Semifinalists Get Ready for the California State Geography Bee – Friday, March 27 at CSU Fresno

On Friday, March 27, the top 110 qualifiers from among all winners of school-level geography bees will convene in Fresno to compete for the state geography bee championship.  The event will take place on the campus of CSU Fresno and will be hosted by State Bee Coordinator Sean Boyd.

Two-time top three finisher Rhea Mitr is one of many standouts among the participants in the geography bee.  Rhea was one of 28 students who got a perfect score on the state bee qualifying exam last year.  Rhea was interviewed by the Fresno Bee and urged other students, especially girls, to participate in the Geography Bee as a means to become a better-rounded citizen of today’s global world. She went on to say that “the Geography Bee is [about] knowing all about the world we live in. It is not just limited to continents, countries, capitals, currencies etc. It is about having an in-depth knowledge in several other things as well – earth and physical sciences, monuments, wonders of the world (man-made and natural), history, events in the news, disasters, human geography comprising of habitats, culture, religion, language, ethnicity, etc.”

National Geographic has released a complete list of all semifinalists who have qualified to compete at their state bees, and you can see the list here.  Local media reports from across the state have begun to report on the successes of their local students who are headed to the state bee.  Here are some links you can follow to get to know a few of the competitors:

Semifinalist Rhea Mitr, Quarry Lane School
Semifinalist Sydney Gamble, North Creek Academy
S
emifinalist Alex Topp, Vaca Pena Middle School
Semifinalist Tobey Shim, The Bishop’s School
Semifinalist Max Bhatti, Longden Elementary School

If you know of any other local media reports about school bees or state bee competitors, please send links to cga@geography.sdsu.edu.

 

Bringing Insights of Geographic Research to Geography Education Practice

Greetings from the Alliance Network Annual Meeting at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, DC.  We are hearing about changes in the way in which the Alliance network is organized and supported, and in the coming months there will be news to share about new initiatives and new activities, and we think there will be some things you can get excited about and use to get students engaged in learning.  More on that to come, but for now we want to share something that is a little bit outside the box of our usual Alliance work, but still very related.

Many of you may not know that the CGA team at San Diego State – in particular Stuart Aitken, Thomas Herman, and Kate Swanson – are also involved in conducting geographic research on the geographies of children, youth, and families.  The concept of “geographies of children and youth” may be new to you, but because most of you work with children and youth on a daily basis, you will find it a familiar topic.  It is an interdisciplinary field including education, environmental design, and sociology researchers who share an interest in places and spatial relationships.  They examine the ways in which adults make space for children, youth, and families (playgrounds and suburban neighborhood design are simple examples). They are also interested in ways in which children and youth interact with and modify their environments (think about the old Family Circle cartoon that shows how the child who says she came straight home from school actually took a circuitous route throughout the entire neighborhood or the way kids tend to gravitate to forts and treehouses away from adults’ spaces).  This field has grown significantly over the past 20 years, as is reflected in academic journals and in the number of disciplines who are using geographic thinking to examine the lives and well-being of children, youth and families.

In January, we hosted the 4th International Conference on the Geographies of Children, Youth, and Families in San Diego.  Over 160 researchers from 32 countries attended the conference, and they presented a wide range of ideas and evidence about what is happening in the lives of children and young people.  If you are interested in learning more about the conference, you can check out the conference web site at: http://icgcsandiego.wix.com/ypbw or the ISYS Center web site at http://geography.sdsu.edu/Research/Projects/ISYS/.

One big takeaway message for us as Alliance leaders and for all geography educators is this:  Valuing the perspectives, concerns, experiences and voices of youth with regard to issues such as life in their community, what it means to be a Californian or an American, and how do we conserve our global environment will create incredible motivation for students to accumulate geographic knowledge and activate geographic thinking.  You already know that, probably, but it is helpful to have an occasional reminder and some encouragement.  We have lots of things to teach, some grounded in standards and some grounded in personal values, but we would encourage you to make sure that on a regular basis you are giving students an opportunity to exercise their voices, analyze their environments from their own perspectives and the perspectives of others, and express their ideas for a brighter future.

An example of this came from a plenary speaker at the conference.  Professor Katharyne Mitchell from the University of Washington gave a talk entitled “Counter-mapping with Children.” She taught students about the fact that maps reflect one view on a place, and that they reflect power relations and, often, official designations.  They leave out some features and labels to make room for others that the mapmaker thinks are important to show on the map.  Maps can therefore exclude the perspectives of minority groups or of people who do not possess official power and status (i.e., children).  Dr. Mitchell then worked with the children to examine the perspectives of specific groups in the Seattle area where she works.  The students focused on the perspectives of women, Asian-Americans, and African Americans and produced alternative maps for the city that elevated those perspectives.  The activity built social and historic knowledge of the students while also engendering empathy and, wait for it…..geographic knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking!  Sounds great, right?  Only a shame she is not in California.  However, immediately after the talk we had a chance to learn that Dr. Nancy Erbstein at the University of California-Davis is doing very similar work in California.  A new collaboration is hopefully emerging from that conversation so we can share Dr. Erbstein’s work (and methods) with all of you.  But you don’t need to wait.  Have your students map their community.  Have them look at maps of their home area and talk about what is shown on the map.  Have them talk to others in the community about the places that are significant to them and check to see if they are shown on the maps you can access.  Have them produce alternative maps that do reflect these features.  It will be fun and relevant and it will build geographic knowledge and skills.  It will hopefully also tap into their natural curiosity and lead to lifelong learning.

Programs and Projects of the CGA in 2015…and Beyond!

Hello CGA members and friends. This month I wanted to provide a few updates to let you know what is happening within the CGA and what you can look forward to in the near future. But before I get into the news, I want to remind everyone reading this that the SDSU leadership team is really hoping to continue learning about all the things that are happening around the state and all the great people who are working to create opportunities for students of all ages to become geo-literate and to learn to love geography. Please feel free to get in touch with me directly at cga@geography.sdsu.edu if you have any questions, want to share something that is happening in your school or district, or just want to introduce yourself. It would be great to get reports from “the field” that we could share in this newsletter, on our website, or on our Facebook page.

Visit with the CGA at the CCSS Conference in Oakland in March
The CGA will be well-represented at this year’s California Council for the Social Studies Conference in Oakland on March 6-8. We will have an exhibitor booth to distribute maps and other materials and introduce people to the educational resources on calgeography.org. If you are knowledgeable about the CGA and would like to volunteer some time at the booth, we can provide free registration for up to 3 Teacher Consultants/Teacher Leaders who will commit time to enthusiastically represent the CGA. Please contact me to express your interest.

There are at least two CGA-based sessions on the conference program that you may want to attend or recommend to a colleague. I suspect there are other presentations being given by CGA members, so please share the information on any relevant sessions so we can promote them. For now, here are two I would like to promote:
> Friday, March 6th at 2:24 – 3:45 PM – “Geo-Literacy: Engaging Students in Spatial Thinking”
> Saturday, March 7th at 2:24 – 3:45 PM – “21st Century Learning + Online Tools= Next Generation”

What Kind of Professional Development Do You Wish CGA Offered?
The CGA has been focused on professional development supporting use of our awesome print atlas, California: Our Changing State. The atlas is a great resource, and the PD workshops have been wonderful, but this means we have been very focused on 4th grade teachers. We are thinking about ways to greatly expand our offerings across grade levels and subject areas, which leads me to pose a question to you all.

If you could put one topic on our wish list for future PD workshops, what would it be? You can send your suggestions to me, or better yet, post them to our Facebook page so everyone can see your idea!

Geo-Quest: A Broad Vision for the CGA and for Geography Education
Many of you will be aware of our efforts to move toward a next generation atlas that takes advantage of new technologies to incorporate expanded topical coverage, a high level of interactivity, and embedded content that helps teachers address standards and also meet the expectations of Common Core. This project gets us very excited, and our vision has been taking shape over months. It now has a new name: Geo-Quest: California’s Education Portal.

The Geo-Quest project is an innovative approach to enhancing student understanding in the fields of history-social science, physical sciences, and other content areas at multiple scales. It is also a direct response to calls for greater civic responsibility and leadership development. As argued in the C3 Framework, “Now more than ever, students need the intellectual power to recognize societal problems; ask good questions and develop robust investigations into them; consider possible solutions and consequences; separate evidence-based claims from parochial opinions; and communicate and act upon what they learn” (NCSS, 2013, pg. 6).

Geo-Quest will provide young people with the tools and scaffolding needed for in-depth learning and will foster critical thinking through independent and project-based investigations into important social and environmental issues. Providing students with these tools is crucial in order to help them become active, geo-literate, and knowledgeable citizens who succeed in college, career and civic life.

geoquest

As the world becomes more interconnected through globalization, geography education and geo-technologies can help students make sense of rapid global change. Understanding how spatial relationships link communities can help students appreciate intricate – and often unexpected – connections between themselves and distant places across the state, nation, and globe. This knowledge can foster more in-depth understanding on how people live – socially, culturally and environmentally. Ecological relationships are also critical to geographic education; understanding ecological interdependencies can help illuminate how human actions shape environmental change (c.f., Heffron and Downs, 2012).

Using geo-technologies, we can map, record, analyze and communicate ecological and human population change over time. In states like California, where we are experiencing the worst drought in recorded history, visual and hands-on geo-technologies can help students comprehend the magnitude and impacts of this drought in a more profound way. Geo-Quest is important because it will help develop independent, critical thinkers who are technologically- and spatially-literate 21st century global citizens.

Geo-Quest represents the aspirations of the CGA to become a hub for critical thinking and young people’s leadership as well as geography education. As a portal, Geo-Quest defines a space within which teachers and students across the state can build geographic knowledge and skills, encounter issues and data sources, and interject their own ideas and analyses. In addition to supporting students in making their schoolwork relate directly to the challenges of the world in which they live, we think this approach will encourage collaborations with other entities in California, including geography departments at our colleges and universities.

You will be hearing more about Geo-Quest in the coming months and years. You will be able to watch it take shape on our website – even now, click on the Atlas 2.0 menu item to see some really cool things. CGA will provide professional development to assist teachers in using Geo-Quest in a variety of ways, and over time it will become a collaborative space where curated resources and user-friendly tools meet with the energy of educators, learners, storytellers, and problem-solvers.

Building Leadership Skills with Geography and GIS Education: Notes from the SDSU Colloquium by Dr. Joseph Kerski

Written by CGA Geospatial Technology Coordinator Ming-Hsiang Tsou

What are the key skills required for a team leader? An effective leader needs to provide a 360 degree perspective and to have capabilities to solve problems by using multiple tools with limited resources. With hands-on skills and technological expertise, a team leader should be able to communicate with his/her team members effectively and to accomplish challenging tasks with collaboration from multiple people in different fields together. All these leadership skills and trainings are the key components in Geography and GIS education. As a teacher of Geography and GIS, I would like to ask every Geography teacher and GIS educator to re-think the goals of Geography and GIS education. To equip students with leadership skills and deep-thinking capability, we should transform Geography education toward the development of team leadership for our community.

Understanding local to global challenges, learning geospatial technology and tools, using geo-enabled devices effectively (such as smart phones and navigation systems) are exemplars of important geography education content that can build the fundamental skills of team leadership for students. These examples were highlighted by Dr. Joseph Kerski during his colloquium speech on September 12th, 2014 at San Diego State University.

In our GIS education community, Dr. Joseph Kerski is a perfect example of a true team leader who is also an outstanding geographer. With a full house at SDSU’s Colloquium on Friday afternoon, Dr. Kerski delivered an insightful and inspiring presentation focused on learning geospatial tools and thinking critically and spatially about our world.

Kerski_at_SDSU

It is a great honor for California Geography Alliance and the Department of Geography to host Dr. Joseph Kerski’s colloquium. Dr. Kerski received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 2000. He is the Geographer and Education Manager at ESRI and an adjunct Professor at University of Denver. With an impressive publication record (five books and over 40 journal articles, papers, and book chapters), Dr. Kerski is probably the most well-known GIS education “guru” in the world.

To demonstrate the definition of “guru”, I would like to share the SDSU story map made by Dr. Kerski when he just arrived to SDSU in the morning before his talk (Figure 1). Here is the actual link: http://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/?appid=61035b310fcd425dbf9d722da62c80de. He created this wonderful Story Map by using his mobile phone only and revealed these beautiful scenes around the campus visually and spatially. Very cool and effective!

Kerski_SDSU_StoryMap

Joseph is my life-long friend (over 18 years) and one of the most admirable scholars in the GIS community. He and I spent 4 years together in the University of Colorado at Boulder during our Ph.D. programs.

In order to share his great presentation to the members of California Geography Alliance, we have posted a few sections of his colloquium videos in our YouTube Channel. You can access them from here: http://calgeography.org/featured-talks/.

Let’s train our next generation of geographers to become the team leaders in the 21st Century!

Ming from San Diego
mtsou@mail.sdsu.edu

Learning by doing: GIS, GPS and building a scavenger hunt (a model activity for after school)

Article by Kitty Currier, graduate student at UC-Santa Barbara [currier (at) geog.ucsb.edu]

(Editor’s note: The CGA thanks Ms. Currier for providing this excellent article and making the related resources available to our members. We welcome submissions from any CGA member or geography educator who would like to share a lesson plan or learning activity.)

Leather craft, archery, and sheep showmanship were activities I pursued as a youth member of the All-American 4-H Club of Fort Collins, Colorado. Rooted in an agrarian past, the youth development organization 4-H has since expanded its focus to include the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering, and math—in its mission to foster leadership, citizenship and life skills in children. “Maps and Apps” was the national 4-H science theme of 2013, recognizing that geospatial technology and reasoning skills are essential to many of today’s careers and approaches to solving problems.

To align with the “Maps and Apps” theme, members of UC Santa Barbara Geography’s Outreach Committee and the Center for Spatial Studies developed and delivered the workshop Building a UCSB Scavenger Hunt. Following the 4-H “learn by doing” approach, the workshop was designed to teach participants how to read and navigate with a map, use a GPS receiver to collect geospatial data, and visualize their data using Google Earth. Approximately thirteen 4-H members ages 9–16 participated in the workshop, which was held on three consecutive Saturdays on the UCSB campus.

Each day had a different focus, beginning with basic map reading and culminating in the final project—a scavenger hunt, designed and created by the participants, themselves. On Day 1, participants followed self-guided tours adapted from UCSB’s Interactive Campus Map (http://map.geog.ucsb.edu/). Day 2 was devoted to data collection, where participants selected and navigated to different locations on campus; recorded their latitude–longitude coordinates using a GPS receiver; devised trivia questions; and shot descriptive photographs. Participants synthesized their data on Day 3, when they were tasked to design their own scavenger hunt in pairs. Each pair developed their own design that included a map created in Google Earth, trivia questions, and photos, all assembled on two letter-sized pages.

Post-workshop feedback from the participants was positive. The highlight of each day was the activity session (i.e., map navigation, collecting data, and producing paper scavenger hunts), but from a teacher’s perspective, the discussion, presentations and individual writing time helped participants realize that they were learning skills in addition to having fun. An important component of the workshop was the paper scavenger hunt that each participant brought home on Day 3, which they could share with their families and friends as a product of their own making.

One challenge that we anticipated was the range in age (9–16) of the participants. We designed the workshop to require no prior knowledge of the material, but inevitably participants arrived with different levels of competence. The age range turned out not to be a problem, however. As members of the same 4-H club, the participants all knew each other, and the older participants were used to mentoring the younger ones. If this workshop were to be delivered to a group of participants who were not as comfortable working together, however, such a difference in ages might pose a greater challenge.

Following are guidelines, templates, and our “lessons learned” for anyone wishing to adapt and offer a similar activity. More complete information about each day’s activities, along with a comprehensive materials list, can be found in the included example files, noted in red.

Schedule, Locations & Example Files
Day 1: Introduction to Map Reading (lecture classroom & outside)
Day 1_outline
Day 1_UCSB campus map
Day 1_UCSB walking tour example
Day 2: Field Data Collection (lecture classroom, outside, & computer lab)
Day 2_outline
Day 2_gps
Day 2_photos
Day 2_questions
Day 3: Mapping with Google Earth & Creating a Scavenger Hunt (computer lab)
Day 3_outline
Day 3_google earth exploration
Day 3_plain UCSB basemap example
Day 3_scavenger hunt template

Personnel & Structure
Four graduate students developed and led the workshop, which was attended by 6–13 participants each day. On days 1 and 2 an additional one or two adults assisted with the outside activity. Each day was allotted three hours and consisted of (a) an introduction to the day’s topic, given by the leaders; (b) a hands-on activity, where the participants practiced a skill; and (c) reflection and writing about the day’s activities. The structure was partly dictated by the 4-H program’s emphasis on presentation and record-keeping skills.

Budget
Our total budget was approximately $150, the majority of which was used to purchase four secondhand digital cameras and storage media. We borrowed GPS receivers for the activity at no cost from the Department of Geography.

Lessons learned
> Use existing campus maps & tours as resources when possible (e.g., for Day 1 map-reading activity).
> Be ready with an activity for the start of each day to occupy participants who come early; inevitably, some participants will arrive late.
> Have on hand participants’ parent/guardian contact information and relevant medical history/needs.
> Be prepared for fluctuation in attendance, and ensure that your plan is flexible enough to accommodate participants who miss a day.

Group photo of 4-H members on UCSB campus
Figure 1. Day 1, ready to go! (Photo credit: Erin Wetherley)

Marcela teaches some map basics
Figure 2. Marcela teaches some map basics. (Photo credit: Erin Wetherley)

Participants study their GPS receivers
Figure 3. Participants study their GPS receivers. (Photo credit: Kitty Currier)

Participants explore Google Earth
Figure 4. Participants explore Google Earth. (Photo credit: Haiyun Ye)

Kitty, Susan, and participants inspect the final scavenger hunts
Figure 5. Kitty, Susan, and participants inspect the final scavenger hunts. (Photo credit: Haiyun Ye)

Three distinct approaches to scavenger hunt design
Figure 6. Three distinct approaches to scavenger hunt design.

Go to GeoCamp Iceland 2015 with the National Council for Geographic Education

The NCGE is a leader in providing professional development opportunities for teachers at all grade levels, and this may be one of the most attractive trips they’ve ever offered! You can click on the image below to get more information about the trip, but first you should know that CGA wants to help support teachers to take advantage of this exciting opportunity (and to bring exciting learning experiences for students all over the state). CGA can provide a scholarship of $250 to any teacher working at a school in CA who is selected for the trip, so send an email to cga (at) geography.sdsu.edu if you plan to apply. We will also cover the cost of attending the 2016 NCGE conference for any teacher who is selected for the trip and chooses to work with the CGA to meet the expectation to produce and disseminate classroom materials addressing the National Geography Standards. The teacher(s), working with the CGA leadership team, would give a presentation at the conference based on the learning materials they developed after the GeoCamp.

Picture of volcanic lake advertising National Council for Geographic Education's GeoCamp 2015 in Iceland
NCGE Professional Development Opportunity: GeoCamp Iceland 2015

Why We Need Geography Education

Good news: This week is Geography Awareness Week! Why do we need Geography Awareness Week? Because in order to become well-informed global citizens, American students need geography education. As the world becomes more interconnected through globalization, geography education can help us make sense of rapid global change. This is essential, particularly in light of political and military interventions abroad. For instance, when Russia moved into the Crimea in March 2014, a survey revealed that only 1 out of 6 Americans could locate Ukraine on a map. The further Americans believed Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they supported US military intervention (Washington Post, 2014). This is a problem.

Geography as a discipline has changed substantially over the last several decades. We do a lot more than maps! In our department at San Diego State University, our research spans the social and physical sciences. We study everything from vegetation, climate, hydrology, and soils to urbanization, migration, sustainability, and globalization. Many also specialize in Geographic Information Science (GIS) to develop applied solutions for real world problems.

For this year’s Geography Awareness Week, the theme is ‘The Future of Food’. By exploring the geographies of food, we gain a better sense of how the food we eat is part of a global commodity chain linking people, places and environments around the world.

The California Geographic Alliance, along with National Geographic, invite students, teachers, and community members to participate in GeoWeek 2014. GeoWeek is an opportunity to learn more about geography, while drawing attention to the need for policies to improve American students’ access to geography education. Get started by going to GeographyAwarenessWeek.org, where you can discover ways to participate in GeoWeek and find ideas and free resources to organize your own GeoWeek celebration.

Celebrate GeoWeek and spread the word about the importance of geography education!

World of 7 Billion Video Contest for High School Students

Back by popular demand, the World of 7 Billion student video contest can help you bring technology and creativity into your high school geography classes. The contest challenges your students to create a short (60 seconds or less) video illustrating the connection between world population growth and one of three global challenges dealing with either the sixth extinction, available farmland, or global education. Students can win up to $1,000 and their teachers will receive free curriculum resources. The contest deadline is February 19, 2015. Full contest guidelines, resources for research, past winners, and more can be found at www.worldof7billion.org/student-video-contest.

Making calgeography.org a One-stop Shop for Your Geography Education Needs

At the CGA, our goal is to help build geo-literate citizens who care about the planet’s people, places and environments, and who feel empowered to strive for a more sustainable and equitable world. Teachers, informal educators, parents, students, policy-makers, and the media are all partners in helping us achieve this goal, and the Alliance website is a vehicle for educating, activating, coordinating, and supporting those partners. With this understanding, our team at SDSU, with input from CGA members, has completely revamped the site and is continuing to build out its utility. While the site is changing weekly and should present more value to all audiences as we continue our work, I am going to take this opportunity to give you a quick overview of what you can find there and how you can help us build a better online resource. From the welcome page on, we want the site to support our collective mission.

Teachers (and by extension their students) are our primary audience, and that is reflected in the content we have put online. Under the RESOURCES tab on our main menu, you will find three categories:

CALIFORNIA ATLAS: Our excellent print atlas, California: A Changing State, is available on the site as individual pdf files. You can print pages as needed for student work or project the maps for instruction. The atlas is aligned with fourth grade curriculum and has accompanying lessons for that grade, but it can be a valuable resource at many different grade levels and across a variety of subjects. In addition to the individual maps, the atlas contains great info about how to understand and use maps. If you dig deep into this section (or link directly from the menu on the left margin of the site), you will find “Atlas 2.0″ – our working title for a suite of exciting new interactive resources. We have created several web maps and StoryMaps based on the topics covered in the print atlas but incorporating greatly expanded information in a format that allows teachers and students to explore important aspects of California’s history and environment through integrated maps, texts, and images. These are early prototypes, and we will continue to develop them with the help of some talented graduate students at SDSU and the input of teachers. Tell us what you think, suggest additions, or get online with Esri at http://storymaps.arcgis.com/en/ to see many more examples and experiment with making your own StoryMaps. Then share your work.

CONTRIBUTED LESSONS: This is a list of geography lessons, sorted by grade level, that have been created by CGA Teacher Consultants and other teachers who have attended past workshops. We would like to be able to make this list more valuable by adding new model lesson plans and including some info with each lesson plan about what teachers find useful about each lesson plan (kind of user reviews, as we have all become accustomed to online). So send us your best lesson plans, tell us what you think about the ones that are online now, and help us build a better resource.

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES AND MULTIMEDIA CONTENT: One of our concepts for creating a valuable one-stop shopping experience for geo-educators of all types is to be a curator to help people access the best of literally thousands of amazing resources that already exist online. Again, we are very open to reviews and recommendations, but you will find links to sites with lesson plans and online tools, and you will also find links to a lot of short videos that could be used to introduce students to a topic or stimulate critical discussion. For example, The Economist magazine puts out very informative “videographics” on topics such as global migration flows (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcoOENLfpUI), and series of videos created by independent filmmakers such as one entitled Gas Rush explores the boom in natural gas and fracking from a variety of perspectives and features interviews with real people working in or affected by the industry (http://www.gasrushstories.com/grs/Stories.html).

There is also some useful information for educators under the ABOUT tab on the main menu, including:

ABOUT THE CGA: This gives a brief history of the organization. We should all be proud of being the first alliance in the country and one of the places where the movement was first imagined and nurtured.

GEO-LITERACY AND GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION: This page includes texts and links to videos explaining exactly what geography is and why it is vitally important. Geo-literacy is a term that is used within the geography education community to underscore the central importance of geographic knowledge and spatial thinking. We see it as a core competence for the students of today and the citizens of the future. On this page you will also find links to the California content standards and curriculum framework for history and social studies, common core state standards (Did you know there are free iPhone/iPad and Android apps with the Common Core standards?), and the Next Generation Science Standards. Those are the crucial policies for teachers, but the CGA is also looking beyond what is in place to think of what geography education could and should look like, and you can get some ideas about that from following links to A Road Map for 21st Century Geography Education or Geography for Life.

GEOGRAPHY MAJORS AND CAREERS: When the SDSU leadership team decided to take on hosting the CGA, we set a goal to increase the number of incoming college students who declare geography as a major. Unfortunately, this is a rare occurrence, and we think it would be good for our economy, our communities, and our students’ futures if more chose to study geography and prepare themselves for careers as geographers or in many other professions where geographic knowledge and skills are valued. Toward that end, we have included information about why a student might choose geography as a major and where in the US a student could pursue an education in geography. We also link to the site of the Association of American Geographers that includes profiles of professional geographers. And while you are on the site, check out one of our latest blog posts that confirms that geographers’ sensibilities and skills are prized in the workplace and jobs for people with the technical ability to work with geographic information are well-paid and more numerous than job-seekers with the required training. This message needs to get out to our high school students. Geography is relevant, interesting, integrative, and a pathway to a great career.

Thanks for reading! I hope you will visit calgeography.org again and again because it is a valuable resource. And please contribute your own content or suggestions to make it the best possible reflection of the important work we are all doing in geography education.

Cheers,

Tom Herman, CGA Director
therman@mail.sdsu.edu

Geography in the Workforce: Good News to Share (from the President of the American Geographical Society)

If ever there was any question that geography is foremost among professions, the last shred of doubt has been dispelled by reports on employment trends over the past decade. The U. S. Department of Labor, The Guardian newspaper, MSN.com, Money Magazine, and PayScale.com stated our case better than we geographers have. Let’s start with the most recent and work backward in time. MSN.com in its Money section on May 5, 2014 covered “America’s most and least common jobs.” Geography was among the least common, and I’ll talk about that aspect later, but there was good news too: “Still, some of these uncommon jobs do have growth potential and include relatively high salaries.” The data cited by MSN.com came from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): “The average geographer earned more than $75,000 annually as of 2013.” What’s more, “The BLS forecasts that these jobs will grow by 29 percent…between 2012 and 2022.”

On April 22, 2012, Debra Auerbach of CareerBuilder.com wrote about “10 jobs with above average salaries.” Then at $74,170, geographers were second highest, and all jobs on the list were projected to grow more than 29 percent over the subsequent decade. Auerbach explained, “Geographers study the earth and its land, features and inhabitants. They also examine political and cultural structures as they relate to geography. This is a good occupation for lovers of travel, as geographers often travel to conduct fieldwork.”

In 2010, The Guardian published a poll showing that geography graduates had the very lowest unemployment rate of all disciplines in the United Kingdom (source). Among the previous year’s graduates, 7.4 % of geographers were unemployed in January 2010, compared to 16.3 % of information technology (IT) graduates. “What makes…geography grads the most employable?” Alison White asked, and the answer came from Nick Keeley, director of the Careers Service at Newcastle University: “Studying geography arms graduates with a mix of skills employers want to see: Geography students generally do well in terms of their relatively low unemployment rates. You could attribute this to the fact that the degree helps develop a whole range of employability skills, including numeracy, teamwork through regular field trips, analytical skills in the lab, and a certain technical savviness through using various specialist computing applications. Also, the subject area in itself cultivates a world view and a certain cultural sensitivity. These all potentially help a geographer to stand out in the labor market.”

For many years the U.S. Department of Labor has recognized geospatial technology as one of the three top growth industries today, alongside nanotechnology and biotechnology. “Over 500,000 professionals in fields ranging from environmental engineering to retail trade analysis are asked to use GIS in their jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists (a subset of GIS occupations) are experiencing faster than average employment growth – anticipating growth at 19 percent between 2008 and 2018” (source).

Money Magazine and PayScale.com placed “geographic information system analyst” in its list of the “Top 100 Best Jobs in America” in 2010. The 2011 list of the “Best Jobs in Fast-Growth Fields” included various careers that utilize GIS.

Why, you may ask, with all these striking figures high salaries, rapid growth, low unemployment, aren’t students beating down the doors to get into our classes? Why are geography departments not booming in every university in the country? Why, in fact, are geography departments closing at a disturbing rate? Why do parents routinely ask, when their sons and daughters announce they want to study geography, “How on earth will you make a living?” Most puzzling of all, why are departments changing their names to attract students concerned about employment? The answer is pure, unadulterated ignorance among the U. S. public. Geography is one of the least common professions because few employers know to call geographers “geographers.” Few know to advertise for a geographer when that’s what they need to hire. Our students, however, find high salary jobs, seldom called “geography,” because we give them skills and attitudes that warrant high pay.

Clearly, we geographers aren’t making our case as convincingly as we could and should. We aren’t informing students of the disciplines true potential of employment. We aren’t informing employers that there are plenty more good prospects like the ones they have already hired, if only they will support our programs and seek our graduates.

The American Geographical Society will continue to fight to get this message out: Geography is the key, not only to understanding, but also to success.

Note: From the August 2014 newsletter of the AGS.