Visit the EarthView web site to meet the team and learn about the project.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Maps & Meaning

42° 23' 11"N
71° 16' 22"W
For coordinates by address in the U.S., check Stephen Morse, or use an atlas, globe, or Google Earth for other places throughout the world.

EarthView has returned to the Cambridge School of Weston, an independent, progressive high school with a rich history of innovative teaching. Co-coordinator James Hayes-Bohanan took it there for his daughter's "Maps & Meaning" class last year. Students from that class were so energized by this unique way of experiencing a map that this year's class was eager to have EarthView return.

The visit was a reminder that students of any age can get excited about seeing the world in a new way. It is also a reminder that a map or globe can be used for lots of different kinds of learning. Because students in these classes had been analyzing the ways maps can represent the same reality differently, their questions about EarthView were quite interesting. As the video below makes clear -- the students gave EarthView a very warm welcome.
One of the questions of perception asked by a CSW student is actually one that the EarthView team hears a lot -- "Is it in the correct proportions?" Most people do not spend much time looking at world maps, and even less time looking at globes. And the most commonly viewed maps use a Mercator or similar projection that greatly exaggerates the size of land masses at high latitudes -- so that Greenland rivals South America and Antarctica looks like a very wide rectangle. In reality -- and in EarthView -- Greenland is rather small, Antarctica is rather round, and Africa is much bigger than most people expect it to be. Also, since many projections divide the Pacific Ocean, almost everyone who enters EarthView is surprised at its size. 

We discussed the question of whether new islands are still being discovered, and in fact some are, and it is sometimes difficult to know whether they are new discoveries, newly precise ways of viewing complex groups of islands, or perhaps new lands formed by volcanoes. A couple of years ago, though, we did learn about the opposite -- the undiscovery of Sandy Island, an island that never existed, but which has appeared on maps for 200 years.
Image; Auckland Museum

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Thanks for seeking out BSU-Geography's Project EarthView.

We have been pleased to reach tens of thousands of students through direct participation in our program in just a few short years. We have also been proud to be part of state-wide efforts to raise awareness of geography education through local, regional, and national media attention to our efforts.

 Because our college became a university after the second year of the program, we eventually decided to move this blog to a new address.

As of August 11, 2011, new entries to this blog will be posted on 

Please update your bookmarks and follow us at the new address.

This blog (at BSC-EarthView) will be maintained as an archive, so feel free to link and share any articles you find here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Teachers of Teachers

EarthView Team: Dr. Vernon Domingo, Natalie "EarthView Wrangler" Regan,
 Rosalie "Globe Lady" Sokol, Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan
The photograph taken above is from the farewell dinner marking the end of EarthView's third year and the graduation of Natalie Regan, who served as EarthView's "Wrangler" from the program's inception. Most school visits over the past three years -- reaching close to 30,000 students in small groups -- have involved all four members of the team, and the rest of the team will miss the student worker whose dedication, creativity, and strong sense of organization has made everything possible. Upon graduation, she is pursuing opportunities to apply her geography education, mainly in the areas of regional planning and transportation.

The rest of the team brings the better part of a century of teaching experience to the program, and all of us are involved in various ways in the teaching and development of geography teachers. The "Globe Lady" Rosalie Sokol began her career as a middle-school French teacher, and switched to geography after completing an intensive training program sponsored by National Geographic in the 1980s. She retired from full-time teaching in Tantasqua Regional Middle School just as the EarthView program was getting started, and so continues to connect with students of all ages.

Dr. Vernon Domingo previously taught geography at the high school level in his home country of South Africa before coming to the United States for graduate school. He has taught in the Department of Geography at Bridgewater State University (formerly College) for 24 years. About a decade ago, he began teaching a course for future teachers, entitled Geography Methods and Materials, in which he draws on his extensive knowledge of the many tools -- conventional and digital -- available for the teaching of geography.

James "Dr. Java" Hayes-Bohanan began teaching geography as a graduate student in 1986, and became a full-time faculty member at BSU in 1997. When the department modified its program for future educators in 2005, he began teaching a course entitled "Geography Frameworks," based on the national benchmarks that have been established for geography educators at various grade levels. Students completing this course learn to apply those standards to a wide

BSU students majoring in elementary education, special education, or early childhood education must also complete a major in the liberal arts, and those who do so in geography complete both of these courses. They are also available to students pursuing the minor in secondary education, but those students are prohibited from majoring in geography, so very few of them complete these courses.

In addition to the students we reach directly through EarthView programs and university courses, members of the EarthView team are actively involved in workshops and institutes for in-service teachers -- both those already trained in geography and those who are teaching geography content but do not have geography licensure.

Update: The team gathered again in September, at the joyous occasion of Natalie's wedding. Her charming groom joined the team just for the photo op!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kermadec Quake

29.312°S, 176.204°W
(Note decimal degrees; see lat/long article for information about conversion. How many degrees is this from your school?)

Orange, yellow, and green are closer to surface;
blue and violet are deeper than 150km
see map page for more details and views
Thanks to our local paper, the Brockton Enterprise, for letting us know about the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck the very remote Kermadec Islands earlier today (although it was already "tomorrow" where the quake occurred, just a few degrees east of the International Date Line. (The Globe and Mail provides just a few more details.)

The remote outpost of New Zealand houses only a weather station (currently 67 degrees F with a light breeze) and a hostel for visiting scientists. It is almost 1,000 kilometers south of Tonga, the nearest "major" island and almost 1,200 kilometers northeast of Auckland. The earthquake is remote even from these islands, with Raoul Island, the nearest, over 100 kilometers away. (See EarthView blog posts about another remote New Zealand island, Tokelau.)

The quake occurred 44 kilometers below the surface, which leads the USGS tentatively to conclude that is is located in a normal fault within the downward-moving Pacific plate.

The map at right is among several interesting depictions of seismic activity in this remote area. It indicates that the area is seismically quite active, with thousands of mostly small events over the past twenty years. Although the depth of each event can vary according to many factors, in subduction zones of this kind, the tendency -- well-illustrated here -- is for shallow events to cluster near the fault line, with depth increasing with distance away from the advancing plate (in this case, westward as the denser Pacific Plate advances under the Australian Plate).

As with any major quake in a marine environment, tsunamis are a possibility, and in this case it appears that a 2.2-foot wave was the highest generated by the event.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pan-American Highway Tour

Geographers love transects, and we have shared several interesting examples with our EarthView audiences in the past couple years. A really quick one is taking place right now, as a three-person team is driving a single automobile along the entire 16,000-mile route of the Pan-American Highway.

Knowing that they started in Argentina and will follow a west-coast route all the way to Alaska, see if you can identify all the countries and major cities they will visit before checking the TDI-Panamericana web site to learn all the details.

This trek involves three drivers, 16,000 miles, 14 days, and a 2011 Volkswagen. EarthView team member Dr. Hayes-Bohanan did something almost as crazy in 1985, involving two drivers (both geographers), 8,500 miles, 17 days, and a 1960 Volkswagen. Our top speed was 62 miles per hour, and we visited only two countries: about half of the states in the U.S. plus Baja California. It was the start of what eventually became the County Map Project.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rumney Marsh Art

The EarthView team very much enjoyed our visit to the Rumney Marsh Academy in May, where we found a school full of enthusiastic geography teachers and learners. We were delighted to receive a series of wonderful posters created by RMA students, who apparently were quite inspired by the EarthView experience! We will treasure them all, and decided to share just one example here on the blog.

Click to enlarge!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Neither Niña nor Niño

The past six months or so have been punctuated by a series of extreme weather events in North America, from strong winter storms to rapid snow melt to tornadoes of unusual intensity, most recently in Massachusetts, far from their typical range.

Often such anomalies are ascribed to El Niño events -- accumulations of unusually warm water in the equatorial Pacific the prior December -- or La Niña, the opposite. According to NASA Science News, however, the 2011 events seem to result from an unusually free-wheeling jet stream, which in turn results from "La Nada" -- a lack of a strong Pacific temperature signal in either direction.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Not Just French

The woman on the map below is not just French ... she's France!

It is one of several maps in the form of people, plants, or animals included in Maps Come Alive on the Streets of Salem blog.

Phil Cambell

"Who is Phil Campbell?" That is a simple question with many answers, and an even better question is "Where is Phil Campbell?" The answer to that is northwest Alabama, more precisely at 34°21′N; 87°42′W.

And for the next few days, the question is "Where are the Phil Campbells?" To which the answer is "Phil Campbell." Got it?

Phil Campbell -- one of them, anyway -- was a railroad builder from England who was leading work crews in northwestern Alabama in the 1880s. A local business leader asked him to build a side track and depot, offering to name the town for him if he did so. The result is that Phil Campbell is the only town in Alabama to bear both the first and last name of an individual.

I first heard of the town of Phil Cambpell in 1995, when New York writer Phil Campbell organized a convention of 22 people named Phil Campbell in the town. Phil Campbell -- the writer and the town -- are in the news again this week.

In April of this year, the town of Phil Campbell experienced a devastating tornado as part of the 2011 Super Outbreak. At that time, the writer Phil Campbell and others were already planning another convention to take place in June. As reported on NPR Thursday, the Phil Cambells -- this time coming from all over the world -- have transformed their celebration into a relief effort.

The "I'm With Phil" project is restoring hope to a town some thought might need to be abandoned. It is amazing what these eighteen men (at least one Phyllis was planning to attend but is not in good health) are doing, united by nothing more than compassion, a sense of humor, and an unusual toponym.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Granite Valley Middle School in Monson -- June 17

42° 06' 35" N
72° 19' 11" W

Learn more about Lat/Long

The EarthView team will mark the end of our third year -- and the departure of our graduating EarthView Wrangler -- at Granite Valley Middle School in the town of Monson. This will be our westernmost appearance this year, though we were only a few arc-minutes east of Monson when we visited Sturbridge at the beginning of this week.

As many people in our region now know, it was just two weeks ago that the town of Monson was among the  communities that suffered the most devastating property damage during the June 1 outbreak of tornadoes in western and central Massachusetts. Tragically, several lives were lost in the Springfield area, but good forecasting, communication, and cooperation prevented the human impact from being much greater. 

Click to Enlarge
View original and commentary at EarthSky
The impact of losing so many homes and public buildings, however, is quite serious. The Monson Public Schools have been an integral part of the effort to bring the community together around the recovery effort

Tornadoes occur rarely in Massachusetts, so when we were teaching EarthView audiences about the geography of tornadoes in April, we had no idea the subject would soon be so close to home. As reported on the EarthSky blog, NASA Landsat images reveal the scope of the damage, as a single path of heavy damage extends for a length of 39 miles, with a width up to a half mile.

For centuries, the physical geography of Monson has influenced its history. Located in a region of abundant rainfall and high topographic relief (range of elevation), Monson was an ideal location for industry during the age of water power. As early as the late 1600s, mills in Monson produced a variety of products, ranging from lumber and woolens to hats and rifle barrels. Below the surface, local granite has been sufficient for the construction of many public buildings in town, with enough leftover for use throughout the Northeast.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tantasqua Regional Jr. H.S. -- June 13

42° 09' 24" N
72° 07' 44" W

Learn more about Lat/Long

The EarthView team is delighted to be visiting Tantasqua Regional Junior High School in historic Sturbridge. As students there know, this is the school where the famous Globe Lady worked as a geography teacher before retiring and joining our team! EarthView has been to Tantasqua only once before, in 2008.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weymouth -- June 3

Abigail Adams Middle School
42° 13' 21" N
70° 56' 21" W
Academy Avenue Primary School
42° 13' 15" N
70° 56' 33" W

Learn more about Lat/Long

The EarthView team enjoyed a day in Weymouth -- a town located about halfway between our home base and Boston. We set up EarthView at Abigail Adams Middle School, to provide programs to students from the Academy Avenue Primary School, who walked a few hundred yards to participate. The coordinates posted above -- based on the official address of each school -- can be used to determine the arc length the students covered.

We were delighted to have as special guests for the day Rep. James M. Murphy, who represents Weymouth in the Massachusetts Legislature, and his staff members, including an intern recently arrived from Ireland! Rep. Murphy and his staff exuded great enthusiasm for geography education. More importantly, so too did the students, teachers, and staff of the two schools. The enthusiasm for EarthView and geography was high throughout the day, and the students showed that they had been learning their geography concepts quite well!

We look forward to returning to Abigail Adams to do some more geography education with students, teachers, and Principle Dan Birolini, a former geography teacher who once took a course on the Geography of Africa with EarthView' team member Dr. Domingo!