ArcWatch: Your e-Magazine for GIS News, Views, and Insights

October 2008

Join Esri and My Wonderful World in Celebrating Geography Awareness Week This November

By Sarah Jane Caban, My Wonderful World Campaign Program Coordinator

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My Wonderful World's "We are not alone" print public service announcement stresses the importance of geographic learning at school, at home, and in communities.

Every day, thousands of scientists, government officials, and professionals across the globe use geographic tools and techniques like GIS to tackle the world's most challenging issues and explore new frontiers. And yet, many in the general public have never even heard of GIS.

Likewise, most high school and college students selecting courses of study and planning future career paths are unaware of the thousands of new opportunities created in the geospatial industry each year. At the most fundamental level, surveys conducted by the National Geographic Society demonstrate that American students lack essential geographic knowledge and fail to appreciate its relevance to their lives.

To combat this alarming problem, Esri teamed up with National Geographic and other business and nonprofit organization leaders to launch the My Wonderful World campaign. Since its inception in 2006, My Wonderful World (MWW) has grown to represent a coalition of more than 25 organizations and has supported several programs to expand geographic education—at school, at home, and in communities. Here's a snapshot of some of My Wonderful World's most recent activities.

Geography Awareness Week

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George Mason University's men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga prepares for the tip-off at World Ball Night, held during Geography Awareness Week 2007 at the university in Fairfax, Virginia. Larranaga worked with the Department of Geography at George Mason University and National Geographic Cartography to create the basketball globe. Photo by John Aronson.
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Local students participated in a halftime shootout during World Ball Night at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The university's Department of Geography provided world basketballs for the event, and National Geographic Live! supplied two giant maps of Asia. Photo by John Aronson.

My Wonderful World joins Esri and others in the geographic community to celebrate Geography Awareness Week (GAW) during the third week of November. For the last two years, MWW has worked with coalition members including Esri, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Asia Society to develop interactive Keyhole Markup Language (KML) quizzes and "geotours" exploring the continents of Africa (2006) and Asia (2007). This year's theme is Mapping the Americas, and My Wonderful World will once again use the latest geographic visualization tools to bring technology and captivating video and imagery to Geography Awareness Week. Features in the works include Global Hot Spots (highlighting places at critical geographic junctures) and Geography in Action (focusing on geographic careers). Gear up for GAW 2008 by checking out the 2006 and 2007 resources available online at including an Asia-focused video on GIS produced by Esri. Remember that GIS Day is Wednesday, November 19, so start planning your GIS Day event now!

Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act Introduced

Under the original No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), geography was named a core academic subject along with reading, English language arts, math, science, foreign language, history, civics, economics, and art. However, geography is the only core academic subject that has not received designated federal funding since NCLB went into effect in 2002. As a result, geography does not receive the attention it deserves in K-12 schools.

The National Geographic Society and other geography education groups are working to correct this oversight. They have joined members of Congress to introduce the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act (TGIF) in the 110th Congress as S 727 (by senators Thad Cochran [R-MS] and Chris Dodd [D-CT], and as HR 1228 by representative Chris Van Hollen [D-MD] and former representative and current senator Roger Wicker [R-MS]). The bill calls for $15 million annually for five years to support the following objectives:

4-H Community Mapping Exhibits

For the past two summers, My Wonderful World has added to Esri's grant program for 4-H clubs by providing prizes, giveaways, and geography quiz games for use at mapping exhibits at state and county fairs across the country. These efforts help community mapping groups use geography and GIS technology to explore local and global connections. Through demonstrating the value of geotechnologies in community projects and sharing opportunities in geographic careers with the public, 4-H is taking its trademark mission of service into the twenty-first century.

Get Involved

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Students in Richland County, Illinois, used Esri software to create a map of the Richland County Fairgrounds at a 4-H community mapping exhibit this past summer. The activity marked the youngsters' first experience dabbling with GIS technology.

Imagine if business leaders, government officials, and the general public universally understood the value of a geographic perspective to analyze real-world problems and develop real-world solutions. And imagine if hundreds of thousands of college graduates actively pursued careers in GIS and sought to expand the market for GIS opportunities. This is the reality we hope to create through the My Wonderful World campaign by providing tomorrow's leaders with high-quality geographic education.

We hope you recognize the benefits and importance of extending your role as a geographic practitioner to become an advocate on behalf of geographic education. It's easy to get involved with My Wonderful World! Here's how to start:

  1. Go to and sign up for the campaign. You'll get our monthly e-newsletter with tools and tips for bringing geography into your life. And be sure to check out all the other great resources available for parents, educators, kids, and teens on the My Wonderful World Web site at
  2. Celebrate GIS Day and Geography Awareness Week this November. Visit and to learn more about the many special events taking place.
  3. Get involved in your community. Did you know that nearly every state in the country has an alliance of geographic educators and supporters? Join your alliance to take part in geographic activities at the local level and learn more about programs like My Wonderful World, 4-H community mapping, and Geography Awareness Week. Find your local alliance at You can also join My Wonderful World's online community by becoming a fan of our cause on
  4. We need your help to pass TGIF. Contact Congress and tell your representatives that you support geographic education and the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental legislation. My Wonderful World has a Notify Your Lawmakers tool on its Web site to get you started. Learn more about TGIF at
  5. Visit our blog at for the latest geographic news and insights. Chime in—we want to hear how your work with geotechnologies helps you see the world in new ways!

Sarah Jane Caban has been working on the My Wonderful World campaign at the National Geographic Education Foundation in Washington, D.C., since June 2007. She has a B.A. in geography and psychology from Colgate University.

For more information, contact

Sarah Jane Caban
My Wonderful World Campaign Program Coordinator
National Geographic Education Foundation
1145 17th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20036-4688
Phone: 202-862-8286
Fax: 202-429-5701

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