Thursday, May 21, 2020

Fun Final Exam

World's Longest Walk: Ciencianautas

When I announced that I was teaching a new course -- Advanced Global Thinking -- many of my friends congratulated me on the title (I was really pretty proud of it) and said they wished they could take it. I offered it for the first time this spring with a great group of graduating geography majors. I very much enjoyed our conversations during the first half of the semester, which ended up including global thinking about a global pandemic -- something we were well prepared to discuss but could not have anticipated.

Near the end of the semester, I noticed an interesting post on a Brazilian science Facebook page, and realized instantly that I had material for our final exam. Before posting the exam, we had some online discussion of the 2009 ocean crossing by Katie Spotz, which our EarthView program had followed avidly. Coincidentally, Katie contacted me right after that discussion, to share her newest project - a walk across Maine. More on that later (though you can donate now).

My students enjoyed writing this exam and I very much enjoyed reading their answers, each of which emphasized very different geographic concepts. Some students even shared the challenge with their families, which inspires me to post it here publicly, so anybody with curiosity and a little time on their hands can have the same fun.

Herewith, the exam question:

Please see the link on Ciencianautas (Science Explorers or Sciencenauts -- an example of something that works better in its original language than in translation). See what you can discern from the post before looking at my translation below.

https://www.facebook.com/Ciencianautas/photos/a.1709068902751505/2704726053185780/?type=1&theater

🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏

This map shows one of the longest uninterrupted walks that you can make on the Earth. A journey leaving Cape Town, South Africa, ending in Magadan, Russia. This represents a distance of 22,387 km.

Google Maps estimates that it would take 4,492 hours to navigate, which means 187 days of walking uninterrupted. If you were to decide to walk 8 hours per day (much more reasonable), it would take 562 days to make the trip.

🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏🌍🌎🌏

Now the assignment. Imagine that you were going to take this trip in 2018-2019, and write an essay of 5-7 pages describing how you would use human and physical geography in the planning process. [After some discussion, we decided to take Covid-19 considerations out of the exam. Those playing at home can choose a near-future time frame if they would like to focus on the geographic implications of the pandemic.]

PLEASE know that I realize you cannot write a comprehensive plan in the coming week. To do so in reality would require a year or more. But choose a few aspects of this journey and explain how you would apply your geographic expertise to plan those aspects. Choose a couple of things -- or maybe even just one thing -- that highlights your geographic skills.

ALSO: I understand that one risk of an online exam is that you can end up spending far more time on it than the two hours normally alloted. Please do not spend all of your waking hours on this. But please give it some thought and then write an essay you would enjoy reading. And of course, please read your essay for style and grammar before turning it in.

Make sure to give the essay a good title; you probably cannot do that until you are nearly done with the essay. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Lagniappe

Here are some related links, including recent post on this very blog and some pages my students recommended after doing this research:

Longest Walk on Brilliant Maps -- perhaps the original source of the map above.

Tom's World Walk -- a very modest and average guy on a very long walk. Bonus: his web page starts with a reference to a very geographic song I've blogged about.

The journey envisioned above is a long-distance walk, but if it uses a designated long-distance trail, such a use is coincidental. Many long walks are inspired by the very existence of such trails, the most famous in the United States being the Appalachian Trail. My recent Trail Protection post discusses some of the legal, management, and policy questions relating to such trails, including a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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