Reflection: Adjustments to Practice CASE STUDY: California's delta (2 of 3) - Section 3: EXPLAIN: Historical maps


This unit explores the idea that maps are essentially visualized data that make claims about the world.  These claims reflect the interests of stakeholders; different stakeholders will produce different maps.  This activity features maps that support the claims made by stakeholders with an interest in preserving the ecological health of the California delta.

Students were engaged in this activity, but ultimately it was too open-ended-too much too soon. A more accessible, and less confusing student prompt would have been something like the following:

How has the California delta system changed over time? This activity explores the California delta system from the perspective of "ecological detectives."  Ecological detectives are stakeholders that are most interested in understanding why the environment has become unhealthy and what might be done to make it healthy again.  How do the maps in this interactive support this idea?  Start with slide 22.  How does the delta ecosystem change from the 1800s? How do the maps show this change? If time permits, find maps from the other slides that provide evidence that the California delta has become damaged over time.

For a 25 minute activity, focus on one specific map from one slide is a more realistic expectations for students and will results in less confusion and anxiety.

  Simplify and start with the visualized data
  Adjustments to Practice: Simplify and start with the visualized data
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CASE STUDY: California's delta (2 of 3)

Unit 3: Environmental justice
Lesson 11 of 16

Objective: Students will be able to 1) describe how historical maps of California's delta reveal competing ideas about its purpose; 2) define a stakeholder; and 3) articulate competing stakeholder needs in the California delta

Big Idea: Scientists use geographic information systems to develop maps of important features of physical geography. How might we use the California delta as a case study of how maps can be arguments for stakeholders’ ideas about how to use the environment?

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