Geography Standard One: Students will develop a personal geographic framework, or "mental map," and understand the uses of maps and other geo-graphics [MAPS].

A mental map is a person's internalized picture of a part of the Earth's surface. It helps make sense of the world by storing and recalling information about the patterns of the Earth's human and natural features. A well-developed mental map is a great asset in understanding local, national, and world events. Students need to develop mental maps which reflect the relative location and knowledge of major landforms and climatic zones, human settlements, political divisions, and economic activities at local, state, national, and world scales. Students also need to develop the ability to create, use, and interpret maps and other geo-graphics crucial to analyzing and solving geographic problems.

The complexity of the standard will increase at each succeeding grade cluster:

K-3a: Students will understand the nature and uses of maps, globes, and other geo-graphics. Essential for Grade K-1

4-5a: Students will demonstrate development of mental maps of Delaware and of the United States which include the relative location and characteristics of major physical features, political divisions, and human settlements. Essential for Grade 4

6-8a: Students will demonstrate mental maps of the world and its sub-regions which include the relative location and characteristics of major physical features, political divisions, and human settlements. Essential for Grade 6

9-12a: Students will identify geographic patterns which emerge when collected data is mapped, and analyze mapped patterns through the application of such common geographic principles as

  • Hierarchy (patterns at a detailed scale may be related to patterns at a more general scale)
  • Accessibility (how easily one place can be reached from another)
  • Diffusion (how people or things move in certain directions at certain speeds)
  • Complimentarity (the mutual exchange of people or goods among places usually occurs over the shortest possible distances) Essential for Grades 9 and 11
9-12b: Students will apply the analysis of mapped patterns to the solution of problems. Essential for Grade 9

Enduring Understandings
Students will understand that:

  • Mental maps summarize differences and similarities about places. These differences and similarities lead to conflict or cooperation and the exchange of goods and ideas between peoples.
  • Mental maps change as the scale moves from local to global; we know more about our home area than more distant places; and these differences affect how we feel and behave towards places that are distant versus those that are close.
  • The ways mapped patterns are analyzed and used help solve societal problems.
  • Maps can be used to distort or introduce bias into the information they portray.
There are two parts to Standard One. In part one, a mental map is a person's internalized picture of a part of the Earth's surface. It contains our knowledge of the relative position of places as well as knowledge of their physical environments and cultural characteristics. Most people develop several mental maps at different scales and with varying levels of detail: local maps of one's immediate environment, regional maps of the familiar parts of a country, and national and world maps. The sum total of these mental maps represents a person's geographical factual knowledge. It allows a person to find their way in the world as well as respond with understanding to political, cultural and environmental events. How concerned should a U.S. citizen be about a Tsunami in the Indian Ocean or a coup in Zimbabwe?

Much of the information in a mental map can be found in a good atlas or by examining a globe, but these should be reinforcing tools, not substitutes. In history, seeing the connections across time comes from a basic familiarity with historical events, not constant recourse to an almanac. Similarly in geography, discovering the relationship of events across earth space requires some understanding of the nature of places and their distances from one another.

Mental maps form slowly and come, not from memorization, but from familiarity. One rarely memorizes a neighborhood's street names and the orientation of one street to another. Rather, constant movement within the neighborhood brings it into mental focus. Mental maps of more distant world regions are best acquired through analyzing geographic problems. The domestic conflicts over the Vietnam War were in part about the extent to which Vietnam and its neighbors registered on the average American's mental map. Exploring the place of Vietnam and its proximity to China and the rest of south-east Asia allows at least a more reasoned basis for evaluating the claims of the "domino effect." Similarly, the relationship of Kuwait to Iraq and its proximity to Persian Gulf oil routes would help an understanding of the basis for the First Gulf war.

A student's mental maps from local to global scales could contain an infinite variety of information, but at a minimum, they should reflect an idea of the distance and direction of one place from another. Major places should be noted, along with their general economic activities and cultural characteristics (religion, language, political orientation). Also considered should be their proximity to major landforms (rivers, mountain chains) and the climatic zones in which they fall.

A second part of the standard addresses the use of maps and other geo-graphics. A map is a way of selecting and compressing a large amount of data about where events occur on a sheet of paper that represents a part of the earth's surface. The map uses symbols to represent human actions or physical features, and allows the viewer to gain an overview of an area that would not be possible from the ground. It is like looking down from several thousand feet or miles above the earth. Other geo-graphics include globes, and aerial photographs that use either natural or false colors. The latter involve special film sensitive to particular electromagnetic wavelengths. Thus, a river may appear blue on the photograph but streaked with red by polluted water that reflects a wavelength different from fresh water, even though the differences are indistinguishable to the naked eye.

Maps are used to undertake geographic analysis. Mapped information can be viewed as patterns of data, just as John Snow uncovered patterns of dots. The patterns convey meaning. For instance, a map of U.S. teenage birth rates showed that almost all the states across the South had higher than average rates while northern states had lower than normal rates. Such a contrasting pattern provokes a wide variety of explanations as well as an incentive for further investigation. Today, much geographic information (events, where they occur) can be digitized in a Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS analysis allows two or more maps to be laid on top of each other so that a number of variables can be examined together. A map of public libraries, each with a circle around them representing a reasonable distance for patrons to travel, can be superimposed on a map of urban population. Inevitably, some population areas will be excluded from any of the circles. A GIS allows an instant count of how many people are excluded, permitting policymakers to decide if enough unserved people exist to support a new library and where it might best be placed.

Maps have the same limitations and potential for misuse as statistics. They cannot represent all aspects of that part of the world they encompass. Instead, what is portrayed is selected by the mapmaker and subject to that person's biases. A map of the U.S. African-American population by county will display one pattern of high and low density areas if absolute numbers of African-Americans in each county are used, and a different pattern if the percentage of African-Americans in each county is selected. The South Korean government has long lobbied nations to call the sea between it and Japan the "East Sea" rather than the more common "Sea of Japan". A map reflecting the name change could have serious policy implications for the mapmaker.

Geography Standard One K-3a: Students will understand the nature and uses of maps, globes, and other geo-graphics.

Essential Questions:
  • Why are there different types of maps? How can they be "read" to discover the nature and contents of the real-world?
  • To what extent do differences between flat maps and globes affect understanding of places in the world and their relationship to each other?
To "read" a map, one must translate real objects on the ground into symbols (icons) and observe the relative placement of these objects in an area seen from above. This is a developmentally-complex task that is best accomplished by first using air photographs of familiar objects such as a school and its surrounding streets, buildings and open spaces. Navigation from point to point is used with the photograph after which the visible photographic objects can be substituted for map symbols. For navigation using a photo or map, users must possess a sense of direction based on cardinal compass points and an understanding of scaled distance. Once again, moving from air photographs to maps is recommended as a way to advance understanding. Other means of teaching mapping include looking down from high points, building models, diagramming play spaces or mapping the classroom.

Since maps contain only a selection of reality, they are often classified by type. Maps that are used for navigation include topographic maps, highway maps and nautical charts. Maps used for analysis of patterns may display information using a variety of symbols: frequently dots of varying size, lines of different width (displaying the volume of flow, for instance), or shaded areas (called choropleth maps). An embedded concept is that all real-world phenomena can be reduced to one of these three geometric forms — points, lines or areas — and their location portrayed on a map.

Maps are two-dimensional representations of a three-dimensional earth. Projections are used to convert a globe surface into a flat map. An embedded concept is that in making this conversion, either shapes of areas or the size of areas will be distorted. For instance, on the familiar rectangular Mercator projection of the world (a cylindrical projection) the equator and the north and south pole are the same length. Since the pole is a point on the globe, an enormous amount of distortion occurs in the higher latitudes. While Greenland's shape on the globe is retained, its size on the map is greatly exaggerated. And while a piece of string placed between two points on the globe represents the shortest distance, a straight line between the same points on the Mercator map does not. Students can easily prove this for themselves, and extend the concept by comparing different types of projections (Mercator vs. Peters, for example).

Geography Standard One 4-5a: Students will demonstrate development of mental maps of Delaware and of the United States which include the relative location and characteristics of major physical features, political divisions, and human settlements.

Essential Questions:
  • Why does where matter?
  • To what extent are mental maps of different scales linked?
  • To what extent are human settlements connected?
At this level, the standard calls for initial development of a mental map at the state and national scale. Such maps should not be excessively detailed but should include major settlements, physical features, political divisions and where each feature is situated relative to other features.

At the scale of Delaware, knowledge would be expected of major settlements such as Wilmington, New Castle, Newark, Dover, Lewes, Rehoboth and Seaford. Delaware should be recognized as inhabiting mostly the flat coastal plain of the U.S. Eastern seaboard, impinged slightly in northern New Castle County by the Piedmont. A key dividing line between these two different landforms is the Fall Line. Knowledge should also include Delaware's three counties and the state's borders with Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as its position astride the Delmarva Peninsula between the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. Such a basic mental map would help students identify routes across the state and approximate distances needed to travel between major settlements.

At the U.S. national level, the mental map should distinguish between the relatively low Appalachian Mountains and the much higher Rockies, Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges. Principal rivers draining the continent also divide the nation: the Columbia, the Colorado, the Mississippi-Missouri and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence. Climatic divisions would recognize the humid Eastern Seaboard with temperatures grading from south to north, the more extreme seasonal swings of the temperature found in the Mid- West and Great Plains between the Appalachians and the Rockies, with rainfall grading from east to west (the 100th meridian is the critical dividing line here), and south to north. West of the Rockies, lack of moisture predominates with temperatures accentuating desert-like conditions from the north to the south-west. Finally, the West Coast has distinctive climates grading from cool and damp in the Pacific northwest to hot and dry in southern California. Within these divisions one finds major cities: New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

With this knowledge base, students should be able to understand the context of historical and contemporary settlement of the country. Experience of the different parts that make up the country will enrich comprehension of history and literature.

The development of these mental maps involves two embedded concepts: the importance of the relative location of the features — where is Atlanta in relation to Dallas, where are the Appalachians in relation to the Rockies, and what is the relative distance between these two sets of points. In other words, critical to a mental map is a sense of dimension, using distance and direction expressed in relative, comparative, rather than absolute, terms. For instance, a plane flying from Philadelphia to Los Angeles takes a more southwesterly route and takes longer to reach its destination than a flight to Chicago.

A second concept is the ability to link mental maps of different scales. Students need to be able to place Delaware (a large-scale mental map) in the context of North America (a smaller-scale mental map) and see connections between the two. For instance, in considering links with nearby cities, Baltimore and Philadelphia are more likely to influence Delaware (e.g. with their "local" sports teams) than New York and Washington, or Chicago and St. Louis. Understanding connections across maps of different scales makes weather patterns more meaningful, for example, highlighting the association of coal-burning plants in West Virginia and air quality conditions in Delaware.

Geography Standard One 6-8a: Students will demonstrate mental maps of the world and its sub-regions which include the relative location and characteristics of major physical features, political divisions, and human settlements.

Essential Questions:
  • Why does "where" matter?
  • To what extent are mental maps of different scales linked?
  • To what extent are human settlements connected?
At this grade level, what changes is an expansion of the areas covered by mental maps to sub-regions of the world beyond North America, and finally to the world as a whole. In other respects, there is no difference between the objectives and purposes of the 4-5 and 6-8 benchmarks. Once again, the level of detail of the mental map components for the world's sub-regions is similar to that of the United States. The South American continent provides an example. A mental map would recognize the long Andes mountain chain that runs across the north and down the west side of the continent, separated in Bolivia by a high plateau containing Lake Titicaca. To the east of the Andes lie the Guiana Highlands and Brazilian highlands, separated by the Orinoco and Amazon river systems. The southern Brazilian highlands are drained by branches of the Parana-Paraguay river system that terminates in the Río de la Plata. Inland from Buenos Aires lies the flat pampas and to the south, the arid plateau of Patagonia. Climatically, most of South America east of the Andes experiences tropical weather: warm temperatures throughout the year with wet and dry seasons. To the west, from northern Peru to Central Chile lies the dry Atacama desert. A major concept embedded in human adaptation to the natural environment is the role of altitude that modifies the tropical climate otherwise expected at low latitudes and allows raising mid-latitude crops in small micro-ecologies found at higher elevations. Argentina, Uruguay and Chile are the only South American areas of temperate, mid-latitude climate. Chile is like the U.S. west coast and Argentina and Uruguay like the eastern U.S. seaboard. South Americans live disproportionately in major cities. A mental map of the sub-region would include at a minimum Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago, Lima and Bogotá.

Again, it must be stressed that while mental maps carry factual details, these are best learned in the context of examining issues related to those regions. For instance, the travels of early explorers can be traced and the diversity of findings made understandable. Alternatively, areas most likely to appeal to tourism could be hypothesized.

Familiarity with sub-regions allows speculation about future connections. How might the economies of Africa and South America or Africa and India be better linked? Is there a basis for trade (exchange) between these connections? What are the obstacles to greater economic unity among South American countries? Is the lack of interior rail connections across country borders a factor?

Geography Standard One 9-12a: Students will identify geographic patterns which emerge when data is mapped, and analyze mapped patterns through the application of such common geographic principles as "hierarchy", "accessibility", "diffusion", and "complementarity".

Essential Questions:
  • To what extent is competition or interaction between places influenced by their relative location and accessibility?
  • How might the position of a place in a settlement hierarchy affect the life of the people in that place?
  • What makes it likely or unlikely that people and/or goods will flow between two points?
At the high school level, the standard returns to the analysis and use of mapped information. The first benchmark emphasizes the ability to analyze mapped information and offer explanations for the patterns identified. These explanations make use of common principles that account for the geographical behavior of the phenomena being mapped. Four principles are emphasized in the standards.

Hierarchy involves the observation that patterns at one scale are often connected to patterns at a different scale. For instance, a map of U.S. cities portrayed as circles of a size proportionate to their population will show many small circles and only a few large ones. Initially, the map may be seen as a static picture but applying the concept of hierarchy, relationships may be implied between the small and large cities. Generally, small cities depend on specialized services that can only be supported in large cities. One example would be the dissemination of news. Major television and newspaper enterprises are found in large cities. Information flows down the hierarchy of cities from large to small much more rapidly and in a less-edited form than information flowing up the hierarchy. A disease spreads similarly. Research about the spread of AIDS in the U.S. indicates that the disease began in large cities and spread to smaller surrounding communities.

Related to the concept of hierarchy is accessibility, a measurement of how easily one place can be reached from all others. Large cities become large because they occupy locations that make reaching a widespread population much easier than from small cities that occupy less accessible points. For instance, in southern Delaware, given where people are located and the network of roads people use to travel between places, Dover is the most accessible point. Seaford, Lewes, and Milford are examples of towns with medium accessibility while Harrington, Bridgeville, and Felton have relatively low accessibility. Hospitals require access to a large number of people to justify the services they provide, so we should not be surprised that a map of hospitals would show them to be located in Dover and the medium-accessibility towns rather than lower-accessibility communities. The same pattern prevails on a map of Wal-Mart stores in southern Delaware. Making sense of these mapped patterns requires application of the principle of accessibility.

A third principle is diffusion, embodying the idea that while maps may be static representations of geographic behavior, in reality both the physical and human worlds are constantly changing. People move, freight flows from centers of production to consumption. Precipitation comes and goes, and, at a slower pace, soil is removed by erosion and deposited elsewhere. Diffusion captures the idea of phenomena moving over space in particular directions at variable speeds. The Africanized ("killer") bee entered the New World in Brazil and slowly spread outwards across northern South America, into Central America and Mexico and then to the United States where climate factors tended to steer it in the direction of the Mid-West and Eastern Seaboard. Eventually, cold Canadian weather will contain its diffusion. The rate and direction of spread can be displayed on a map that uses solid lines with attached dates that join all points where the bees have spread by a particular date. Similar maps can display the diffusion of news in the colonial period when the network of post roads and pattern of settlements influenced the speed and direction of information flow.

There are at least three types of diffusion patterns identified by geographers: expansion diffusion, where, for example, the spread of a disease moves from its point of origin by direct contact through a population; relocation diffusion, where the diffusion path leapfrogs over intervening points &emdash; an example might be the spread of recent refugees from Bosnia to Utica, New York; and hierarchical diffusion, where information spreads through a hierarchy of settlements. To use our earlier example of the spread of news, in hierarchical flow news might spread from New York to Philadelphia and then to Wilmington and Trenton. Intervening places closer to New York but lower in the hierarchy, such as New Brunswick, NJ, would take longer to receive the information.

A final principle, complimentarity, addresses the likelihood that two places will interact in some way. Generally, the farther away two places are found, the less likely they are to exchange people or goods or influence each other. Complimentarity is a measure of that attraction. For instance, a map of the flow of oil from producing to consuming nations would show a large volume being transported from the Middle East to Japan because, despite the distance involved, the Middle East has a large excess of reserves and Japan, with no oil of its own, is a large consumer of the product. In a different scenario, a map of retail establishments laid on top of a map of population would show fairly high population densities either side of the Delaware/Pennsylvania border, but a much greater number of service establishments on the Delaware side than in an area 20 miles into Pennsylvania. The reason for the relative absence of stores on the Pennsylvania side is Delaware's lack of a sales tax that increases complimentarity levels for Delaware stores with Pennsylvania residents who would rather travel farther and avoid the tax than frequent stores closer to their neighborhoods.

The reciprocal of complimentarity is transferability. Without the means to transfer people or goods, no movement will occur. For instance, the natural complimentarity between the resources of northern and southern Europe in the early and later Middle Ages led to significant trade levels but the difficulty of land travel across the Alps forced merchants to move their goods by sea through the Strait of Gibraltar. When the Moors occupied Iberia and blocked that route, transferability could not occur and two separate circuits of trade among cities developed, one based on Venice in the Mediterranean and the other (the Hanseatic league) focused on cities around the North Sea and the Baltic.

The standard calls for students to be able to utilize these principles in interpreting mapped patterns; however, it should be recognized that often the principles work together and need not be viewed independently.

Geography Standard One 9-12b: Students will apply the analysis of mapped patterns to the solution of problems.

Essential Question:
  • How might societal problems be posed so that they are open to solution through geographic map analysis?
The second benchmark emphasizes the use of maps to address societal problems. Clearly, it follows from the first benchmark that before using maps to problem-solve, students must have an ability to analyze the forces likely to produce geographic data patterns. In many ways, this benchmark calls for the culmination of geography learning and understanding to be applied in a socially useful manner. Any number of problems might be selected and carrying out the analysis with GIS is recommended. For instance, maps of population distribution could be compared with a map of Delaware recycling centers. An estimate could be made of how far a person would be willing to travel from home to a recycling igloo and the population served by each center could be calculated. Observations of where people are forced to travel greater than optimum distances, or places where the population is served by more than one center, could result in recommendations either to add more centers or move existing ones to more usable locations.

While many problems are susceptible to geographic map analysis, they may not be posed in a manner initially thought of geographically. Since almost all events occur somewhere, part of a student's learning is how to rephrase a problem to allow it to be subject to map analysis. Discussion of the causes of high cancer rates in Delaware often focus on the delay in diagnosis or inadequacy of available treatment. Examining the issue geographically involves identifying the areas where cancer occurrence is high and then exploring causes for those extremes. Analysis might involve looking at particular environmental conditions associated with places of high incidence, or examining the accessibility pattern of treatment centers.

Geography Standards in Delaware

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