EarthView team bios, guidelines, and more.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

David Mindess School, Ashland -- May 19

42º 15' 50" N
71º 27' 40" W

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The EarthView team is pleased to visit the Mindess School, located in the town of Ashland. It is in an area known as Metro West, meaning that it is in the western area of Boston's suburbs.

When preparing for our visit, the first thing we noticed is that the entire town of Ashland is preparing for a program called Courageous Conversations, for community youth and adults. 

It is good to be visiting a community that is committed to inclusion and open discussions. A key lesson from EarthView is that we are all connected on a single planet.

The second thing we noticed is that Ashland is the second town along the 26.2-mile long route of the world-famous Boston Marathon, which took place just a month before our visit. Ashland is part of the rural, mostly downhill part of the race. Ashland runners raised more than $30,000 for local charities during the 2017 marathon. 

Almost 30,000 people ran in the most recent race, representing every U.S. state and territory, and almost 100 countries around the world. This means that for one day in April, Ashland was probably the most international small town on the planet.
The Boston Marathon is named for the historic run of a soldier from the city of Marathon to the Greek capital Athens in 490 B.C. That route was run again in the 2004 Olympics and remains popular for runners wanting to try the original route. Notice the elevation profile at the bottom of this route map. Elevation and temperature are two very important factors for the runners.

Another interesting marathon took place in New York City in 1908 -- after the tradition had begun in Boston, but before the modern route in New York City was established. Inside Madison Square Garden, Johnny Hayes and Dorando Pietri were the only participants in an indoor marathon -- 262 laps of just one-tenth of a mile. As boring as that sounds, the arena was full of spectators!

Plus: It's About Time!

People in Ashland are very interested in clocks. The local high school sports teams are even known as Clockers! The town is so proud of inventor Henry E. Warren that its other elementary school is named for him. The connection is this: Mr. Warren invented the electric clock. 

Although the electric clock is among the 135 inventions for which he won patents, he never intended to invent it. Rather, he was trying to improve instrument that regulate the flow of water through machinery, at a time when many industries in Massachusetts still used water to power their tools. Master of Time is a short article about his life and the connections among water, power, and time that Henry Warren understood so well.

Clocks are of great importance to geographers, because they are essential for finding longitude. Geographers know how to estimate the latitude wherever they are, as long as they can see the noon sun and they know the current date. Because longitude is arbitrary -- based solely on the position of the Royal Naval Observatory in the United Kingdom -- it cannot be determined by observation alone. 

British inventor John Harrison realized the importance of this, and invented the clock, so that ships at sea could use to compare Greenwich time with local time. For this he won the Longitude Prize.
Harrison designed .a clock 300 years ago that he thought would be more accurate than any other, but he was not able to build it. Using modern materials, horologists (clock experts) built this one, and put it in a sealed container in the foundation of the Royal Naval Observatory in Greenwich, directly on the Prime Meridian. In 2015, they confirmed that it is the most accurate mechanical clock ever constructed!

Lagniappe: Brazzzzzil

We were pleased to meet quite a few students with ties to Brazil -- either born in the country or having parents who were. Most of these connections are in the state of Minas Gerais, which literally means "General Mines" and is the source of many minerals in Brazil.

One class mentioned that they had studied the problem of bees that are disappearing because of deforestation in the Amazon basin. EarthView team member Dr. Hayes-Bohanan mentioned that he had actually encountered Africanized bees when doing field work in Rondônia in 1996. From another geographer who was studying at the same time, he learned that wherever the forests had been cleared, Africanized bees competed for territory and replaced ordinary honey bees. For more of the story, scroll down to What's the Bzzzzzzzzz? on his journal Folha da Frontera.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rumney Marsh Academy, Revere -- May 12

42º 24' 47" N
71º 00' 12" W

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Rumney Marsh Academy is a school that the EarthView team enjoys visiting each year, because students there study geography throughout the year. It is especially fun to arrive late in the school year, when the geography learning among sixth graders has been going on for months!

Visit our 2016 Rumney-Marsh post and earlier posts for information about our previous visits and about the marsh (wetland) for which the school is named. You can also read about its nearest neighbor -- a famous candy company. How many middle school students are lucky enough to be across the street from a candy factory? It is like Willy Wonka, but in real life.

Water Volumes

Our visits inside of EarthView always begin with a discussion of the Earth's water, and the fact that the vast majority of it is in forms (saltwater or ice) that humans cannot use for drinking, bathing, irrigation, or industry. We have this discussion in terms of percentages, but today a student asked what the total volume of the water would be. "Millions of cubic miles," we said, promising to look up the actual figures.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the volume of water on the earth is 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3), or 1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3). The image below shows what the earth would look like if all of the water were removed from oceans, ground water, streams, and lakes.
The largest blue sphere represents all of the water on earth. The smaller sphere -- situated over Kentucky in the United States -- represents only the liquid, fresh water. The tiniest sphere of all -- a dot that appears to rest on Georgia -- represents all of the surface water. Of that, about 20 percent is in the Amazon River Basin, and another 20 percent is in Lake Baikal in Russia. Learn more at the USGS How Much Water? page.

NEW (May 30, 2017): Speaking about this with the geography teachers at our EarthView Institute, we realized that we can update our presentation about water to include not only percentages, but also the absolute volumes of the various ways water is stored. Using the USGS site mentioned above and refreshing our memory of sphere-related formulae with the sphere calculator page, we created a new spreadsheet detailing earth's water at an EarthView scale. For example, we learned that all of the fresh liquid water at or above the earth's surface could fit inside a ping-pong ball at the scale of EarthView!

South-Up Map

We also spent a lot of time at our Hobo-Dyer-Mead map learning about the importance of relative size. An interesting way to learn more is to use the TrueSize web site, which allows viewers to select a country or U.S. state, and visually drag it to other parts of the world for comparison.
The "Lower 48" portion of the United States, for example, is about the size of Brazil. Often, the familiar Mercator projection gives us the wrong idea of the relative size of places.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Clifford Marshall School, Quincy -- Cinco de Mayo

42° 15' 10" N
71° 0' 03" W
Learn more about Lat/Long (including how to look them up by address)
Also, compare today's coordinates to those of other recent Earth View outings, near and far!

This was our second visit to the Marshall School. The EarthView team knew that the students and families of Clifford Marshall School have come to Quincy from many places, and that the school community celebrates this. So we asked each of the third and fourth graders who came into EarthView to tell us where their families come from. We pointed them out during our visit and then put them on.a Google Map. With just one point in the center of each country of origin, we were able to make this quick map of the Marshall School community.