Urban Noise Pollution

By linking the noise model to national U.S. population data, we made some interesting discoveries. First, in both rural and urban areas, affluent communities were quieter. Neighborhoods with median annual incomes below US$25,000 were nearly 2 decibels louder than neighborhoods with incomes above $100,000 per year. And nationwide, communities with 75 percent black residents had median nighttime noise levels of 46.3 decibels – 4 decibels louder than communities with no black residents. A 10-decibel increase represents a doubling in loudness of a sound, so these are big differences.

— Source: Urban noise pollution is worst in poor and minority neighborhoods and segregated cities

[Very interesting post on human geography of noise pollution and hypothesizing about its causes from Discard Studies.  For more information about human geography as a concept, check out the “Human Geography” chapters of WorldView Software’s World Geography.]

Resource Highlight: War Poetry

For war poetry of the First World War (and information about its poets), plus poetry about Iraq, Afghanistan, Falklands, Sierra Leone, Palestine/Israel, the Holocaust and Vietnam go to The War Poetry Website.  It’s British editor David Roberts’ website, and includes poetry submitted by readers as well as collections by well-known published authors.

You’ll find not only poetry, but audio and video readings, author biographies, contextual backgrounders, and footnotes explaining obscure phrases.  For example, Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est is there, and the first footnote reads:

1.  DULCE ET DECORUM EST – the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean “It is sweet and right.” The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

There’s also an introduction to the type of jingoistic pre-World War I poetry to which this poem directly responds.  Textbooks (even digital textbooks like ours) are great at providing context, but they can only provide so much detail.  This site is a great resource for teaching war through the eyes of poets: small details as well as emotions and sweeping themes.

This Veterans Day marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended “the war to end all wars.”  Hopefully none of your students have experienced war firsthand and hopefully none ever will.

Finding Your Roots: Aka Ted Danson And More Anne Hutchinson Myth-Making

The series in itself is interesting, but we had two issues with that particular episode: it presented myths as history; and some of its guests were remarkably—suspiciously, even–ignorant of extremely well-known stories of American history…How we wish that Danson would learn the truth about his ancestor. He would learn about the first serious challenge to the puritan state in America, how it rose to that challenge and used it to craft the first separation of church and state in English America, and how one intelligent and charismatic person can turn a society on its head.

— Source: Finding Your Roots: Aka Ted Danson And More Anne Hutchinson Myth-Making

Provocative post from The Historic Present about flaws in the way history is presented in the popular show “Finding Your Roots” on PBS, focusing on Season 4, Episode 3 and actor Ted Danson’s ancestor Anne Hutchinson.  Raises interesting questions about the stories we tell ourselves, how history is used and misused to bolster present-day narratives, and about which stories an American should know.

painting of courtroom scene
“Anne Hutchinson on Trial” by Edwin Austin Abbey (1901)

What Maps Are Not

Calling your attention to two great blog posts by northierthanthou: “A Map is Not a Territory” and “Map Ain’t Time Either.” Both explore the judgments that are made by mapmakers, and how their decisions can mislead readers.

From the first, which discusses differences between a AAA road map that omits “Indian Country” sites and one that is specifically for “Indian Country”:

The issue doesn’t seem to be resolution. The Arizona and New Mexico map has a higher resolution than the one for Indian country. I somehow doubt that anyone hatched a plot to hide Tsaile from Ken. My guess, is that the criteria for selecting what to put on each map simply differs, and that the difference was enough to make Tsaile disappear (along with quite a few other things, actually).

And from the second, which discusses how various maps visualize Native American culture areas:

This placement on teh map isn’t from time immemorial; it begins at the cusp of the 1400s, give or take a bit, and that enables us to place their entrance into a sequence of events for the region. They were still settling into the total territory on this map when the Spanish began exploring the region, arriving well after their Pueblo neighbors. Knowing that helps to put the map in perspective. Not knowing that invites an a-historical reading of the map.

Questions to discuss with students: What do the maps you use in class omit? What do your mental maps omit?  When you’re designing a data visualization, what are the most important factors to consider?  Do click through to read the entire posts, if only to see the maps in question!

Resource Highlight: PennSound

Looking for audio of contemporary poetry — possibly spoken by the author herself? PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing is “an ongoing project, committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives.” It is an online archive of poetry audio recordings that makes tens of thousands of digital files available to the public for free. PennSound also has an internet radio station, podcasts, and videos (and a small selection of classics).

PennSound is all about making audio files that can be played universally, with all metadata intact. Its manifesto in short:
1. It must be free and downloadable.
2. It must be MP3 or better.
3. It must be singles.
4. It must be named.
5. It must embed bibliographic information in the file.
6. It must be indexed.

You can use poetry to introduce or summarize a section or topic, or to illustrate a point.  For example, do you have juniors and seniors making plans for life after high school?  Why not play Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and have them dissect its meaning?  Thanks to Penn Sound, they can also ponder the improbable path the recording took to get to them: from aluminum platter to reel tape to digitization!

Screen capture of Robert Frost page on PennSound

At the Intersection of Physical and Human Geography

Climate change requires us to think in new ways about how physical and human geographies intersect: how does the one impact the other?  How do human artifacts built for one set of circumstances react to the change in conditions?

Simon Dixon notes on Geography Directions:

We are undeniably living in the age of humankind, the “Anthropocene”, but we are still coming to terms with what this means for the planet and for ourselves. Researchers and policy makers have begun to consider the social and environmental impacts of our increased urbanisation. There are also efforts to understand the impact human activity is having on the surface of the earth more broadly – for example, through the creation of anthropogenic landforms like open-cast mines, and by changing erosion processes in rivers through human activity. However, so far there has been little attention paid to the way earth surface processes are slowly altering and morphing the fabric of our cities to create new, startling and potentially dangerous features.

As his blog post illustrates, using the subject of urban sinkholes, climate change is also a fruitful area of research for geographers and social scientists, because these processes are also happening at/impacting human artifacts and structures.  Remember the giant sinkhole in Japan late last year?

Hakataekimae Avenue near Hakata Station caved in on November 8, 2016, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka, Japan. The sinkhole is filled with water. Wikimedia Commons user: Muyo took this photo at the rooftop of Hakata Station JR Hakata City. CCA-SA 4.0

As this post was being written, the nightmare of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey began to unfold, as did the unusually intense monsoon rains in South Asia.  As it affects literally millions of people simultaneously, these events are an even more powerful reminder that physical and human geography intersect in ways that are increasingly unfamiliar.

Houston is a very flat city, as is explained in WorldView Software’s World Geography Case Study: Human Migration: Texas.  Its prosperity has come from the way humans have modified this surface, with railroads, ship channels, and pavement.  However, this makes it prone to flooding when its bayous cannot empty into the Gulf of Mexico.  In a prophetic 2016 series, Pro Publica and the Texas Tribune teamed up to explain why Houston was going to be in dire straits sooner rather than later:

As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city’s vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes…

This lack of zoning regulations is one of the factors that made Houston America’s fourth-largest city, attracting builders to the area.  But zoning and environmental planning can be useful in a disaster: see WorldView Software’s Civics and U.S. Government Project: Environmental Impact Statements.  As Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic,

The natural system is very good at accepting rainfall. But when water hits pavement, it creates runoff immediately. That water has to go somewhere. So it flows wherever the grade takes it. To account for that runoff, people engineer systems to move the water away from where it is originally deposited, or to house it in situ, or even to reuse it. This process—the policy, planning, engineering, implementation, and maintenance of urban water systems—is called stormwater management.

On top of that, climate change enters into the picture when it raises the water temperature of the Gulf: higher temperatures make it easier for the air to contain more moisture and for storms to generate more power.  For example, precipitation totals have demonstrably risen the past several decades in the North Atlantic.

The intersection of geographies raises many questions that your students will have to answer in their lifetimes.  How would you deal with a disaster? Check out World Geography‘s Internet Project: The Devastation of Katrina for starting points on imagining yourself in a crisis.  Because the sooner we start imagining the unimaginable, the safer we can make our future.

[See this list compiled by The New York Times for reputable organizations if you want to help the Harvey victims.]


BulbgraphOnOffHelp ELL students acquire vocabulary by using the glossary’s audio files. Definitions + pronunciation = oral and textual word recognition.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

Participants noted that the museum’s collection of 18th-century American portraits could give students vivid visual reference points and a broader contextual understanding of Colonial America. They realized that the process of analyzing a Depression-era photograph as both a work of art and a primary source could help students practice critical and historical thinking skills. They got excited about works of socially conscious contemporary art, envisioning ways they could spark classroom conversations about global events and civic values.

Source: Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

[Post from Doing Social Studies on a partnership project dedicated to exploring how art museums can support humanities education in public schools.  The featured image is Cloud Box, 1966, Peter Alexander. Cast polyester resin. 9 5/8 x 9 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. Collection of Janis Horn and Leonard Feldman, Los Angeles. © Peter Alexander. Photo: Brian Forrest, from the online exhibition at the Getty Center: Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970

All WorldView Software titles have Art Gallery images with introductions and short-answer questions for investigating the connections between their subjects and the visual arts, in addition to projects where students make their own.]