cluster map

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

summer institutes & culminating

It’s Culminating Time!

(In more ways than you can imagine)


Summer PD opportunities

OTF Summer Institutes

These are a great opportunity to get some fabulous PD in a different setting.

Two specifically for Geography where you will be immersed in the basics of the new curriculum , including Inquiry , and concepts of geographical thinking plus you will get hands on training in spatial Technologies and field work (using GPS)

Two sites for Geography ( and they are no cost)

Toronto, July 23-25

Sudbury, July 30-Aug 1

Using Inquiry, Concepts of Geographical Thinking and

Spatial Technologies (7-12)

To register, visit and click on 2014 Summer Institutes

As we are doing Culminating’s

I know that everyone is up to their proverbial eyeball in culminating (Evaluative) activities and I have been getting many calls and emails with questions as to their scope and sequence. The following is a Primer and conversation starter on what culminating actives within the Geography courses within Ontario should endeavour to emulate. This is by no means a comprehensive treatise on the topic but it I meant to give some guidance and allow for the true essence of thinking like a Geographer to come through. Also it is not meant for a specific course but is to give some parameters for all courses regardless of destination. Also these are strictly my thoughts however they will endeavour to jibe with the revised curriculum.. My focus is with secondary school in Ontario but most of my thoughts are very transferable to other grades or jurisdictions.

Being true to Geography

It is very important that any and all geography culminating units be true to the underlying geographical understanding. In other words the basis of all activities must be able to Identify, describe and discuss “what is where”. This sounds very logical but it is important that the “where “side of the equation be discussed. Just putting it on a map may not be enough. Students should be able to contextualize the where through a range of means and tools including maps but also using such strategies as compare and contrast and patterns etc. This can be done with words but other devices such as picture and maps using a range of scale and position can give context.

Students also need to be able to geographically articulate the “why there?” aspect of any geographical issue or problem. This is the basis of any inquiry of which there will be more discussion. And then for a culminating activity it should have personal resonance or “why care “

Relationship to the New Curriculum

Concepts of Geographical thinking

All geography courses within the revised curriculum will focus on the 4 concepts of Geographical thinking or how do Geographers think through a problem these are:

·         Spatial Significance

·         Patterns and Trends

·         Interrelationships

·         Geographical Perspective

These 4 concepts “underpin thinking and learning in all geography courses in Canadian and world studies” [1] In order to see the success criteria related to the 4 concepts please refer to addendum #1[2]. It is important that students be able to identify and elaborate their own specific culminating activity through the use of the thinking concepts.

Here is a resource to support teachers and students to think as a geographer and work through the thought processes needed to create a Geographic culminating activity. It is a slide share presentation entitled “Thinking like a Geographer”. This resource will encourage teachers and students to ask pertinent questions as a geographer and to construct thoughts that fit with the concepts of Thinking.(this is just one example )

Inquiry Process

Another major focus of the revised Geography curriculum is the focus of Inquiry.  The Inquiry model “represents a process that students use to investigate events, developments, and issues; solve problems; develop plans of actions; and reach supportable conclusions and decisions”[3] . Though not all individual activities and assignments in every class will use the full inquiry process (there is room for multiple jumping in points), there is an expectation that the culminating assignment take on the basis of an inquiry. Certainly this is a terrific place to allow students to work in a problem based learning environment. To foster flexible thinking inquiries (problems or issues) need to be complex, ill structured, and open ended. To support intrinsic motivation, they must also be realistic and resonate with the students experiences. The problems should also promote conjecture and argumentation.[4] Certainly students of all destinations are able to identify issues or problems that they have studied that are to them realistic and have some degree of resonance. We need to tap into this individual and personal reservoir. Where to start? All inquiry “begins with a wondering – a problem, a challenge or a question “ [5]

However this is where the students need to establish their own wonderings. This is a very practical place for students to create an ongoing chart or mind on the various issues that have been studied throughout the year. In this way students are encouraged to identify issues and wondering that they would like to delve deeper and work through them using some or all the Geographic concepts of thinking. This can either be an ongoing activity or the first stage of a review where students revisit the various issues that were studied throughout the year in order to identify one that resonates with their own interests or sensibilities. This can be a great place to introduce an integrated or multidisciplinary approach. Though they may not seem to be interested in Geography per say all issues have some geographic perspective and spatial context, from local community issues through to global issues. A simple way to do this is to create an ongoing low or hi tech spatial journal on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The basis of this spatial journal could be around what I know, but as importantly what more or deeper wonderings am I curious about. For this the Geographical understanding format would also be a useful framework.

What should the culminating Activity look like?

In Growing Success (Ontario Assessment policy Guide) the year course culminating activity or final evaluation (that is the current wording) is identified in “thirty per cent of the grade is based on a final evaluation administered at or towards the end of the course. This evaluation will be based on evidence from one or a combination of the following: an examination, a performance (task or otherwise) an essay, and/or another method of evaluation suitable to the course content. The final evaluation allows the student an opportunity to demonstrate comprehensive achievement of overall expectations for the course”.

How does this look in the revised curriculum for Canadian and World Studies. Firstly in the revised curriculum all Geography courses have a Geographic Inquiry and Skill development Strand that states ‘ “Use the Geographic inquiry process and concepts of geographic thinking when investigating issues relating to Canadian geography “ ( grade 9 applied) . Therefore it is logical to deduce that any culminating tasks (final evaluation) must include inquiry and reference concepts o Geographic thinking. The Second Inquiry OE references the development of transferable skills. “Apply in everyday context skills, including spatial technology skills, developed through the investigation of Canadian geography, and identify some careers in which a background in geography might be an asset” (grade 9 academic). I think the important point to stress is the fact that a culminating activity should be practical and engaging for the student

Certainly it is useful to have the culminating activity planned early in the year ,however if it is designed around inquiry process and the concepts of thinking it allows students to be constantly thinking about what their culminating activity may look like . It is important to revisit the Overall Expectation they have identified throughout the course. That does not mean that they are going to just regurgitate the same information and facts but it does allow the students to find those topics, concepts, or skills in the curriculum that they found engaging and then could go deeper. As stated above using some type of guide spatial or otherwise can help.

What if their spatial journal needed to answer the following questions (using a RAN strategy Tony Stead-Edu gains 2014)

  • What I think I know
  • Evidence that will confirm my knowledge
  • How have my ideas Changed (what were my misconceptions )
  • New Learning (surprises and ideas of excitement )
  • Wonderings I still Have – (this could be the basis of a culminating activity )

Using this same technique it is possible for students to revisit their notebooks, previous unit culminating activities etc., and identify various areas that once again they wanted to delve into. What becomes important is that the students are able to focus not on facts but on the process. Their wondering can very easily become the big idea or the focus question and the concepts of Geographical thinking allow the students to focus their inquiry as a Geographer would .And if they are thinking as a Geographer they will then feel comfortable using the tools that Geographers use. These are going to include spatial tools (maps, & diagrams) graph and statistical information and real and authentic data (field work virtual or real). As you will notice I have not discussed the product. This will be up to the teacher and/or class (students) to decide. However in order to make these decisions a transparent marking scheme (rubric) needs to be designed and discussed. This assessment tool should of course follow the components of the achievement chart and also focus on parts of the inquiry process along with an identification of the concepts of Geographical thinking. That is where the students’ needs to understand the success criteria and their specific learning goal. However with that predesigned format there is the ability for students to show their understand and geographic thinking through a broad range of demonstrations.

I think in conclusion the real excitement of a culminating activity is for both student and teacher to be able to identify that this has a relationship to their real world, and allows students to reinforce and use transferable skills and thoughts.


Every What has a Where!

Some good Site for Summer perusal

In his quest to figure out cancer, health geographer Trevor Dummer helped assemble the world’s largest collection of toenail clippings

Geographer in Action

As forests are cleared and species vanish, there's one other loss: a world of languages

June 8 is World Oceans Day. It's a fitting time to contemplate humanity's evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we've affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we've taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

Teaching plate tectonics with Oreos













The Economic Data Hidden in Nighttime Views of City Lights

Getting satellite luminosity data right could help us better understand what works and what doesn't in urban development.

400 years of beautiful, historical, and powerful globes

Tomorrow is the start of world cup







Every four years, Brazilians come together to show their love for soccer by painting their streets. This year, they’re sharing it with the world. You can create photo spheres of where you're celebrating the World Cup with the new Google Camera appfor Android.

In the #WorldCup of population density, South Korea would be the winner

Amazon tribal chief’s SOS: the white man is destroying everything

Brazil Olympics: Rio bay 'will not be clean for 2016


How El Niño will change the world's weather in 2014

What is El Niño?

El Niño is a climate phenomenon that occurs when a vast pool of water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm. Under normal conditions, the warm water and the rains it drives are in the eastern Pacific.

El Niño occurs every few years. Its most direct impacts are droughts in normally damp places in the western Pacific, such as parts of Indonesia and Australia, while normally drier places like the west coast of South America suffer floods. But the changes affect the global atmospheric circulation and can weaken the Indian monsoon and bring rains to the western US.

It is not certain what tips the unstable Pacific Ocean-atmosphere system into El Niño, but a weakening of the normal trade winds that blow westwards is a key symptom. In 2014, the trigger may have been a big cluster of very strong thunderstorms over Indonesia in the early part of the year, according to Dr Nick Klingaman from the University of Reading in the UK.

An El Niño is officially declared if the temperature of the western tropical Pacific rises 0.5C above the long-term average. The extreme El Niño year of 1997-98 saw a rise of more than 3C.

El Niño is one extreme in a natural cycle, with the opposite extreme called La Niña. The effect of climate change on the cycle is not yet understood, though some scientists think El Niño will become more common.


World Village- A Math Geography activity

This page is about a joint project done with the mathematics and geography departments and involving primary and secondary students at the International School of Toulouse. It was inspired by two key things. Firstly, an invitation from the people at the Gapminder foundation to look and give some feedback on some of their  new resources, and secondly by the wonderful book entitled  'If the world was a village of 100 people'. Both of these ideas inspired us to do something practical, fun and most importantly, really powerful with our students. The end result is something really rich with possibilities for engagement, creativity and mathematical and geographical exploration! This page is the explanation of the ideas, what and how we went about them, and eventually, the resources and activities we created to go with it. It has been a big effort and we hope that others can benefit from the work we have done and run similar exercises with their students! For Geography teachers, check out  Matt Podbury's perspective on all this. For the perspective of a primary teacher, read  Simon Gregg's blogpost here.

Have a Great summer !!



Mark Lowry

Geography and Spatial Technologies Instructional Leader

Social World Studies and Humanities

Toronto District School Board

1 Civic Center Court, Toronto , M9C 2B3

Tel (416) 394-7269   Cell (416) 576 -4515


twitter @geogmark




[1] The Ontario Curriculum Grade 9 & 10 / Canadian and world Studies 2013  page 64

[2] Addendum # 1  Geography thinking Concepts success criteria – OAGEE 2013

[3] The Ontario Curriculum, Grade 9&10 , Canadian and World studies  2013 , page 26

[4] How People Learn, National academy Press , 1999

[5] A Practical Guide to Inquiry Based learning ,  Jennifer Watt & Jill Colyer , Oxford University Press 2014

Thursday, June 5, 2014

resources to give away

Social World Studies & Humanities is House Cleaning!

Mostly resources plus a Dinosaur

There is a  range of Teacher and Student Resources.

They are on display in the foyer at 1 Civic Center Court (west Education office)

They are available on a first come first take away basis

See the following pictures for some Gems

(remember after 10 years Geography resources become History)

These include :

·       Picture Books

·       Atlas

·       Text books

·       Critical Thinking exemplars (tc2)

·       Historical Novels

·       Spatial technology manuals and activities

·       Teachers manuals & journals

(resources will be changing Daily)


Mark Lowry

Geography and Spatial Technologies Instructional Leader

Social World Studies and Humanities

Toronto District School Board

1 Civic Center Court, Toronto , M9C 2B3

Tel (416) 394-7269   Cell (416) 576 -4515


twitter @geogmark