Daily Archive for August 29th, 2011

Water Changes Everything

Did you know…

One billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation—half of those are children. More than 2.6 billion people live without proper sanitation. One out of every six people lack safe drinking water and two out of every five people lack adequate sanitation.

Watch this video on the water crisis the world is facing and discover some of the solutions available.

 

Why Geography Education Matters

 Joseph Kerski, education manager for Esri and 2011 president of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE), passionately believes in the importance of geography in the curriculum. “Geography enables students to understand their world locally to globally, make wise decisions about the planet and its resources, and become critical thinkers,” said Kerski. “Geography grapples with the key issues of our time—energy, water, biodiversity, climate, natural hazards, population, and much more.” In the following essay, Kerski explains why geography plays such a pivotal rule in education.

Geographic questions begin with the whys of where. Why are cities, ecoregions, and earthquakes located where they are, and how are they affected by their proximity to nearby things and also by invisible global interconnections and networks?

After asking geographic questions, students acquire geographic resources. They collect data such as maps, satellite imagery, and spreadsheets from their own fieldwork. They analyze this geographic data and understand relationships across time and space.

Geographic investigations are often value laden and involve critical-thinking skills. For example, after examining a map of cotton production in the USA, students investigate the relationship between latitude, altitude, climate, land use, and cotton production. After discovering much cotton is grown in dry regions that must be irrigated, students can then ask “Why is cotton grown in these dry areas? Should cotton be grown in these dry areas? Is that the best use of water and other natural resources?”

Finally, students present the results of their investigations using geographic tools such as web GIS and desktop geographic information systems. Their investigations usually spark additional questions, and the resultant cycle is the essence of geographic investigation.

Students study geography to understand that the earth is changing. Then they scientifically and analytically think about why it is changing. And they even dig deeper than that. Should the earth be changing in these ways? Is there anything that I can do about it or that I should be doing about it? This not only captures the heart of spatial thinking—inquiry and problem-based learning—but also empowers students to become decision makers, to make a difference in this changing world of ours.

Geography therefore is not simply just a “nice to have” subject for an already-crowded educational curriculum. It underpins, in my view, the critical-thinking skills, technology skills, citizen skills, and life skills that underpin all other disciplines. It is essential for grappling with the essential issues of our time.

Related Video

Why Geography Education Matters video.

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene caused extensive damage across the Caribbean before making landfall in North Carolina, on the East Coast of the United States. It passed through New York City with relatively limited damage, but caused devastating flooding damage further inland in parts of New York State and Vermont.

Over 65 million people living on the East Coast of the United States from the Carolinas to Cape Cod were at risk. Due to the threat, state officials, as well as ports, industries, oil refineries and nuclear plants, promptly prepared to activate emergency plans; residents in the areas stocked up on food supplies and worked to secure homes, vehicles and boats. States of emergency and hurricane warnings were declared for much of the upper East Coast. Hundreds of shelters were prepared.

 

Hurricane Irene over the Southern Bahamas on August 24

 

Gales from Irene affected much of the Eastern Seaboard, extending from Florida to New England and as far inland as Pennsylvania. The winds, combined with soil saturation due to the extreme amounts of precipitation, uprooted countless trees and power lines along the storm’s path, leaving roughly 5 million power customers in the dark nationwide, some for extended periods of time. Coastal areas suffered extensive flood damage followings its potent storm surge, with additional freshwater flooding reported in many areas. The storm spawned scattered tornadoes, causing significant property damage as evidenced by destroyed homes. Throughout its path in the US, Irene is estimated to have caused up to $7 billion in damage (2011 USD) and at least 21 deaths, with the death toll still reportedly rising.

  

The Path of Hurricane Irene

  Hurricane Irene in pictures.