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magazine / oct12

October 2012 issue

CFL in schools

What do the Halifax Storm, Fredericton Acadians, Québec Grenadians and Yellowknife Yetis all have in common? Apart from being fictional Canadian Football League (CFL) teams, they were dreamed up by a group of grade 9 and 10 students as part of a series of new Canadian Geographic Education lesson plans that focus on the CFL.

The activity required the students, who were part of the University of Toronto’s Leaders in Training camp that took place in August, to choose the Canadian city they thought would be the most suitable for a CFL expansion team. Factors such as population, landscape, resources, transportation infrastructure and the city itself were all weighed, as were more artistic considerations. “The activity was really interesting, especially since they listened to what we had to say,” says camper Nathan Lautens. “It was great to be able to pick a Canadian city and design the team’s logo and jersey.”

While football may seem like an unusual topic for a geography class, the lesson plans link the two subjects in an educational way that captivates students. “When you take a core competency like geography and frame an interactive lesson around a topic that is both interesting and has a certain real-world application, students have a much easier time engaging with the material,” says Graham Long, an Ottawa-area high school teacher who led the lesson. “It was amazing to see these kids come up with names for their new teams that were completely reflective of the climate, the culture and the history of the regions they selected.”

The excitement didn’t end with the activity. Dax Johnston, licensing coordinator for the CFL, and Dennis Dowell, the Grey Cup handler, dropped in to surprise the students and answer questions about the history of the CFL and the Grey Cup itself. “All the campers seemed to have a great time; they all had a smile on their face,” says Johnston. “They put a lot of time and thought into the placement of a new team, thinking of different mascots, the sustainability of the stadium and the general feel of the community they picked.”

After the lesson was complete and the students had their photos taken with the Grey Cup, Long says he could see that they had gained a better grasp of Canadian geography as a whole. “I think they had a chance to get some basic knowledge about a great Canadian institution and apply that knowledge to what they knew about the country’s landscape in a really creative way.”

All 13 lesson plans are available in October on the Canadian Geographic Education website.

Jessica Harding



The wheel deal

Fuel-efficiency experts John and Helen Taylor (Photo: Greenliving)
Consumers, companies and sponsors got rolling during the Eco-Wheels Show in Toronto in June. The annual weekend event featured the latest models in eco-friendly transportation and taught visitors how to drive — and live — a little greener.

Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada staff handed out lists of energy-saving tips to attendees. Along for the ride were Australian couple and fuel-efficiency experts John and Helen Taylor (right). The Taylors shared some driving tips that could equal big savings. For instance, slowing down from 110 to 100 kilometres per hour can save up to 23 percent of the fuel in your tank.

The Eco-Wheels Show was one of several stops in Shell Canada’s Smarter Driver Challenge, a cross-country road trip designed to educate Canadians on how to save gas — which it did by completing the 6,350-kilometre journey on under five tanks of fuel.

For more information about next year’s Eco-Wheels Show, visit To find out more about the Smarter Driver Challenge, visit

Samia Madwar

Silver Lining

It’s not every day that you get to see a photograph you took etched onto a commemorative $10 silver coin, but that’s exactly what happened to Robert Ganz when he journeyed to Ottawa in June to collect his grand prize for winning Canadian Geographic’s 2011 Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year Competition.

Ganz, who’s a coin collector as well as an accomplished photographer, began his day with a private tour of the Royal Canadian Mint, where he got to press a few samples of the coin featuring his winning praying mantis photo.

“As a collector, I only ever get to see the finished product, so it was a real treat to see how the coins are made from start to finish,” says Ganz, who brought his son Nolon along for the tour.

That same evening, Ganz and other winners from the competition were treated to a sneak peek of an exhibition of the winning photographs at the Canadian Museum of Nature. “It was a high point for me, since not only was the coin featured, but I got to see my photos exhibited for the first time in my life,” Ganz says. “To see them on the wall of the museum like that, with all the other excellent photos, was really humbling and thrilling at the same time.”

To see all the winning images and enter this year’s competition, visit You can purchase the praying mantis coin by visiting

Jessica Harding

Canadian Geographic Education

Think of it as a graduation of sorts — one that was nearly two decades in the making. After 19 years, the Canadian Council for Geographic Education has changed its name to Canadian Geographic Education.

The new name aligns Canadian Geographic Education with the magazine and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society to strengthen its presence in the geographic world.

“It’s a natural evolution,” says Connie Wyatt Anderson, the chair of Canadian Geographic Education. “We are bettering ourselves and growing while retaining our dedication and commitment to geographic literacy.”

As part of the rebranding process, a new website will be created within the next year. For now, however, Canadian Geographic Education’s executive members continue to work hard toward fulfilling their new mission statement: “fostering geographic engagement.”

Challenge on

Kyle Richardson, winner of the 2012 Challenge (Photo: Glenn Richardson).
For the 18th year in a row, Canadian students are gearing up to compete in the Great Canadian Geography Challenge. Participants will vie to outscore their classmates in hopes of earning a spot in the national finals. Although competition is stiff, a few dozen students between grades 4 and 10 will earn the chance to follow in the footsteps of Kyle Richardson (right), winner of the 2012 Challenge and recipient of a $3,000 scholarship that accompanied the bragging rights.

Richardson bested his classmates at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, Ont., and aced the qualifying test to make it to the national finals in April 2012. After a series of multiple-choice tests, he was eventually named the national winner.

In addition to geography, Richardson also enjoys the arts, citing vocal music, drama and dance among his interests — and it’s clear he’s got enough financial savvy to know what to do with his scholarship money too. “I’m not really sure yet,” he says. “I’m going to invest it until I’m older.”

Richardson will be too old to participate in the next Challenge but that isn’t stopping Leslie Salvatore, his former geography teacher, from encouraging her students this year to participate. “I see the Challenge as a valuable teaching tool,” she says. “Students become very engaged when material is presented to them as a game or a competition.”

Registration for the 2012- 2013 Challenge is now open and closes on Feb. 28, 2013. For more information, visit

Jesse Tahirali

Summer class

Baking bread, making electric motors and creating quilts may sound like standard summer camp activities, but the people who took part in them last July at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa were anything but school kids set free.

For three days, teachers from across Canada gathered at the Summer Institute for Elementary Teachers, learning how to captivate their students and help them understand and care about science. The program is designed to demonstrate hands-on, inquiry-based education that parallels the scientific method, having students find challenges, look for answers and analyze what they’re doing.

Peter Bursey, a grade-two teacher at Stanley Mills Public School in Brampton, Ont., applauded the institute and those involved. “One of the conservators explained the chemistry behind metal corrosion so clearly, it was inspiring,” he says. “And these types of activities really make a difference. They make science more interesting and relevant to children’s lives.”

This was the second summer for the institute, which started when the museum recognized the need to get new information to teachers. “There’s something about it that’s very rewarding,” says Erin Poulton, senior education officer at the museum. “We started it as a way to reach out and serve teachers, but our staff gets so much out of it as well.”

Kenza Moller

Energy lessons

This fall, Canadian Geographic Education is teaching students a new lesson. As part of a three-year partnership with Shell Canada, CG Education has created Energy Use lesson plans to educate high school students about the increasingly pertinent issues surrounding energy consumption and conservation.

“I hope these lessons will help increase students’ energy consciousness so that they will be well equipped as decision-makers and consumers in the future,” says Jennifer Aung Thin, a classroom activities developer for some CG Education projects.

The lessons, which utilize resources such as Canadian Geographic’s annual environment issue, focus on a broad range of power- and resourcerelated issues. Students are given the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, including designing an energy-efficient home, analyzing the effects that cycling has on our collective carbon footprint and simulating a task force to consider the costs and benefits of oil and gas production and consumption.

Students can also get involved by participating in the second annual Classroom Energy Diet Challenge, in which different classes compete for points by completing various energy-conscious tasks. Registration for the Challenge is now open.

To access the Energy Use lesson plans, visit

Jesse Tahirali


At its foundation, “literacy” is about communication. For most people, reading and writing are enough — but not for Lynn Moorman (above). A professor of earth sciences and general education at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and a Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), she has dedicated herself to extending this concept into the realm of geography.

Moorman loosely defines geo-literacy as the ability to take in geographical information, such as satellite imagery and maps, critically analyze and make meaning of it and then base decisions on the newly formed knowledge.

While completing her B.Sc. and M.Sc. at the University of Calgary in 1989 and 1991, respectively, she remembers being struck by the significance of these geographic concepts. “It was so relevant to everyday existence,” she says. “It just seemed too important to not understand.”

A Canadian Geographic Education exceutive since 2009 and an RCGS Fellow since 2011, Moorman is working with CG Education to develop a national strategy for geographic literacy. Even before pursuing her Ph.D. and becoming a professor, however, Moorman was interested in education. In 1995-96, she was involved in the creation of Earth Observation, a course on interpreting geographic data, which was then integrated into Ontario’s grade-nine curriculum. Once the program was developed, she was responsible for teaching it to teachers, an experience in geographic education that helped determine her career path.

After completing her Ph.D., Moorman plans to keep teaching at Mount Royal while further developing the geo-literacy strategy, which she believes has the potential to have a large effect on education.

“The importance of our strategy is not only in enhancing geographic education but in building Canadians’ capacity to think and reason geographically and to make the best decisions possible about our environment, resources and populace.”

Jesse Tahirali

A capital idea

The National Capital Commission (NCC) and Canadian Geographic Education are bringing the capital to life for students with 13 new lesson plans.

The lesson plans fit with the NCC’s aim of ensuring that the National Capital Region is a “source of national pride and significance” and that the activities, aimed at students from grades five to nine, cover everything from noteworthy locations in Ottawa to pivotal moments in Canadian history. The lesson plans inform students of the NCC’s Horizon 2067 initiative, which aims to improve the capital region by Canada’s bicentennial, with activities such as the Canada’s Capital Board Game, which asks students to create a game that highlights significant monuments and symbolic sites.

“Today’s students have an important stake in the future of Canada’s capital as they will experience the renewed, revitalized and more representative capital of 2067,” says Connie Wyatt Anderson, Chair of Canadian Geographic Education. “These lesson plans will help them in discovering and exploring Canada’s Capital Region.”

To access the lesson plans, which are all free and bilingual, visit and select Canada’s Capital: Horizon 2067.

Kenza Moller

Scholar dollars

Kevin Arseneau has always been interested in geography, whether it was poring over the maps and atlases his parents bought him as a child or taking an adventure tourism course later in life. This year, his passion and hard work paid off when he was awarded the Stuart Semple Scholarship for Atlantic Canada.

The $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a deserving student with a major or minor in geography and the intention to pursue a Bachelor of Education program in Atlantic Canada. The Université de Moncton student has thrown himself into his studies, taking 10 courses last semester alone just to get through school so that he can start teaching.

While the scholarship will help him financially, Arseneau believes there’s something special about the Stuart Semple Scholarship. “I like that The Royal Canadian Geographical Society doesn’t think of geography only in its purest form,” he says. “It truly appreciates that geography is the perfect gateway to citizenship and that funding geographic education is a way to reach all levels of society.”

For more information about the scholarship, visit

Kenza Moller


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