic literacy is essential to our national security.  It is also vital to our understanding of international markets, global and local environmental problems, geotechnologies, transportation planning, and global cultural understanding. It is readily apparent that the United States – and even Massachusetts as an education leader – is falling behind in all of these areas.

For this reason, the Massachusetts Geography Alliance has worked with legislators of both parties and both chambers to introduce a Bill Relative to Geography Education. With 18 co-sponsors led by Sen. Stephen Brewer and Rep. Todd Smola (the Legislature’s only professional geographer), we are closer than we have ever been to genuine reform in geography education. During the final weeks of this legislative session, the MGA calls on supporters of geography to contact legislators to discuss the importance of geographic education as a pathway to greater global understanding.

The next steps in this process are:
  1. Joint Education Committee hearing on October 31 from 10 am to 1 pm Feel free to join us!
  2. Senate Committee on Ways & Means
  3. House Committee on Ways and Means
  4. Vote by Full Legislature
The Commission will include educators at all levels and employers in the Geotechnology (GIS/GPS/Satellite) and Green industries. The Commission will hold hearings statewide to:
  • Evaluate the status of geographic literacy in the Commonwealth
  • Compare this status to other states and countries
  • Evaluate the status of geography at each grade level, K-12
  • Evaluate the relationship between teacher preparation and the implementation of geography standards

Check the S200 information page to see whether your senator or representative is a bill sponsor. If so, please write or email your thanks. If not, please contact your local legislators to encourage them to consider this important, no-cost bill.