On the Map in California Curriculum Development
Chico State’s outstanding reputation and unmatched capabilities in cartography drew an unprecedented opportunity to Geography and Planning’s faculty and students. Professors Eugenie Rovai and Steve Stewart were awarded $50,000 in March 2010 to contribute high-quality maps to a new California environmentally focused curriculum. The funds paid for the work of two student cartographers, undergraduate Sarah Bergquist and graduate Sylvie Cares, who produced most of the total 64 maps.
The maps ranged from the Middle East and the Fertile Crescent to historical U.S. maps and world maps on climate and currents. There were also localized maps on species distribution and even a poster-sized map of China. The maps are part of the State Education and Environment Roundtable’s (SEER’s) Education and Environment Initiative (EEI). SEER is the recipient of an award from the California Integrated Waste Management Board to complete the production of 85 EEI teaching units for K–12 environmental literacy curriculum.
The curriculum includes lessons on wetlands and coastal ecosystems, water pollution and pollution prevention, soil contamination, toxic and hazardous waste management, recycling, and energy conservation. It also includes supplemental learning aids like the maps, which is where Professors Rovai and Stewart’s expertise in cartography had set them and Chico State’s Geography and Planning department apart from other contenders for this contract.
The China map, said Bergquist, was one of the more difficult maps to complete because of its size. It was the largest map the students created. For Cares, the world and continental distribution maps proved the most challenging because she didn’t have access to pertinent data. To remedy this, she recreated existing maps to EEI’s specifications.
The EEI curriculum project gave the student cartographers a chance to work closely with faculty and meet desired expectations from a real client in a professional, deadline-driven setting. “The students completed the project with tangible skills, project management experience, and large portfolios of published maps,” said Stewart .
Professor Rovai, faculty member in the Department of Geography and Planning since 1991, revitalized the cartography program and taught courses until she became chair of the department in 2001.
After graduating with a master’s degree from Chico State in 1996, Stewart was a geographic information system (GIS) special projects manager for BLR Data, a national geographic data firm, in Arizona. In 1998, he founded his own consulting firm, Geographic Business Mapping. He has been teaching GIS and cartography classes since he moved back to Chico in 2001.
“This contract was an opportunity for our students to do a type of map-making that is at the essence of cartography,” said Professor Rovai. It’s not just a science; it’s an art form. “Dr. Rovai and Steve Stewart have set up a curriculum that includes not only the science of geography, but the historical and current production of maps (handmade and computer-generated),” said Cares. “Maps may be easier to produce with mapping software [than by hand], but it is important that each map’s information, layout, and aesthetic be not only readable, but also pleasing to the eye. To me, maps are art—beautiful art that is filled with information.”The EEI launched in 2003, and California is the first state to develop a statewide curriculum for environmental education. The faculty and student team finished their maps in September 2010, and the completed curriculum will eventually be used by more than 1,000 school districts statewide.
—Melissa Cheatham, Public Affairs and Publications