EarthView team bios, guidelines, and more.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Glover School, Marblehead: March 28

42° 29' 24" N
70° 52' 49" W 
Learn more about Lat/Long (including how to look them up by address)
Also, compare today's coordinates to those of other recent EarthView outings, near and far!

Marblehead harbor. Image:
The EarthView team is very pleased to be visiting the second and third graders at Glover School in beautiful Marblehead, a town on the Atlantic coast about 18 miles north of Boston. The town is famous for all kinds of nautical activity. It is an important place in the history of both the Navy and the Marine Corps, and fishing has been important here for centuries. It is also a favorite destination for people who just enjoy boats!

The nautical activity of Marblehead reminds us of the beautiful nautilus shell. The sizes of the chambers are described by the numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ...

Geographers are very interested in signs of what we call "sense of place." These are the ways that people represent characteristics that make their home regions unique or special. The town seal of Marblehead shows that boating -- and specifically boating related to fish -- is important to the town. Glover School includes a beautiful image of the seal in bronze. It shows a man fishing in a dory -- a small rowboat very commonly used for cod or pulling lobster traps. The Glover School displays this local seal -- along with the Massachusetts state seal -- right outside its library. It was recovered from the original 1906 school on the same site.

The Glover School is celebrating its namesake through the creation of mosaic honoring General John Glover. Because he was a whaleship captain as well as a military officer, students and teachers decided to pose the general with rowing oars. EarthView team member Dr. Hayes-Bohanan was very excited to see this, since whaleboat rowing is one of his favorite hobbies.

The mosaic border names many virtues, such as respect, curiosity, and perseverance.

During our visit, we noticed that the second and third graders at Glover know as much about world geography as many junior high or high school students. Indeed, they tend to know more than many adults! In addition to excellent teaching and the involvement of parents with international experience, we learned that each second-grade classroom has a world map as a class rug. This map shows no political boundaries, but dots in some countries are color-coded to the flags around the perimeter.

Like the city of Quincy to the south of Boston, Marblehead is a location where granite is found at the surface. The Naumkeeg tribe called it Massebequash, which is also the name of the river that separates it from the city of Salem. English settlers renamed it Marblehead because they thought the granite headlands (seaside cliffs) were made of marble.

Our visit to the Glover School took place within the first month after its opening. It is on the site of a former school, and one of the few things that was kept is this granite outcropping. It is smooth enough that generations of students have used it as a natural sliding board. The smoothing was done during the Pleistocene Era, as a massive glacier scraped over the area. Boulders being carried under several thousand feet of ice scoured the stone like sandpaper!

On this date ...

It was 50 years ago today that the strongest earthquake ever to occur in the United States struck in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale and was the second-largest quake ever recorded. On the map above from the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program,  the purple line shows where the Pacific Plate meets the North American Plate. The center of the earthquake was far below the surface. The epicenter (the place on land directly above the center) was in beautiful Prince William Sound. Damage from this quake included landslides, a tsunami, and the displacement of the land surface up to 11.5 meters (almost 40 feet) above its previous elevation, or 2.5 meters below where it had been. 

As with all of the world's most significant Earthquakes, this one occurred on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Feel the Noise

EarthView students know that we pay quite a bit of attention to the Ring of Fire, a zone of tectonic activity encircling the Pacific Ocean. Most of the planet's earthquakes and volcanoes are found in the coastal areas that comprise this famous region.

As residents of a small, quiet town in Connecticut have learned, however, earthquakes can occur very far from the Pacific. A few miles north of the Atlantic coast, in fact, earthquakes turned out to be the answer to a mystery that perplexed the people of Moodus for centuries. Yes, centuries! Moodus is short for morehemoodus, a Wangunk term meaning “place of noises.”

 According to the radio story Thunder in the Valley, unusual noises emanating from the ground in Moodus have been attributed to many possible causes, but it was eventually ascertained that very low-intensity earthquakes were responsible.

The most severe earthquake observed in Connecticut was in neighboring East Haddam in 1791, and it did create fissures and dislocate large rocks in Moodus. The most recent temblor took place in 2011, when a magnitude 1.3 earthquake startled the town.

Geographers are always interested in the ways people express what is unique about their local regions, and Moodus offers a very nice example Sports teams at the Nathan Hale-Ray High School are not sharks, lions, tigers, or falcons. They are simply the Noises!

For a time, the sports teams at Flowing Wells High School near Tucson, Arizona had a similar name: they were named the Artesians for the flowing wells that occurred naturally in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains and encouraged human settlement there for centuries. Eventually, however, the Flowing Wells athletes took on a less unusual name.

Congratulations to the Moodus Noises for their strong sense of place!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Malaysian Search

6°N; 104°E

Notice that these coordinates are in full degrees, without the precision of minutes and seconds we normally post for our school visits. In this case, the coordinates represent the last known location of MH370, the Malaysian Airlines flight that has been missing since Saturday, March 8.

Image: BBC -- Click to Enlarge
Most of Malaysia is found at the southern end of the long, narrow Malay Peninsula (the rest is on the neighboring island of Borneo). For this reason -- and because the plane had plenty of fuel when it disappeared, the search now includes vast areas of water both east and west of the country.

From a geographer in Brazil we learned that people all over the world are assisting in the search. In addition to planes and ships from several neighboring countries, people with computers all over the world are participating in the crowdsourced search for Flight MH370, by visually scanning some of the thousands of recent satellite images. The shear size of the area that needs to be examined means that volunteers from throughout the world may find something before it is found by searchers in the region.
Geography is essential for Search & Rescue professionals.
Image: BBC 
BBC coverage includes initial reports and latest news. Its reporting also explains the difficulties of searching in different areas of the ocean. Deep water is difficult for obvious reasons, but shallow water is also difficult because it may have more background noise from boats. As the story of this tragedy continues to unfold, it may be useful to browse the area using this map:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sharon Middle School -- March 7

42° 06' 24" N
71° 09' 58" W 
Learn more about Lat/Long (including how to look them up by address)
Also, compare today's coordinates to those of other recent EarthView outings, near and far!

The EarthView team is delighted to be back at Sharon Middle School, where we have been sharing geography lessons with seventh graders as well as with students from the preschool that shares space with the school. EarthView is an exciting experience for learners of all ages!
We were especially pleased to be at Sharon Middle School while students are celebrating Upstander Day (Thursday) and Mix-it-Up Day (Friday). This is a community that pays attention to taking care of and respecting each other, and that enjoys celebrating all the many cultures that come together in the town of Sharon.

During the final class of the day we spoke briefly about the importance of the Atlantic Ocean, but did not have time to discuss it in detail. A lot of the current tension in Crimea, for example, is related to the peninsula's position relative to the Atlantic, even though is is several thousand miles away.

Other EarthView blog posts has focused on the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Verde, the Atlantic as one of the world's five oceans, the Atlantic and Port Cities. Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the Biography of the Atlantic, and the idea that people in western Europe and western Africa did not really conceive of the Atlantic as an Ocean -- even though many of them lived near it -- until they knew about the Americas on the other side.

We look forward to coming to the town of Sharon one more time this semester -- when we go to the Cottage Street School in May.