Digital resources to strengthen the quality and quantity of geography education in classrooms the world over.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Get students thinking about patterns and the 'why's' of history with a focus on the geography and movement behind the historical story. This is the link to some of the digital maps that can help you put history in it's place. For more lesson plans, click here.
Eleven years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, the Supreme Court on April 28 will hear arguments about whether to extend that right nationwide. The case comes amid a wave of gay marriage legalization: 28 states since 2013, and 36 overall. Such widespread acceptance in a short amount of time isn't a phenomenon unique to gay marriage. Social change in the U.S. appears to follow a pattern: A few pioneer states get out front before the others, and then a key event—often a court decision or a grassroots campaign reaching maturity—triggers a rush of state activity that ultimately leads to a change in federal law.
We looked at six big issues—interracial marriage, prohibition, women’s suffrage, abortion, same-sex marriage, and recreational marijuana — to show how this has happened in the past, and may again in the very near future.
“For most of the world, the Armenian Genocide is the slaughter you know next to nothing about. But every year on April 24, Genocide Remembrance Day, we Armenians remember the injustice of a crime that is rarely acknowledged and often flatly denied. It was April 24, 1915, when the Armenian intellectuals, professionals, editors and religious leaders in Constantinople were rounded up by the Ottoman authorities — and almost all of them executed. During World War I, the Ottoman Empire killed three of every four of its Armenian citizens. The majority of Armenians alive today are descendants of the few survivors.”
2.5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire--1.5 million were killed. Not just killed, but horrifically slaughtered--beheaded, crucified, burned alive in their churches, loaded like cattle onto freight trains and sent to concentration camps, raped, assaulted, sold as slaves, herded into the DerAzor desert and left to die.
The United Nations recognizes the massacres and the systematic destruction of two-thirds of the Armenian population as the first genocide of the 20th century, and has stated that the mishandling of its aftermath set the stage for future genocides, from the Holocaust to Rwanda and Sudan and everything in between. Hitler studied what happened and borrowed many of the Ottoman Empire’s techniques to use against the Jews.
And even though some countries in the world recognize and agree with the UN assessment of the fact, Turkey denies it, and the US still stands silent and refuses to officially state that what happened was genocide...because to do so would offend Turkey, and Turkey is a US political ally. Many are calling on Israel, a country founded in large part because of a genocide, to acknowledge the first genocide of the 20th century.
Learn about genocide and teach genocide--what causes it, what perpetuates it, what the cost of denial can be. Don’t remain silent. Be a peaceful person in your own life, and in all your relations with others--and speak up about any wrong or injustice.
*Most of this post is courtesy of Janet Rith-Najarian, professional geographer and member of the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education.
"Ever since I researched the meanings of monuments in the cultural landscape in Mexico City, I’ve been fascinated by the cultural politics of memory and heritage. The removal of a statue is a cultural 180, acknowledging what was once honored and revered is now something that is not worthy of that distinction. This sort of change is not without protests on both sides and a cultural rearticulation of who 'we' are when 'we' make a public memorial."
Cecil Rhodes was the namesake for the Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University and the colonial names of Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia). He was deeply connected to British colonialism and was one of the most ambitious colonizers that expanded the British Empire. This week a statue of Cecil Rhodes on the University of Cape Town campus was removed. See the BBC article, Yahoo News!, and PRI podcastfor more details.
Questions to Ponder: Why do you think this monument to Cecil Rhodes was established in 1934? Why was it removed in 2015? What does this say about South African politics and culture? How might we characterize the supporters and opponents of the statue?
Clarissa Ward breaks down the history of differences between opposing sects of Islam
The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This 5 minute video (as well as this NPR podcast) examine the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis. Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
"49 Maps That Explain The U.S. For Dumb Foreigners--The United States is mind-boggling. Right?!"
Some of these maps are goofy and intellectually uninspiring (granted, it is from Buzzfeed so that comes with the territory). However, some of these maps are absolutely fantastic and I think that it's worth searching through this list to find some maps that are solid teaching resources. Which ones are your favorites?
"TeachMideast is an educational outreach initiative developed by the Middle East Policy Council. TeachMideast is a resource designed primarily to give high school and community college teachers the foundation they need to teach about critical , complex, and intriguing subjects."
After writing an article about cultural empathy and stereotypes for National Geographic Education, I was delighted to hear from the educational outreach coordinator at Teach Mideast. The amount of resources they have for teachers is impressive--check it out!
Most of the world's major religions are made up of multiple sects or denominations, and Islam is no different. Islam's two major sects are the Sunnis and the Shiites, and the division and interplay between the two is a major factor in the geopolitics of the Middle East. How well do you understand Sunni and Shiite Islam? Take our quiz and find out!
The ghosts of religious wars past are rattling in Iraq; The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This NPR podcast examines the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis. Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
"Where have immigrants to the U.S. come from? Natalia Bronshtein, a professor and consultant who runs the blog Insightful Interaction, created this fascinating visualization of the number of immigrants to the U.S. since 1829 by country of origin. The graph hints at tragic events in world history. The first influx of Irish occurred during the potato famine in 1845, while the massive influx of Russians in the first decade of the 20th Century was driven by anti-Semitic violence of the Russian pogroms (riots). Meanwhile in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, army conscription and the forced assimilation of minority groups drove people to the U.S. in the early 1900s. Since WWII, Central and South America and Asia have replaced Europe as the largest source of immigrants to the U.S. Immigration shrunk to almost nothing as restrictions tightened during WWII, and then gradually expanded to reach its largest extent ever in the first decade of the 21st Century."
Amid the celebrations this St Patrick's Day, there are also more somber commemorations taking place. In Mexico and in a small town in Galway, Ireland, they are remembering the hundreds of Irishmen who died fighting for Mexico against the United States: the San Patricio Battalion.
On St. Patrick's Day and afterward, many people shared happy pictures of Ireland, and that's lovely but I wanted this story. This is not a well-known story in the United States because it reveals the cultural prejudice against the Irish that was prevalent in the United States in the 1840s. I first learned about them in Mexico City, walking by a monument, that memorialized St. Patrick's Battalion. They were a group of soldiers that deserted from the U.S. army and chose to fight with their Catholic brethren on the Mexican side.
Questions to Ponder: Why are these historical events not usually mentioned in the U.S. national narrative? Why is this seen as very significant for Mexican national identity? What were the 'axes of identity' that mattered most to the those in St. Patrick's Battalion?
In the 19th century, London was the capital of the largest empire the world had ever known — and it was infamously filthy. It had choking, sooty fogs; the Thames River was thick with human sewage; and the streets were covered with mud. But according to Lee Jackson, author of Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth, mud was actually a euphemism. 'It was essentially composed of horse dung,' he tells Fresh Air's Sam Briger. 'There were tens of thousands of working horses in London [with] inevitable consequences for the streets. And the Victorians never really found an effective way of removing that, unfortunately.'"
History gets sanitized, and the we forget some of the more unpleasant parts of past geographies. Victorian London was filthy, but this isn't just a problem of the past as it remains an urban and developmental issue. The NY Times just reported on how the sewage system is clogged with wet wipes say aren't as 'flushable' as advertized. These are the negative externalities of urbanization. This map of San Francisco shows the spatial and social inequalities of public restrooms and other public amenities for the homeless. India is the country with the most people without adequate access to sanitary waste disposal and that is a massive impediment to their progress. Public urination is also health/gender issue and the city of Hamburg is fighting back with a technological deterrent to public urination (actually quite entertaining). And if you want the "news of the weird" version of this story on the geography of human waste...well, here you go (you were warned).
"Imagine you are a slave. You belong to a farmer who owns a tobacco plantation on the eastern shore of Maryland. Six long days a week you tend his field. But not for much longer . . .What will you do? Make your choices well as you embark on your journey to freedom.
To play The Underground Railroad: Journey to Freedom, you must download and install the free Sandstone Player Software on your computer. Sandstone is required to support the 3-D style interaction in the game. Click here to find instructions for downloading Sandstone on a Mac or PC. The game is also available as both an iOS and an android app."
"As the demand for its products escalated early in World War II, the Army Map Service, a heritage organization of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, was losing much of its largely male workforce to the armed forces. A solution to the urgent need for replacements emerged when the University of Chicago’s Geography Department developed a course in military map making and began offering it to women’s colleges in the East and Midwest."
Use our interactive In Charted Waters tool which shows information & visuals on how our knowledge of the world map has evolved.
This interactive map/timeline takes users around the world through the major events representing the expansion of human knowledge. Admittedly, this is represents knowledge from a Eurocentric perspective, but that is somewhat appropriate in this instance since that was the largest store of spatial knowledge as this global information coalesced. Users can visualize the coordination of absolute space and realize the actions undertaken that shifted geography from its predecessor, cosmology. Each achievement cam through intensive exploration and the detailed mapping of those endeavors.
Mark Twain declared that the Indian city of Varanasi was older than history, tradition and legend. He was, of course, wrong. So which exactly is the world’s most ancient continuously inhabited city?
This is a nice article that, on the surface, discusses which is the oldest city among competing claims. However, it also serves as an entry point to explore the history of urbanization in the ancient world and the requirements for the earliest permanent settlements.
Before its subversion in the Jim Crow era, the fruit symbolized black self-sufficiency.
The stereotype that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose. The trope came into full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure."
"The battle between the Alamo garrison and Mexican President Santa Anna’s forces reads like a Shakespearian tragedy: greatly outnumbered, all the Texan defenders died. Even the men who surrendered were killed, fueling the outrage and critical mass required to swell the Texan army, become an independent republic, and in time choose to be annexed by the United States."
When we talk about sacred space we often think about religious sites first. Places like the Alamo or Ground Zero can be seen as critical parts of a national identity and as secular sacred spaces. Powerful social groups carefully construct memorials at places to strengthen a communal identity. What makes them tricky is they don’t mean the same thing to everyone—even within a cultural group.
Since 1915, National Geographic cartographers have charted earth, seas, and skies in maps capable of evoking dreams.
"In the United States, there is a long tradition of trying to draw sharp lines between ethnic groups, but our ancestry is a fluid and complex matter. In recent years geneticists have been uncovering new evidence about our shared heritage, and last week a team of scientists published the biggest genetic profile of the United States to date, based on a study of 160,000 people."
Race is a cultural construct; even though it is incredibly problematic, it is a powerful way in which we think of who we are and how others think of who we are.
Questions to Ponder: What are some problems with putting too much stock in race? Why does the idea of race still matter so much in the United States?
Last year, Julie and I wrote this article for Maps 101 (which was also created into a podcast) about the historical and geographic significance of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. Martin Luther King fought racial segregation, which, if you think about it, is a geographic system of oppression that uses space and place to control populations. Derek Alderman and Jerry Mitchell, excellent educators and researchers, produced lesson plans to help students investigate the politics behind place naming, specifically using the case study of the many streets named after Martin Luther King.
Questions to Ponder: Why are streets named after Martin Luther King found in certain places and not in others? What forces and decisions likely drive these patterns? What is the historical legacy of Martin Luther King and how is it a part of certain cultural landscapes?
"Prior to the 1960’s, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake and approximately the size of Ireland. Fed by both the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers carrying snowmelt from the mountains to the southeast, the Aral Sea moderated the climate and provided a robust fishing industry that straddled the present-day border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. For the map savvy, that Aral Sea would be almost unrecognizable—it has long appeared as two basins known as the North and the South Aral Sea since the rivers were diverted for crops, leading to the Aral Sea’s alarming shrinkage. Recent NASA satellite imagery shows the decline that the Aral Sea has undergone since 2000, leaving the South Aral Sea completely dried up in 2014. "