The March equinox is when the days and nights are of equal length as the days get longer and the nights get shorter in the northern hemisphere and vice versa in the southern hemisphere. This change in the angle of the sun is the result of the earth’s orbit, which causes its tilting axis to point in a different direction. And it means that spring is starting in the northern hemisphere and fall is starting in the southern hemisphere. In 2017, the vernal equinox falls on Monday, March 20th.
Learn more about how the earth’s orbit and axis tilt work in WorldView Software’s World GeographyChapter 2: The Earth. For example, you can use this graphic (with introduction and questions) to spark class discussion, or as a starting point for a demonstration:
The equinoxes (like the solstices) are events that have huge impacts on life on earth (think: growing food). And given that importance, they’ve had a tremendous impact on the development of methods to keep track of and predict their occurrence: mathematics. For example, it’s thought that Stonehenge’s purpose is tracking solar and lunar movements:
WorldView Software’s World History A also has a terrific series of tutorials explaining how mathematics based on observance of astronomical phenomena developed in different civilizations:
Ancient Chinese Science, Technology, and Mathematics
Ancient Indian Science and Mathematics
Greek Accomplishments in Science, Technology, and Mathematics
Math and Technology in the River Valley Civilizations
Science, Mathematics, and Technology in the Islamic Caliphates
Technical Trends in Pre-Columbian Latin America
Use the equinox as a springboard into history!
Use the chronology entries to gain context for an event or an era, or as a starting point for further research.
By conducting qualitative interviews with local staff … we uncovered four different narratives – in other words, storylines – about what Cornwall’s landscapes are, how they are affected by climate change, and how one should adapt to these changes. These four narratives conceptualise the Cornish landscapes as:
the region’s basis for economic growth
an intermediate result of an ongoing human-environment relationship
a mosaic of wildlife and habitats;
and a space for production, e.g. of agricultural goods.
By identifying these different narratives, we show that although superficially often understood as one and the same thing, the concept of landscape means very different things to different actors concerned with its management.
[Such differing conceptions obviously have a great impact on the policy options preferred. Pick a landscape in your area and survey how people feel about it (U.S. Government Project: Conducting a Poll) and how those feelings would impact the uses to which the landscape is put (U.S. Government Project: Environmental Impact Statements).]
“There are increasing suggestions that extreme weather events and climate change will have the greatest impact in cities, where people are concentrated and many of the natural systems that could provide buffers against extreme weather have been removed or degraded. When one starts to deconstruct the causes and impacts of natural disasters, the messiness and interconnectedness of contributing factors quickly become evident. Natural disasters occur at the intersection of social, political and environmental systems.”
[Raises some interesting issues about community preparedness; useful discussion points if your class is reading any of the following:
Chapter 18: The U.S. Adapts to a Post-9/11 World in American History II
Case Study: Insurance in Civics and in Economics
Chapter 10: The Federal Bureaucracy in U.S. Government
Chapter 23: Search for Solutions to Global Problems, Graph/Chart: Growth of Cities in the Middle East, or Graph/Chart: Urbanization in Latin America in World History B
Case Study: U.S. Geologic-Related Natural Disasters, Case Study: U.S. Weather-Related Natural Disasters, Internet Project: The Devastation of Katrina, Internet Project: The Aftermath of Chernobyl, and Tutorial: Haiti in World Geography]
We’ve written before about the UNESCO World Heritage sites, but did you know that UNESCO also maintains Cultural Heritage lists? This is to protect intangible cultural processes — like the traditional process by which really great beer is made. According to Smithsonian Magazine:
Life in Belgium is soaked in beer, from cheese washed with suds to town festivals to a pipeline that pumps over 1,000 gallons of beer every hour on a two-mile journey through Bruges. So it’s no surprise that beer is part of the world’s vision of Belgium, too…Belgium has more than earned the designation—the tiny country is serious about its beer. According to the Brewers of Europe, a trade organization, Belgium had 168 active breweries in 2014 and Belgians consumed an average of 72 liters per capita that year. Much of that beer is hopped on tradition: Indeed, some of the best beer in the country is made by Trappist monks who have been perfecting and passing down their craft for centuries.
It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
There are actually two lists: the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,” and the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” (Belgian beer is on the representative list.) The traditions on the urgent safeguarding list include the Cambodian Chapei Dang Veng and the Ugandan Ma’di bowl lyre music and dance.
The Chapei Dang Veng is a Cambodian
musical tradition featuring the chapei (a type of lute often played at cultural festivals) accompanied by singing. “Song lyrics range from the educational and a type of social commentary, to satire while incorporating traditional poems, folk tales or Buddhist stories. The tradition is considered to have multiple functions within Cambodian communities…”
The making of a Ma’di bowl lyre has several rituals associated with it, while the instrument itself is played on special occasions with specific songs and dances. “The traditional practice is a tool for strengthening family ties and clan unity, as well as educating younger generations about their community’s history, values and culture.”
Both of these traditions are at risk of being lost, for a host of reasons: the perception of being old-fashioned by young people, materials required that come from endangered plants and animals, and the lingering effects of genocide.
Interested in incorporating intangible cultural heritage into your classes? You might want to check out the video of a roundtable that included presentations from educators from Belize, Uganda, and Pakistan. The roundtable was one of the sessions at the eleventh session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Internet Projects can be a great in-class exercise — ask students if they can figure out the principles by which the links were curated.
Nifty way to time travel using maps: use the Map Warper from the New York Public Library!
The featured image shows the location of WorldView Software’s offices in Nassau County, New York as they appeared in 1779 (on a map titled “A chorographical map of the province of New-York in North America, divided into counties, manors, patents and townships : exhibiting likewise all the private grants of land made and located in that Province“) and blended with a map from today. Big difference!
You can play with maps going back to 1544, browse by location and layer, maps that have already been rectified or do it yourself, and you can play with the transparency (ours is at 60%). What does your area look like?
“Cultural and historical geographers, among others, have paid increasing attention to where and how any kind of ‘live talk’ is delivered and heard. An undergirding argument is that speech performance of whatever kind is closely tied to the place in which it unfolds.”