Sunday News and Links

Playing catch-up so there’s lots to share today…

  • One of the main goals of the Geographic Society of Chicago is the promotion and practice of geography education, particularly among grade-school aged children.  This can be difficult because, at such a young age, their perspective of physical geography is often limited to their immediate surroundings — their town, their neighborhood, or even just their block.  That’s why we were thrilled to find this blog post advocating the use of oreo cookies in teaching tectonic plate movement.  This will definitely become part of the curriculum in the future…

  • More education news, from our colleagues at Elmhurst College:

The Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP) – a consortium of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), the American Geographical Society (AGS), the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE), the National Geographic Society (NGS)  – has released  Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, Second Editionan update of the 1994 publication.  The intention of the second edition is to ensure that the National Geography Standards continue to capture the most important and enduring ideas in geography and that the standards remain challenging to students. . . The second edition is organized to emphasize the importance of “Doing Geography.”  The revised edition features restructured content and a new format. Revised content captures the growth and importance of geospatial technologies and spatial thinking in geography over the last 18 years. Each standard is presented through four components: an introductory essay; knowledge statements; performance statements and examples. Knowledge statements and performance statements are broken down by grade band (grades 4, 8 and 12).

Purchase here

  • Check out Google Earth Engine, a database of satellite imagery dating back almost 40 years.  Some of their presentations are pretty remarkable, offering a greater perspective on important public policy issues such as water conservation, deforestation, and ecological restoration.  This one is pretty compelling:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbSkRS8Ih7o&w=560&h=315]

  • And finally, more Google: artist Jon Rafman has gone through and found the most amazing, bizarre, shocking, and funny images from Google Streetview and collected them on his site 9-eyes.com (*warning* while not exactly explicit, some of the images may not be suitable for younger viewers).

Climate Change in Science Education

As a physical geographer and educator, occasionally I’m asked to give a GeoSphere presentation on climate change.  Even more frequently the topic comes up at cocktail parties.  Having kept up over the years with the scientific issues involved, I’m quite comfortable portraying the basic physics and expanding body of research on the subject.  However, as the article Climate Change: The New Battlefield In Science Education points out, many in our society don’t like what they are hearing.  Also, many teachers are outside their comfort zone when trying to explain climate change.  For those who want to get up to speed quickly on the subject, I recommend reading Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences – A Guide for Individuals and Communities. Of course if you think that all the basic science it contains is just evidence of a vast conspiracy, the long list of federal departments that endorse the Climate Literacy project will bolster your argument as well.

-Steve Jansen, GSC Board Member

Continued Efforts Between the GSC and the CAG

The GSC is assisting the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group (CAG) in an effort to restore natural areas in Waukegan, IL as part of US EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  One of the areas under restoration is Bowen Park, formerly a boys and girls summer camp donated to Jane Addams’ Hull House Settlement by her friend and benefactor, Louise Bowen.

The park is mostly uplands on the eastern edge of the Highland Park moraine overlooking the Chicago Lake Plain.  Post-glacial drainage erosion of these uplands has created steep-walled Glen Flora ravine through the park. CAG had already started restoration work at the site when the severe storms of the summer of 2011 struck. That’s when they called in the GSC for help.

Runoff from the uplands overran the man-made and natural drainage systems to threaten park facilities with severe erosion.  High winds had downed many trees, blocking trails and impacting restoration efforts.  CAG initially asked the GSC to map the tree damage.  Steve Jansen, a GSC director, used the GSC’s handheld GPS units to locate, tag, and measure nearly 100 instances of downed or severely damaged trees as part of a CAG team which also included a botanist and land restoration managers.  The field data was incorporated into a GIS system created by Drew Bieber, also a GSC director.  The GSC team produced numerous maps (see below) to help CAG recover from the damage.

(click for larger image)

GSC’s continuing work at Bowen Park includes a floristic and geomorphic inventory of plants of interest, invasive species, and current and potential erosion and deposition areas.  We also are working with CAG on their restoration efforts on a 2.3 mile stretch of beaches, dunes, and swales along the Lake Michigan shoreline south of Illinois Beach State Park. We are now mapping baseline conditions for areas degraded by invasive species and current and potential habitats for endangered and threatened species. We will track progress on restoration work as it begins in 2012.

Previous Coverage: The GSC and the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group

Friday News and Links

1. Hans Rosling dispels common misconceptions about modernization and “the developing world.”  (His other TED talks are also impressive.)

[ted id=620]

2. What’s producing methane on Mars?  (New York Times)

3. 2011 saw more billion-dollar weather-related disasters than any other year in US history. (Associated Press)

4. The necessity and relevance of GIS-related studies in modern K-12 classrooms.  (Directions Magazine)

Quote: “…geospatial technology is helping people be inquisitive, exploratory and analytical. Many situations and problems demand unique, iterative explorations and the ability to analyze data. Life is not a single-threaded linear existence. Educators need to model exploration and analysis, and then give students more and more opportunities to the do same.”