Geographic ConnectionCGAlog02012

News of the California Geographic Alliance

March 2015- Vol 7, Issue 3
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Congratulations to...
Children's Geographies
Summer Opportunities
Resources for the classroom
CCSS Learning Modules
ArcGIS Online FREE for Schools
Email and Phone
Quick Links

Upcoming Events

California Council for the Social Studies
Annual Conference
Oakland Marriott Convention Center
Oakland, CA
March 6-8, 2015

National Council for Geographic Education
Annual Conference
JW Marriott Hotel
Washington, D.C.
August 6-9, 2015

Congratulations to...

CGA Teacher Consultant Nicki Young will represent California as a delegate to South Korea this summer. The delegation will participate in a geographic issues conference in conjunction with South Korean delegates. The group will also have time to tour key sites in the country. 

Stay tuned for Nicki's reflections on her trip in a late summer issue of this newsletter.

Reflections from the California Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference


By Thomas Herman, CGA Director 


One of the most important events on the CGA calendar is the annual conference of the California Council for the Social Studies (CCSS).  The conference is a very valuable opportunity to interact directly with educators, to demonstrate the value of the CGA, and to connect with other organizations aligned with social studies education to develop and nurture lines of collaboration. Because of the importance of the event, I wanted to report back to CGA members about my perspectives on the conference and our organization's relationship with CCSS.  


This is the second time I have participated in the annual conference.  In 2014, the CGA registered as an exhibitor.  This year the CGA was a gold sponsor, which meant we got a prime booth location in the exhibit hall, recognition and a half-page ad in the program, and were able to insert a flier into the packet that all attendees received at registration.  We made the most of the investment and the booth location by lining our booth space with colorful and interesting historical maps, all of which were raffled off at the closing of the exhibit hall.  We talked to dozens of teachers distributed hundreds of free maps, promotional items like pencils and pens, and even gave away more than three dozen atlases to classroom educators.  Two CGA-sponsored sessions were included in the program.  Dr. Emily Schell presented " Geo-Literacy: Engaging Students in Spatial Thinking" on Friday afternoon, and I presented " 21st Century Learning + Online Tools = Next Generation Atlas" on Saturday afternoon.  In addition to those two presentations, I identified ten other presentations tagged by the presenters for including geography content.  

Each of these presentations was an important contribution to the conference, but this means that only 10% of conference sessions featured geography.  

Geography needs to have a stronger presence at the conference.  

I will hold up my hand and say that the CGA did not do enough to encourage Teacher Leaders and Teacher Consultants to give presentations on effective approaches to geography education.  In my opinion, the trained educators and geography advocates who count themselves as members of the CGA are our single greatest resource, and I would like to see more involvement in this conference.  If you want to come to the conference and share your experience and enthusiasm, CGA will provide financial support to offset the cost of travel to the meeting.  If you have an idea about how to engage educators at our booth, we want to hear your ideas.  Next year's conference will be in Costa Mesa onMarch 4-6, 2016, and then Sacramento will play host on March 3-5, 2017.  

It is up to us to demonstrate what contemporary geography education looks like and to carry forward the important messages that 1) geographic perspectives  tap into students' excitement for learning about their place in the world, and 2)  geographic knowledge and skills are keys to preparing our 21st century workforce and citizenry.   Please join with your fellow CGA members to leave a big impression on these two events!  


I hope I have made clear that it is up to us to make geography an important part of the CCSS Annual Conference.  I feel it is important that we invest our time and energy in the CCSS so that geography is well-represented among the social studies/sciences.  There is certainly a point to be made that geography straddles the physical and social sciences, and I think we also need to increase our involvement in science, but within K-12 education geography has traditionally been identified as one of four subject areas alongside economics, civics, and history.  So the social studies is our home, for better or worse, and the CCSS is an important representative body for the subject of geography.  This is why I want CGA members to be more active at the CCSS conference, and it is also why I am somewhat concerned about the current state of affairs within the CCSS. 


To be blunt, I think the CCSS has followed the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) in abandoning geography in some critical ways.  For reasons on which I can only speculate, geography has been excluded in both significant and symbolic ways.  For example, the CCSS membership booth at the conference was distributing new buttons promoting the social studies.  Each button played off of "Keep Calm and Carry On," with one touting history, one political science, and one civics education.  There was no button featuring geography, maps, or knowing your place in the world.  One could dismiss this as a simple oversight, but this exclusion/omission is also reflected in places where it is much more concerning.  The Legislative Breakfast and Government Relations Committee Meetings are staples of the annual conference, and this year the leadership of the CCSS was advocating for members to actively support two appropriations requests.  Quoting from a sample letter: 


" Over the past two years, federal support for instruction in civics and history has been eliminated.    This lack of support contributes to what retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recently described as a "crisis" in civic education.    To promote innovative teaching in civics and history, CCSS is requesting $30 million for competitive grants for non-profit organizations with expertise in innovative, engaging approaches to civic education through the Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE).    CCSS also supports a similar competitive grant fund of $30 million to support improvements in history instruction."

While support for history and civics education are important, this effort by CCSS and NCSS completely ignores the fact that federal support for geography instruction has never been provided under the current ESEA authorizing legislation, known as No Child Left Behind.  In 2012, this meant that civics education was $250 million ahead of geography, and history was $1 billion ahead of geography, in terms of federal funding support.  If there is a crisis in education, would it not involve the one core subject identified under NCLB that has never been supported by federal funds?  

I simply cannot accept the choice of CCSS and NCSS to pull out two of the four disciplines of social studies and try to rally support around funding for those two subjects while at the same time being completely silent on the importance of the other two.  This is an abdication of responsibility, and I also believe it is a disastrous political strategy at a time when it would make most sense for the social studies to stick together, insist on their relevance, and counter the narrowing of K-12 curriculum .  If social studies is in fact our K-12 home, then we can not afford to have this kind of selective representation at the state and national levels.  I have reached out to NCSS and CCSS leaders to express disappointment and to make it clear that I would not support their appropriations requests.  I encourage each of you reading this to consider your relationship to the CGA, CCSS, and NCSS and let your voice be heard as you feel appropriate.

In summary, I have two messages.  The first is for us to collectively invest in CCSS and make the best kinds of geography education, and the strongest cases for geography education, echo throughout the conference and the conversations that happen there.  We need to take collective responsibility for speaking up for geography.

The second message is for everyone to think about what they expect from the CCSS and NCSS in terms of representing geography in its publications, events, activities, and policy initiatives.  Make your desires known and request that these organizations represent your interests.  Speak out, get involved, and make these organizations work for all of the social studies, including geography.  

Thoughts? Ideas?  I would love to hear them, so please contact me. To contact CCSS, email them at To contact NCSS, visit their contact page for an email form:


Summer Opportunities for Teachers

Québec Dimensions:Historical, Geographic and Cultural Explorations

Summer Institute for K-12 


Begin and end in Montréal with travel to Québec City
June 28-July 3, 2015


  • Registration fee: $649 includes double-occupancy at 4-star hotels, transportation when in Québec, site visits, some meals.
  • Graduate Credit Option: pay an additional $263 plus complete a project to receive one graduate credit, offered through Plymouth (NH) State University.
  • Informational Flyer


Quebec Dimensions Summer Institute for K-12 Professionals, is based in the North American birthplace of New France and led by the Northeast National Resource Center on Canada.


This invitation is open to all teachers, curriculum coordinators, and administrators of social studies, geography, history and French to experience Canada's largest province and gain preparation for teaching about Canada in your state's curriculum.


Québec Dimensions provides foundations in history and geography with contemporary cultural insights through first-hand experiences. The Canadian and Québec content taught by Institute academic specialists is designed to support educators of  Social Studies, World History, Comparative Cultures, AP History, North American Geography, and all levels of French language curriculum.


Institute content is designed to meet Common Core, C3, and state standards with Canadian content.


Take advantage of in-depth briefings, site visits and walking tours in Montréal, the world's 2nd largest French-speaking city, and in Québec City, a UNESCO world heritage site.


Online Application can be found here.


For more information contact:


Betsy Arntzen


Amy Sotherden


Resources for the classroom


Current Context: Ukraine Conflict

      CHSSP's latest Current Context is on the Ukraine Conflict.  The pdf contains articles, timelines, maps, and teaching suggestions.  


Current Context: California Drought
      Check out CHSSP's newest free teaching resource, Current Context: California Droughtwhich includes a short background article, a map, a timeline of important events, and links to more great resources.


Current Context: Boko Haram/Nigeria

        Are you looking for a resource that helps you put current events in their historical context for your students? Check out their newest free teaching resource,  Current Context which includes a short background article, a map, a timeline of important events, and links to more great resources.  Their recent edition, Boko Haram/Nigeria, is ready for download here .  Check back for more resources in this occasional series, and let them  know what topics you'd like covered in future installments!
New CCSS Professional Learning Module Available from the CDE
The CDE is pleased to announce the release of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) English/Language Arts (ELA): Content Literacy in History/Social Studies, Grades Six through Twelve, online professional learning module.

This module provides secondary history/social studies teachers with resources to implement the CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy to deepen students' understanding of historical/social studies content, improve critical thinking, and develop literacy. The module contains information, strategies, lessons, videos, and resources to aid teachers in integrating reading and other literacy activities into history/social studies instruction to support all students' success.

Additional professional learning modules will be available in the coming months. For more information, please visit the CDE CCSS Professional Learning Modules for Educators Web page.
ArcGIS Online Organization available now
ESRI announced last summer that ArcGIS Online Organization subscriptions will be available at NO COST to schools around the country. This subscription level service offers much more than the basic public account, including " more control of sharing, access to more data, engaging much more powerful analyses, supporting apps like Collector or Explorer, integrating with ArcMap and Microsoft Office, enabling login to Community Analyst, and lots more."

For more information and to get the latest materials, including the ArcGIS Online Skillbuilder, visit
CGA Email Address and Phone Number
Contact us via email at

Need to get in touch with us by phone?

General Contact Information
CGA Director:
Thomas Herman
Communications Coordinator
Natalie Wojinski