Great American Teach-In, A Geographic Perspective

05 December 2012 by Patrick Wilson

A few weeks ago I was privileged to participate in the Great American Teach-In at a local middle school. It just so happened that this date coincided with Geography Awareness Week. Geography connects us to the world and is embedded in every aspect of our daily environment.

I began each session by asking the same question, “What does geography mean to you?” Each had a similar response along the lines of memorizing places on a map. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. I typically get the same response from adults. We then shifted into the basics of human versus physical geography and how the two intertwine to explain the complexities of their everyday lives with examples from the recent election outcome to something as simple as the water cycle.

Each class participated in two geography activities. First, we explored the Public Land Survey System using historical hand drawn maps from 1844 to reveal the exact location of their school in Pinellas county. We then compared the historical maps to recent topographic maps to discuss why and how land-use and land-cover has changed over 168 years.

The last activity entailed the students planning and mapping for a zombie virus outbreak in their school. I posed the question, “How are geographic tools used to make predictions and find solutions to a problem”? First, we collected mock zombie point locations with Fulcrum</a> to determine where the outbreak occurred. We were able to identify and map outbreak points on the campus in Google Earth. The students determined a quarantine zone for the healthy and traced a polygon around the “Safe Zone” area with suitable infrastructure. We wrapped up the lesson by discussing how the same actions can be implemented to real disaster scenarios.

Zombie mapping

I’ve always enjoyed introducing students to the world of opportunities through geography. I’m thankful to have discovered my passion for geography at a young age and I’m appreciative for the opportunity to share it with students.

Patrick Wilson

About the author

Patrick is a GIS analyst that works with Fulcrum everyday to deploy mobile mapping projects for our users.