Geography Education
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Geography Education
Supporting geography educators everywhere with current digital resources.
Curated by Seth Dixon
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What to Know About Diwali, the Festival of Lights

What to Know About Diwali, the Festival of Lights | Geography Education |

"Diwali, one of the biggest holidays in Indian culture, is a five-day festival of lights celebrated worldwide by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. This year, the traditional day of Diwali falls on Oct. 30, though celebrations span the entire week leading up to and following the holiday, which marks the triumph of good over evil."

Seth Dixon's insight:

This video provides a good introduction to the incredibly important South Asia holiday of Diwali. 


Tags: culture, India, Hinduism, South Asia, festivals.

Kelsey McIntosh's curator insight, March 31, 2018 6:31 PM
Diwali is the Indian festival that lasts 5 days and celebrates the “triumph of good over evil”. The article explains that the holiday is recognized worldwide, the festival is marked by lighting fireworks, and other objects that give off light and has many origins.
Matt Danielson's curator insight, December 12, 2018 2:54 PM
This festival seems interesting and all the different lights must be cool to experience.A nice mix of old cultural celebration with more modern traditions (like gift giving, sweets, etc). 
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A Few Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Thanksgiving

A Few Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Thanksgiving | Geography Education |

"President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday during the Civil War, and the feast has since become an American tradition. Yet the story of the Wampanoag and the pilgrims who first broke bread is not commonly known."

Seth Dixon's insight:

This is a good source of information that runs counter the mythologized Thanksgiving story that is seen by so many as central to our heritage and national narrative.  Personally, a nice slice of turkey with cranberry sauce is not ruined by knowing that there is more than one perspective to the story. 

Tags: Thanksgiving, food,perspective, historical.

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The Transformation of Burning Man

The Transformation of Burning Man | Geography Education |

"Burning Man takes place at the end of August every year in the barren and remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The weeklong festival is described by its organization as “an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.” Earth-bound photographers have chronicled the legacy of art, technology, design, and fashion at the event over the years, but we at Skybox wanted to know if we could capture the transformation of the city from space, with our constellation of SkySats. This is the result:

A full-fledged city of population 70,000, “Black Rock City” is built up in a matter of days, experienced for a single week, and disassembled just as quickly, leaving no trace."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Last week I posted about Burning Man, noting that the landscapes in this experimental culture are inherently ephemeral and fleeting.  High resolution satellite imagery has captured the quick rise and fall of the Black Rock City.  Perhaps the term 'rise and fall' might not aptly describe the formation and dismantling of a city of 70,000 people; it is more like the ebb and flow of the tide, certain to return again.  

Tags architectureimages, art, landscape, geospatial, remote sensing.

CT Blake's curator insight, September 19, 2014 12:45 PM

An interesting view of the passage of short amounts of time and human interaction in a transitory urban scene-- Burning Man.

Nicole Kearsch's curator insight, September 21, 2014 10:12 PM

I have a friend from Nevada and he explained how excited he was to go to Burning Man and he was almost appalled when I asked what the big deal was.  I had no idea that this huge event is put up and taken down in such a short period of time, all that quick work for a weeks worth of entertainment.  The idea to document the construction and destruction through satellite was an excellent idea, as it is more meaningful to someone than writing that it was constructed in so many days and taken down in this many.  

Alec Castagno's curator insight, September 23, 2014 11:39 AM

Burning Man is a massive and creative counterculture festival, and its surprising to learn that the majority of the camps are created by participants of the festival in whatever manner they choose. It is amazing that such a huge number of people can flock to such a remote location and in a very short amount of time build a complex, organized settlement, all for the purpose of a festival dedicated to independence and expression. What is popularly seen as a drugged out Mecca for the weird is carried out in a shockingly complex manner, and by working with the local infrastructure and providing one of their own the festival is able to be carried out year after year.

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Thanksgiving Resources

Thanksgiving Resources | Geography Education |

Thanksgiving has some fascinating spatial components to it.  My wife and I prepared an article for the Geography News Network on that shows the historical and geographic context of the first Thanksgiving and in the memorialization of Thanksgiving as a national holiday (if you don’t subscribe to Maps 101, it is also freely available as a podcast on Stitcher Radio or iTunes).

Seth Dixon's insight:

One of my favorite combinations of maps for Thanksgiving involves the geography of food production and food consumption.  When we start looking at the regional dishes on Thanksgiving plates we can see some great patterns.  This ESRI storymap asks the simple question, where did your Thanksgiving Dinner come From?


This StoryMap is a great resource to combine with this New York Times article that shows the regional preferences for the most popular Thanksgiving recipes.  Where are sweet potatoes grown?  Where do people make sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving? 

Plymouth County, MA is heart of only 3 cranberry producing regions and is was also home to the first Thanksgiving.  How has this New England local ecology and traditional food patterns influenced national traditions? 

For these and more Thanksgiving resources on, click here.

Tony Aguilar's curator insight, November 17, 2013 6:14 AM

This website is interesting because it gives us the geography of where specific foods in the country are manufactured such as cranberrie sauce, turkeys, sweet potatoes and helps us develop a rich cultural history and earn solidarity of where we come from and the traditions that make us who we are in terms of culinary choices. The original thanksgiving with the early puritan settlers in New England most likely reflected dishes that were synonomous with foods that natives grew and other local items that were family in this area. Now because of industry we to choose foods that have their origin from markets nationwide.

Al Picozzi's curator insight, November 17, 2013 12:35 PM

Love to see where the traditional American Thanksgiving food comes from.  We have that, but growing up in an all Italian household Thanksgivng was more then had an added Italian flavor.  Start with antipasto that had a prosciutto that would met in your mouth, plus cheeses, muhrooms, other meats, then would come the soup, then the pasta, could be any variety then the Turkey, but you would also have a ham because you never knew who was going to stop by, plus all the trimmings and then finally dessert with Italian cookies and pastires along with the Thanksgivng traditions of pumpkin and apple pies.  We took breaks inbetween courses to watch some football and make room for more food becasue it was all good.  We literally ate all day.  So for us out food came form all over the world.  In a nation of immigrants, we added our own flavor to an American Holiday..and to me whats more American than brining in some of your own hertitage into a holiday..we are after all a "melting pot"

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In Russia, Epiphany Comes With A Shockingly Cold Swim

In Russia, Epiphany Comes With A Shockingly Cold Swim | Geography Education |

"Thousands of members of the Russian Orthodox Church marked Epiphany in January with a dip in freezing waters blessed by a cleric. Epiphany is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ and the revelation of God as a human being in his form. Much like a baptism, the icy plunge is considered a purifying act of faith."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Some of the photography and photo galleries of this cultural event are breathtaking--literally for those taking the plunge.  Russians cut the ice in the shape of a cross and bath in water that is blessed and considered holy as explained in this NPR podcast.  This religious tradition is particularly well-suited to the environmental conditions of the religious adherents (since the extreme climate plays a critical role in the activity).  Part of the practice involves sacrifice; the colder the swim, the greater the manifestation of religious devotion.    


Tags: Russia, religionChristianity, culture

othni lindor's curator insight, October 20, 2018 12:39 PM
This article talks about epiphany. Epiphany is a holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church. It celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Believers are baptized in freezing water through holes cut in the ice. Big cities like Moscow set up their own stations while smaller cities have a more do-it-yourself approach. The churches are decorated with a Christmas tree and it densely packed with people. The service for Epiphany can last for as many as four hours.    
Matt Danielson's curator insight, October 22, 2018 5:58 PM
This is similar to a baptism done in both Catholic and protestant religious but with an added twist. As in often times and found through out history a regions religion is influenced by the environment( check Norse religion of Vikings or Christianity effects on the Irish for example) and the Eastern Orthodox religion in Russia is no different. Using the harsh environment in part of there religious rituals making the baptism more of a sense of acceptance and will, they do it in extremely cold waters to prove their allegiance to the religion and their determination to follow it. This must be a powerful experience full of emotion, pain, and afterwards group acceptance. 
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, November 1, 2018 11:19 AM
Epiphany must be an unbelievable experience for those who believe in the Russian Orthodox Church. In celebration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, Russian Orthodox members dip into the freezing waters blessed by clerics. The participants claim to feel cleansed after the whole experience. With hundreds of participants and many young people as well it is a testament to their faith in Russia Orthodox Church. 
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Diwali: Festival of Lights

Diwali: Festival of Lights | Geography Education |
In India, one of the most significant festivals is Diwali, or the Festival of Lights. It's a five-day celebration that includes good food, fireworks, colored sand, and special candles and lamps.
Seth Dixon's insight:

This 3 minute video from National Geographic is a nice introduction to the cultural practices of Diwali, the fall festival which symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness.  With some analogies to Christmas for Christians, Diwali is also perceived by some to be overly commercialized in recent years and the fireworks cause air pollution problems.  

Tags: religionSouth Asia, culture, Hinduism.

Martin Kemp's curator insight, December 17, 2015 3:35 PM

this is a great example of cultural diffusion. you can see events like this all over the U.S including here in providence with the waterfires, very cool.

David Stiger's curator insight, November 12, 2018 3:48 PM
Learning about the cultural practices of other societies and civilizations has a way of humanizing unknown people. Of course Westerners can intellectually understand the people in South Asia are human beings, but seeing the images and features of Diwali - especially the parallels with Christianity - makes India seem less foreign and more relatable. Indians celebrating Diwali can also probably relate to the mixed feelings of a shamelessly commercialized holiday. The commercialization in America is borderline manipulative as it pressures people to worry about gifts, money, and shopping.  Christmas shopping in the Western world suffocates the holy nature of the birth of Christ - making the whole season overly materialistic, stressful, and self-indulgent. It distorts the human ego creating its own form of darkness. India's festival of lights may be encountering a similar form of dark commercialization where values such as family and goodwill are set aside for spending and material desires. Hopefully, for both Christmas and Diwali, light can be restored by studying and reflecting on our materialist ways and reverting back to the old ways. 
Olivia Campanella's curator insight, December 14, 2018 8:57 PM
This National Geographic video is a beautiful introduction to the cultural practices of the people of India and of Diwali. Diwali is a fall festival symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness. It is a 5 day celebration that includes food, fireworks colored vibrant clothing and sands, and special candles and lamps.
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Facts for Features: Irish-American Heritage Month (March) and St. Patrick's Day

Facts for Features: Irish-American Heritage Month (March) and St. Patrick's Day | Geography Education |

"Originally a religious holiday to honor St. Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into a celebration for all things Irish. The world's first St. Patrick's Day parade occurred on March 17, 1762, in New York City, featuring Irish soldiers serving in the English military. This parade became an annual event, with President Truman attending in 1948. Congress proclaimed March as Irish-American Heritage Month in 1995, and the President issues a proclamation commemorating the occasion each year."

Seth Dixon's insight:

We celebrate St Patrick's Day to commemorate him for driving out the snakes from Ireland in the 5th century (or to just have an excuse to party, kiss and pinch people).  What does the biogeography of Ireland have to tell us about this legend?  Some believe that the non-believers (figurative 'snakes') were what he drove out of the Emerald Isle, a land with a rich culture.     

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La Tomatina 2012

La Tomatina 2012 | Geography Education |
La Tomatina is a festival that is held in the Valencian town of Bunol, located inland from the Mediterranean Sea, that brings together thousands of people for one big tomato fight – purely for fun!

La Tomatina is a cultural festival in Spain that is world renowned for it's exuberance and playfulness.  This gallery of 26 images shows some of the dynamism and appeal to this extraordinary event where more than 40,000 people engage in the world's largest foof fight using upwards of 100 tons of tomatoes in the yearly food fight known as 'La Tomatina.'

Notice the signs for storing backpacks and luggage that are now pastered with tomatoes on the store in the background of the image.  These hastily-composed, informal signs are written in three languages (Spanish, English and Japanese).  What does this tell us about the festival?  Also, notice how the comments section revolves around the concepts of waste, poverty and consumption. 

Tags: Europe, foodtourism, seasonal, culture, unit 3 culture, consumption.

Don Brown Jr's comment, September 12, 2012 3:03 PM

I find myself caught between respecting the practices of other cultures as I can’t not help but acknowledge that this is still very extravagant and wasteful although we in America are no better. This use of food can be seen globally as just another example of the widening depravation as undeveloped countries may view food solely for consumption while developed countries grow food for commerce with the notion that once you pay for it, it does not matter how you use it.
Nicholas Rose's comment, September 13, 2012 9:59 AM
This article is very interesting to say the least. The reason why is because culturally even this is the largest food fight in the world involving only tomatoes but it has been a critical cultural tradition in Spain for many years and will still become a tradition to Spain.
Lauren Stahowiak's curator insight, February 25, 2014 1:02 PM

Spaghetti anyone? La Tomatina is a large tomatoe fight held in Bunol. It is a cultural festival in Spain purely for fun. Thousands meet in the streets to throw tomatoes and through the pictures shown, one can only imagine how many tomatoes get thrown at this festival. The streets are flooded red!