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Essential Resources for Geographic and Environmental Educators

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Issue Vol. 66, No. 3

Publication Date: December, 2015

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President’s Message  

Page: 2

Author(s): Hughes, Shawn

We hope that everyone enjoyed the 2015 OAGEE Fall Conference at the University of Toronto Schools. Mike Farley, 2015 Conference Coordinator, and his team of hardworking OAGEE volunteers (see below) did a superb job. Teachers were able to capitalize on the tremendous amount of time and effort put forth by our Conference team at a fantastic facility and location. We look forward to the continued efforts of our team at the 2016 OAGEE Fall Conference at Trinity College School in Port Hope.

Over the past few years, the OAGEE Spring Conferences have shared a common theme. Teachers had the opportunity to discover the vast Niagara Escarpment in Thornbury (2014) and Tobermory (2015). We look forward to continuing this trend as we explore Giant’s Rib Escarpment (2016) in Dundas, led by OAGEE`s Gary Birchall, editor of The Monograph. 

Cory McKercher, 2016 Conference Coordinator, recently provided us with a tour of the amazing facilities at Trinity College School. This conference is sure to be another success based on the tremendous organization of Cory and his team combined with this modern and unique venue. The 2016 OAGEE Fall conference at Trinity College School is scheduled for mid-November. We will announce the precise weekend when the school’s 2016 schedule is released early in the New Year.

We realize that waiting for us to announce the exact weekend for the Fall Conference may prove frustrating for some teachers. Unlike most subject associations, we do not have our conferences at the same location every year. We take great pride in making the OAGEE Fall and Spring conferences more accessible by bringing them to a region near you. As a result, we are subject to the availability of the facility in the chosen geographic region.

I had the privilege of awarding the 2015 OAGEE Award of Distinction to Anne Smith Mansfield, Faculty of Education - Queen’s University. This award is presented to “an Ontario Educator who is passionate about and exemplifies great geographic education within the Province of Ontario.” While we don’t expect you to be as amazing as Anne (because let’s face it….nobody is as amazing as Anne :), we encourage you to embrace your inner GeoGeek (a real word) and share your ideas and experiences! Send them here! We welcome your lesson ideas, book reviews, field studies, and pictures wearing your awesome OAGEE T-shirts (designed by Ling Wong, TDSB).

This is a crucial time for Geography in Ontario. You can make a difference! We hope to see you at these great opportunities for current and relevant professional development sponsored by OAGEE. We need your help in Ontario so that Geography can SURVIVE & THRIVE. Take an active role in your profession by becoming an OAGEE member today at

GeoGeek Talks - thoughts from an aspiring Geographer  

Page: 6

Author(s): Abbotts, Torie

GeoGeek thought(s): I often find myself thinking of Geology; more specifically the creation of the Canadian Shield. I feel students really connect to my lesson on landforms when I point out the physical appearance of the Shield today, and how you can picture it as once being a massive mountain range. It amazes me that the granite found in our Shield can be dated as far back as 3.96 billion years ago. Canada has been a long time in the making. Despite the relative slowness of the formation, the Geology and Geography of Canada is constantly changing. To many of you, this is obvious, but I point it out because I feel the constant change is a wonderful parallel for Geography teachers to use in their own practice.

Spatial Journal Concepts and Instructions  

Page: 7-12

Author(s): Lowry, Mark

The Spatial Journal Concept

If it is agreed that the essence of Geography today is “what is where?” or the world as identified and discussed through its locational constructs, it then follows that there is a need to operationalize this concept. The definition that Girtzner1 presents identifies “in simple terms the extreme complexities of Geography.” His description of Geography is “What is where? Why there? Why care?” 
It is imperative as teachers, and specifically teachers, of Geography that we use a strategy that exemplifies these key aspects of geographic thought. This is what makes Geography different from other disciplines - the explicit identification of location – Where?
Whether this be absolute location using various differing grids and/or specific address indicators or relative location
as exemplified by various descriptors and comparative information (such as “it is around the corner”). Geography must always identify and stress the “Where?”

The St. John’s Declaration …two years in!  

Page: 13-14

Author(s): French, Lew; Birchall, Gary

In August 2013, a team assembled by the CAG and RCGS composed the St. John’s Declaration to advance Geographic Education in Canada. Little has been done to move the goals forward on a national scale. 
We cannot have a citizenry of geographically literate people if there is not a strong geography program in our elementary and secondary schools across the country. Only Ontario has compulsory Geography with three courses from Grades 7-9 and that is far from enough. Many provinces have no distinct Geography courses until late secondary school and they are optional*. Geography is not a major focus in K-12 Social Studies programs. Yet, Geography is the only subject that uses extensive literacy and numeracy skills to understand our world and give students a sense of space and place.
OAGEE, since the St. John’s Declaration was endorsed, has co-developed a teacher’s resource for Grade 9 Canadian Geography on the theme of sustainable development with the Learning for a Sustainable Future group at York University. We have run three conferences for teachers that have emphasized spatial technologies, the environment and sustainable development education. These initiatives move geographic education forward.

W(h)ither Ontario Geography?  

Page: 15-17

Author(s): Rinner, Claus

Readers who are familiar with Ryerson’s Geography department (or the former School of Applied Geography) will notice the recent addition of “Environmental Studies” to our name. In fact, the chairs/heads of both Ontario and American Geography departments have been discussing department name changes over the last few months, since I joined their respective email lists. The most common addition is “Environment” or “Environmental Studies”, despite the often criticized tautology with the discipline of Geography. Why did we change our name? Like several other departments, we felt that the explicit reference to the environment will resonate with prospective students. In addition, no other unit at Ryerson had claimed the term “Environment” yet, with the exception of the graduate programs in Environmental Applied Science and Management, in which we are heavily invested anyway. We also had just started a second BA degree in Environment and Urban Sustainability, which is now fully reflected in the expanded department name.

CGG3O: Milestones in the Development of Travel  

Page: 18-21

Author(s): Aurich, Rob

The history of travel is as old as humankind and there have been several milestones. Your task is to use the atlas to plot each specific  milestone” described in the following scenarios. Use a different coloured pencil/pen for each. Plot all milestones on the full world map except for “The Grand Tour”, which should be plotted using the Europe Inset map. Provide a legend.
B1.1 explain why people travel;
B1.3 explain factors that influence people’s choices of different modes of travel;
D2.1 explain how social and economic trends affect the development of tourism;
D2.3 describe how technology has changed the tourism industry.

Why GIS in Education Matters  

Page: 22-24

Author(s): Kerski, Joseph

Teaching spatial thinking empowers the populace with the skills to understand and act upon the big issues facing planet Earth.
People have always been fascinated with investigating their home—the Earth. To help understand our planet, ancient scholars in Rome, Greece, and China founded the study of Geography more than 2,500 years ago. 
Today, spatial thinking is more relevant than ever before, as issues such as climate change, economic globalization, urban sprawl, biodiversity loss, sustainable agriculture, water quality and quantity, crime, cultural diversity, energy, tourism, political instability, and natural hazards grow in importance on a global scale but also increasingly affect our everyday lives. To grapple with these issues requires a populace that has a firm foundation in spatial thinking—a populace that can see the “big picture,” but that also understands how different patterns and trends are related, from a global scale all the way down to their local community.

OAGEE Implementation Poster 4: Changing Populations  

Page: 24-26

Author(s): Hughes, Joanna

CGC1D: Overall Expectations
D1 analyse selected national and global population issues and their implications for Canada;
D2 describe the diversity of Canada’s population, and assess some social, economic, political, and environmental
implications of immigration and diversity for Canada.

OAGEE Award of Distinction Presentation  

Page: 27


We often fail to recognize the contributions of our fellow teachers as they develop new approaches to enhance teaching effectiveness in order to improve students’ learning. This teacher has contributed a lifetime’s worth of work towards the betterment of Geographic and Environmental Education. 
OAGEE continually seeks to improve geographic and environmental education in the Province of Ontario.
The 2015 OAGEE Award of Distinction was presented to Anne Smith Mansfield

O.A.G.E.E. Constitution 2015  

Page: 28-30


This revised Constitution was presented to, and unanimously ratified at, the Annual General Meeting of the Association, Saturday, November 14, 2015. In the opinion of the 2015 Executive Committee, this revision in no way alters the rights of the membership as they exist in the current Constitution. It does provide for a restructuring of the management of the Association and the executive structure to provide opportunities for the membership to participate more actively in the activities of the Association within their own region.

Book Review: Road Trip Rwanda: A Journey Through The New Heart of Africa  

Page: 31

Author(s): Mansfield, Dick

Road Trip Rwanda: A Journey Through The New Heart of Africa
Will Ferguson,
Viking- Penguin Canada Books Inc. 2015
ISBN 978-0-670-06642-1 @ 353 pp.

As a geographer, even though retired, I have a built-in radar when it comes to words such as field trip or road trip. Both congur up images and memories of exploring, appreciating, and understanding varying parts of our world - some close to home and others farther afield - as much as the pocket book would allow!! Sometimes these trips have to be done vicariously through the eyes of others - hence my great enjoyment of reading and to a lesser degree watching specific programs on TV.

Over the past few years, I have enjoyed reading a number of books written by Will Ferguson, a Canadian writer who is adept at both humour and serious themes. Needless to say when I saw a G&M review of Ferguson’s most recent (2015) book Road Trip Rwanda: A Journey into the New Heart of Africa, it caught my attention. In the past year I had read Roméo Dallaires 2003 book Shake Hands with the Devil, a first hand account, from the perspective of a Canadian UN Peacekeeper, of the Rwandan genocide in the early 1990’s. I found it heavy going and was wondering how this new book might compare. The theme of Ferguson’s new book seemed surprising to me, given the horrific events which took place in that country just over 20 years ago. Nevertheless I decided to pick up a copy from the library and give it a go. I am glad I did as I was not able to put it down. Let me share with you my reasons.

For those of you who have read some of Will Ferguson’s other fiction and non-fiction books e.g. 419, How to be a Canadian, Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada, etc. You will know that Ferguson has both a great sense of humour but also a keen eye to observe and record the landscapes his stories travel through - and he has done this in many parts of the world e.g. Japan, Northern Ireland, USA, Nigeria, and of course Canada. In terms of travel writers, I feel that Ferguson is just as funny and insightful as the better known Bill Bryson.

For a person who is interested in Geography - be it physical, human, political, economic, and social, it is all here in Ferguson’s new book. As geographers we are encouraged to look at the world through the lens of “What is Where, Why There and Why Care”. I have no idea as to whether Ferguson ever studied Geography; however he seems to have to come to it naturally in how he observes, questions, and interprets the various countries he visits and writes about. He even includes useful maps and photos to complement the narrative. All three of these geographical questions are addressed, in varying degrees, throughout the book.

Here is a brief description of what this book is about and why I think it is worth taking the time to read. The author, who lives in Calgary AB, met a Rwandan refugee who happened to be his son’s soccer coach. The two become friends and of course Ferguson is interested in the refugee Jean-Claude Minyezamu’s story. After narrowly escaping the Rwandan genocide in 1993, Jean-Claude eventually managed to get to Canada and settled in Calgary. To make a long story short, these two individuals become friends and subsequently decide to go to Rwanda in 2013 to explore, as the title suggests, “A Journey into the New Heart of Africa”. For Ferguson, it is a new experience, however for Jean-Claude, it is a journey which brings him face to face with a horrific period in the nation’s history.

The book is a record of their actual road trip throughout most of Rwanda. Ferguson does an excellent job of describing the vibrant physical, economic and cultural/social landscapes of the country as well as providing interesting insights into how the people and government of Rwanda are working to move beyond the tribal ( Tutsi/Hutu) divides of the past to create a new Rwanda - now even referred to as “The Singapore of Africa”. These two intrepid travelers criss-crossed the country visiting large cities, small towns/villages, rain forests, volcanoes, savannah game parks, schools, refugee camps, individual family homes as well as many of the memorials of the genocide. When you least expect it, Ferguson outlines the gruesome events which unfolded at a particular location. One wonders how a country which lost close to a million people during the genocide, would ever be able to heal itself and within two decades be held up to the world as a major success story of modern Africa. What helps the narrative of this book is Ferguson’s ability to use gentle humour, where appropriate, to poke fun at himself and his companion.

Geography teachers will easily make links with this book to any of a number of courses currently taught in Ontario schools e.g. - Canada (immigration), Travel and Tourism (how a poor country is making itself attractive for tourism), World Issues (the challenges of development in an uncertain world), to name a few. This book would make a great book report and seminar assignment for senior students - assuming such topic/assignments are still being employed.

If you read this book, and you have not read other books by Ferguson, I am sure that this one will whet your appetite to seek out some of his earlier titles. I am not sure if the word enjoy is the correct one to use here, however, I hope you will find the book as captivating as I did.

Reviewed by Dick Mansfield (retired Geography educator)