The Bridgewater State College EarthView, a 20-foot inflatable globe, is now traveling to area schools.
"Ignorance of geography is a threat to our national security," Dr. Harm de Blij said during a 2007 visit to Bridgewater State College. As one of the foremost geographic educators in the United States, Dr. de Blij clearly sees the gap between the status of geography here and in other countries, rich and poor. Students in Mexico, for example, typically score higher on tests of geographic knowledge than do students in the United States.
A sound education in geography would help U.S. citizens to understand their pre-eminent role in global political, military, and economic affairs, but at this stage even basic geographic knowledge is lacking. In this critical context, the Department of Geography at Bridgewater State College is part of a college-wide effort to advance global learning.
With support from President Mohler-Faria and the Division of External Affairs, and a regional network of geography teachers, the department has been taking its EarthView program to area schools. As a result, thousands of students - mainly in grades 4 to 8 - have had the opportunity to learn about the earth from a new perspective - from the inside of an inflatable model of the Earth, 22 feet in diameter and two stories tall.
The EarthView is both a fascinating teaching tool and a delicate work of art. The outside is a hand-painted, large-scale map of the Earth's surface, showing biological communities, rivers, seas, landforms, continents, islands, oceans, and major cities. The inside reveals the positions of tectonic plate boundaries and ocean spreading centers, along with all of the detail visible from the outside.
The EarthView team includes three educators with nearly a century of combined experience in the teaching of human, physical, and environmental geography at all levels. These educators use both the outside and the inside of EarthView both to create a vivid experience and to deliver lessons about plate tectonics, global cultures, biogeography, political geography, and climate change.
"To see the world in its entirety like this is to appreciate the interconnections that one place has with every other place," said Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan, Professor of Geography and one of the team members. He works closely with Dr. Vernon Domingo, also a Professor of Geography at the College, and Ms. Rosalie Sokol, an experienced middle school geography teacher who is the lead presenter inside EarthView.
BSC students majoring in geography are involved in the project. Students studying geographic education have used EarthView to developing their own curricular materials, some of which will soon be available to teachers using the to be used by Ms. Natalie Regan volunteers for nearly every program, helping to manage both the setup of the giant globe and working directly with students and local teachers.
At the EarthView unveiling in June 2008, President Mohler-Faria emphasized the necessity of a geographically literate society. "As we move into the future, we will see a meshing of cultures and an increasingly global economy. It is a necessity to come together and be globally literate," he said. "It is in that spirit of understanding that we are making this wonderful teaching tool available to schools throughout Southeastern Massachusetts."
The goal of the program is not only to teach students about the world, but also to emphasize the need for more geography instruction in primary and secondary schools. "Almost no geography is taught beyond the 7th grade," said Ms. Sokol, who works both with EarthView and with National Geographic's Our Wonderful World program. "This is unacceptable in a world that is becoming increasing globalized, where we must know about the places that make up our world. The EarthView is a great dramatization of a globalized world and we are eager to bring the study of geography to our students using this unique and effective tool."
If you have a school or qualified youth program in Southeastern Massachusetts, the EarthView team would like to come to you! The main requirement to for the EarthView program is a gym that has a working height of at least 20 feet, with no hot lights below 24 feet. Please read the Program Specifications page for more details, and contact the team to inquire about scheduling. Currently, EarthView is being scheduled with lead times of six to eight months.
For information on having the EarthView program come to your school, contact: EarthView@bridgew.edu or call (508) 531-2186.
Last Modified: May 11, 2009