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Friday, October 31, 2014

East Middle School, Braintree -- October 31

The coordinates of East Middle are at the end of this article. Usually, they are at the beginning of the post for each school visit, but because we are visiting two schools in the same town a week apart, we are making a small game of their coordinates.

(Learn  about Lat/Long, including how to look up by address) See the end of this post for a Braintree-Bridgewater-Boston lat/long challenge.

What better place for EarthView to celebrate Halloween than one of our favorite schools -- East Middle in Braintree. Our first November program will be at another favorite -- South Middle. We have enjoyed both daytime programs and Family Geography Nights at both schools, because of the commitment of teachers and the entire district to global and environmental education through strong geography programs.

During our visit, we spoke about a lot of topics that can be explored in more detail through this blog, which includes an article about each school visit we make, and about many of the geography stories we tell using EarthView. This week these included the Wedding of the Waters in the Amazon, the relationship between Six Flags and Latin America. The right-hand side of this blog includes some permanent links to information we discuss during our presentations, such as the Geography of Coffee. We mentioned to several groups that BSU honors students had helped to create a map depicting the life (so far) of Malala Yousafzai. The map is included in Riveting Malala, one of over 700 posts on Dr. Hayes-Boh's college-level blog, Environmental Geography 
Image: Huffington Post
One of the many interesting geographic stories that is taking place during our visit actually began in June, when a vent on the Kilauea volcano began making its way toward the town of Pahoa, Hawaii. The movement has been very slow, but equally unstoppable, and residents are now preparing for the inevitable reshaping of their town

We speak a lot about the Pacific Ring of Fire in our EarthView programs, but Hawaii is not part of it, even though it is in the center of the Pacific. Rather, the shield volcanoes of Hawaii are the result of an intermittently active hot spot beneath the Pacific Plate.

Read more about subduction-zone volcanoes and earthquake activity in our 2011 article about tectonic activity and Japan. All of the volcanoes in Nicaragua, for example, are formed by the processes shown here.
The volcanoes of Hawaii, by contrast, originate with heat sources far deeper in the earth, as shown in this general model of hotspot volcanism.

The Geological Society-UK provides more specific information about the mid-plate hotspot responsible for the island chain of Hawaii It includes a video that is mainly useful for showing the relative timing and position of the islands in the chain, including Lo'ihi, which is so new that it is not even an island yet!

Other resources
For two kinds of disasters, it is easy to find authoritative information from agencies of the United States that employ geographers and other scientists to monitor and analyze information from all over the world.

One is the National Hurricane Center, which is part of the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration, of  which the National Weather Service is also a part. These agencies are part of the Department of Commerce. What other agencies are part of this department?

Information about earthquakes is available from the Earthquake Hazards Program at the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Within moments of an earthquake anywhere in the world, the USGS posts detailed information, using a global, automated seismic network. The USGS also has a Volcano Hazards Program, which operates  strictly within the United States and its territories.

It is disappointing that the volcano data are limited in this way, but it is because a lot of the important data comes from data monitors adjacent to and even on top of volcanoes. These monitors are maintained by agencies throughout the world, and they are not under the control of the USGS. The Smithsonian Institution does provide access to much more of the international volcano data.through its Global Volcanism Program.

All of the federal-government science sites mentioned here include plenty of explanations and glossary items. The data they generate is available free of charge not only to individual users, but also to commercial forecasters who repackage the information for other web sites, television, or radio, perhaps adding their own interpretations.

Each pair of coordinates below provides the unique location of a specific building in eastern Massachusetts. In alphabetical order, they are the Conant Science & Math Building at Bridgewater State University; East Middle School in Braintree, South Middle School in Braintree, and the State House in Boston.

The challenge -- draw a very simple sketch map showing these four buildings. Their exact locations do not need to be shown -- a general map from memory might be sufficient. Then match the coordinates to the building -- either by writing them on the map, or by listing the buildings in the correct order below. (Writing them down randomly is not likely to work: even with just four choices, they can be written in 24 different orders.)

42°11'02"N; 70°59'53"W
42°13'15"N; 70°59'23"W
42°21'29"N; 71°03'49"W
41°59'17"N; 70° 58' 19"W

Then verify your answers by consulting Google Maps or another detailed mapping resource.

Wednesday, October 22, 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, October 2, 2014

North Andover -- October 2-3

42° 41' 36" N
71° 07' 15" W
Learn more about Lat/Long (including how to look them up by address)

The EarthView team is delighted to return to North Andover Middle School for the sixth annual Family Geography Night. Our daytime program complements the NAMS geography program, which is among the strongest in the state. During the evening, EarthView is just one part of a rich variety of geography experiences for NAMS students to enjoy with their families. See previous North Andover blog posts for much more about the geography of this community and about this award-winning annual event.

As with all of our EarthView visits, we talked about a lot of different aspects of physical and human geography. We invite students and families to search or browse this blog to find additional resources on many of them. We also invite questions, using the "comments" link below.

One thing we pointed out to many of the visitors was recent news about the shrinking of the Aral Sea. Once the fourth-largest lake in the world, it was dramatically depleted for cotton production, so that cargo ships along its former shorelines now lay on their side in the desert. 

The original shoreline of the Aral Sea is outlined on the now mostly-dry lakebed in this 2013 satellite image. Note the bar scale in the southeast corner of the image: 50km = 31 miles.
From the NASA Earth Observatory Shrinking Aral Sea essay and image collection.
Among the special guests this year were several members of the North Andover School Committee and State Representative Diana DiZoglio, who has attended in previous years and who is one of many sponsors of a bill to promote geography education throughout the state. We also had a special visit from WBZ news anchor Paula Ebben, who takes a special interest in education. After her report on Family Geography Night airs on Tuesday, October 7, we will update this post to include a link to the web version.

News anchor Paula Ebben with Family Geography Night leader Robert Poirier.
On the second day of our visit, Michelle LeBlanc visited from the Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library. She is the education director for the center, which houses one of New England's most extraordinary map collections. It is a place every student of geography should visit!


During our visit, part of the team was at a nearby cafe, where our dramatically geographic flag ties drew the attention of a fellow diner. For his benefit and those of the many students who asked, we are reposting a link to our online tie puzzles, which includes information on purchasing one of the ties. Lately, Dr. Domingo has also added some very spiffy globe socks to his wardrobe.

That fellow diner said something very meaningful as we discussed the importance of geographic education:

If we don't have a global view, all we can do is yell and scream at each other.

With a bit more understanding of the world around us -- near and far -- we can do much better than that!