A geographer who works in educational outreach for the U.S. Geological Survey, Joseph Kerski, is eager to share the organization's publications with teachers -- and there are more than just maps! With more than 100,000 resources to choose from, every teacher will find something useful in the USGS warehouse. What golden nugget will you discover? Included: Kerski and teacher Steve Wanner highlight some of their favorite online resources from the USGS.
"Our mission is science for a changing world," geographer Joseph Kerski of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tells Education World. "We work with the educational community to ensure that there is a present and future workforce that can take advantage of our scientific information to make wise decisions that can benefit society. We seek to ensure that our information is useful to the educational community through teachers' feedback and give back to the community for its support of our organization."American tax money is at work at the USGS, and Kerski hopes to spur teachers to make use of its services. He wants citizens, especially educators, to be aware of the materials that the organization provides, most of which are free or inexpensive and ideal for classroom instruction.
"The USGS is an untapped gold mine for educators," Kerski states. "This is one of the best things the federal government does. We have a warehouse here that is 17 acres in size and 30 feet high with maps piled everywhere."
"We feel that working with educators is the right thing to do," says Kerski. "It fits our mission of providing data that is useful to people's needs, whether those people are planners, engineers, soil scientists, or teachers."
In his position, Kerski focuses on training teachers and developing lesson plans built on USGS resources. His responsibilities include helping teachers and those who work with teachers to find out about others who have similar interests. He seeks to establish partnerships so that the educational programs associated with the USGS will be long-term and far-reaching and have the greatest impact on student learning.
"I see a huge need for teachers not just to be connected to vast data sets from organizations such as the USGS but also to understand how to use them in the curriculum," explains Kerski. "There is such a barrage of information sources nowadays. Every time a teacher visits the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) or the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conferences, for example, he or she walks away with loads of CDs, catalogs, videos, maps, and so on. My value-added aspect is to help them truly use the materials in the classroom."
Map Mysteries is another activity designed by Kerski. The online lesson tells teachers how to use topographic and thematic maps as students explore the mysteries of the human and physical environment.
Teaching with Topographic Maps is a second map-related Web page with 25 ideas for teachers to use in making the most of topographic maps in the classroom. The suggestions address science, math, geography, and history goals from elementary to college level.
Kerski is also involved with teacher training, conducting about 45 sessions each year, some in conjunction with national and international conferences and some at the request of teachers, school districts, universities, or education boards.
"Many of these workshops involve the use of geographic information systems (GIS), a technology and method for analyzing wildlife, natural hazards, weather, population, literacy, and other spatial phenomena using computerized maps, aerial photographs, graphs, and satellite imagery," explains Kerski. "Geography, Earth science, math, biology, and history students who explore the world using GIS in the curriculum solve problems on a local to global scale in an interdisciplinary way using real-world data from CDs and the Internet."
Classroom teacher Steve Wanner of Boulder High School, in Boulder, Colorado, discovered the wealth of materials provided by the USGS through its displays at conferences. He and Kerski have worked together for five years, developing activities for Wanner's ninth-grade and advanced geography classes.
The two have combined their skills to produce several projects. One is a set of activities about Africa that uses resources from USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Another activity uses Census Bureau data to study the Hill area of Boulder.
"I started out by using topographic maps for activities and then became aware of other materials," recalls Wanner. "Most recently, I have discovered the online sources. We have used some of these for our GIS-based activities."
Wanner teaches a unit about natural hazards that involves activities on earthquakes, floods, avalanches, and lightning. He has used USGS pamphlets for basic background and for information on specific places. His students have responded positively to the inclusion of this real data in the lessons.
"The USGS gives me well written concise information on specific topics," says Wanner. "I would recommend these materials because of the quality, price, and availability."