Digital Resources from the Boston Public Library Support Cartographic Explorations

Digital Resources from the Boston Public Library Support Cartographic Explorations

Maps are a fantastic tool for supporting children’s development of a sense of place. When shared at just the right moment, maps can help children to make development-related shifts in their understanding of their surroundings or can help bring clarity to misty understandings of distance and direction. In addition to having value as tools for community-based learning, though, maps can serve as catalysts for deep learning about human and natural history, cultural shifts, and the concept of (and reasons for) gradual change over time.

Using tools available through the Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, families can begin to dig deep into these themes. Not limited simply to a collection of a few centuries’ worth of Massachusetts maps, however, the Leventhal Map Center’s online resources can be used to explore unexpected topics ranging from the evolution of feminism (through the current Women in Cartography exhibit) to socioeconomics (through studies of the center’s collection of land ownership maps). Filled with over 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases, the Leventhal Map Center offers only a small fraction of its holdings for use via the internet (just over one thirtieth), this tiny-in-comparison digital collection contains over 6,700 maps detailing locales from around the globe and dating back as far as the 15th century!  Read the rest of this entry »

Mapping Vernal Pool Habitats Hosts Loads of Learning

Mapping Vernal Pools

Families can explore and map local vernal pools all on their own! The process of inspecting, mapping, and tracking present species is quite a project to undertake as a family, but is one that can provide endless opportunities for learning and exploration of the natural world.

Vernal pools are the breeding grounds for some of spring’s most exciting life – literally! Not only are they home to special species like fairy shrimp, who spend their entire lives in vernal pool habitats, but the watery mini-ponds provide a venue for salamander and frog species to lay eggs for late-spring hatching. While some vernal pools in western Massachusetts are well known (Sheburne’s High Ledges are home to a local favorite), there are certainly many, many more vernal pools whose locations have yet to be officially determined.

Families can explore vernal pools in their neighborhoods by using the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program’s GIS Data vernal pool maps, which can be downloaded either as a GIS layer (for tech-y families) or as a datalayer in an online map. While there’s still lots of snow on the ground, the sound of peepers will soon be serenading the hills on spring evenings, and vernal pools will be slowly coming alive with fresh water and lots of fascinating life.

But what about those vernal pools that have yet to be mapped by the state? Read the rest of this entry »

YardMap: Make Your Yard a Personal Refuge

Get a Bird’s Eye View of Your Habitat

YardMap is a citizen science project offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The goal of YardMap is to support the lab scientists’ work in understanding bird populations. Families participate by creating maps of the habitat provided within their yard (whether it’s native or not) using Google maps, which are then submitted to the lab…

The average American lawn is filled with lush green grass and some landscaped trees and shrubs. Here in western Massachusetts, we’re lucky enough to be able to live amongst natural and beautiful surroundings like forests, fields, mountains, and water of all types. Even if we have grassy yards, many homes are surrounded by natural habitat that has existed since long before our homes were built. Of course, we do have an impact on the environment around us, but our small communities leave us with the opportunity to work to blend in with nature, rather than set ourselves apart from it.

Natural habitat is incredibly important for supporting the many different kinds of creatures who share your surroundings. Plant and animal populations exist within a delicately balanced system that can easily be influenced by eliminating or drastically changing habitats. One way to ensure that your effect on your surroundings isn’t negative is by planting native species of trees, shrubs, and even flowers in your yard, but with the growing season rapidly coming to an end, what should families do in order to support natural critter habitat? Participate in YardMap!

Read the rest of this entry »

GIS Day During National Geography Awareness Week at WSU

Westfield State University ‘Discovers the World’ through Geographic Information Systems

Braun, a Geography and Regional Planning/Environmental Science Professor, who also acts as the Campus GIS Coordinator, emphasizes of the importance of understanding modern technology. “Many people still think geography means drawing maps and memorizing the atlas. Today, we make maps using a GIS and we use maps more than ever as tools,” Braun said, citing that the power outage maps seen during last week’s storm were from GIS.g “I hope that folks realize that this technology is already part of our daily lives and that we can, fairly easily, use this technology ourselves,” he said. “GIS and the related technologies (GPS, Google Earth, Smart Phones) are cool and fun to use and give us a way to hopefully get folks interested in geography and regional planning.”

Westfield State University will host GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Day free events on Wednesday, November 16th and Thursday, November 17th as part of National Geography Awareness Week, inviting high school students and teachers to attend.

More than 10,000 organizations and 80 countries hold local events for GIS Day, which illustrates how GIS technology can be applied to our everyday lives. Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Google Earth, and Smart Phones are commonly used, related technologies.

On Wednesday from 7-9pm and Thursday from 5-7pm, there will be several events, including informal workshops teachings on how to use Google Earth to create 3D maps with embedded videos and photographs. These will take place in Bates Hall 022 and seats are limited by computer availability. Contact Carsten Braun at cbraun@westfield.ma.edu to reserve your seat.

A GPS Treasure Hunt around campus from 12-5pm and a GIST Center Open House from 3-5pm in Bates 022 also will be offered on Thursday.

All events are free and open to the public.

Learn more about GIS in the short informative video:

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