2015 Edition ~ FRQ and Exam Score Breakdown

I really enjoy creating infographics using Piktochart.com. My 2014 edition was great fun to make and a good lesson in infographics. I would love to implement these more into my class and have students visually depict geographic data. At first glance, good infographics are very clean, effective in their message, and visually appealing. After some thought and attempts, they are not so easy after all. People get degrees in this stuff! A lesson plan on using infographics requires a vision and even maybe some tutelage from an art teacher. Design and color, combined with information can be beautiful. While I am artistically inclined, I am not formally trained. I am sure that a professional would put me to shame, but here is my best attempt at my second edition of the FRQ and Exam Score infographic. Some features are interactive so accessing from the URL link attached is a bit better for the eye. Piktochart also made a “presentation mode” where you can present sections of an infographic a section at a time which is nice. Unfortunately, they changed the high-resolution saving option to a paid version of Piktochart, which I don’t own. My apologies as I know there are some who want to have a poster image. I will work on getting a subscription through the school year.

2015 AP Human Geography Score Breakdown

Another year passed and I feel that I am a better teacher than I was before. After some evaluation, there a few exercises that I feel really help me become better than before. Here is my short list:

  1. AP Grading in June: This is by far the best professional development that any teacher can get. We work hard, but we also collaborate, shoot ideas across the table, and engage in the nerdiest geography conversations that I can’t get anywhere else. I can’t imagine missing this event and I look forward to it every year. This was the first year that I went to the “meet the test committee” night and I actually really enjoyed it. While I think some people would take this as an opportunity to vent their frustrations, it is good to see the logic behind what makes our course run. One thing that I do wish AP would consider is to create a defined set of guidelines for how to write for an FRQ, LEQ, Short Answer, and DBQ for all of the AP humanity classes. With all of the redesigns going on, there is some ambiguity between a short answer and an FRQ. While a short answer is currently irrelevant for Human Geography, it DOES make a difference for the kids who move from one social science course to the next. A common vernacular is most useful and it is less confusing for teachers and students alike. Hopefully this is something we will see in the future.
  2. Instructional reports: I read my instructional reports after the AP scores are posted to see my weakest areas in relation to my other colleagues. When we have school meetings, it gives me an opportunity to discuss with the other teachers what they are doing in class, that I am not.
  3. Teaching Verb Prompts: Now that I am a veteran grader, I am definitely better at giving FRQ instructions. I use my FRQ verb prompt handout that I created after scouring all previous FRQ’s and seeing where students get the most points. When students know how many points they are going to get for a “define” vs. an “explain” question, it can be a mental edge. It is also important for students to know the difference between “describe” and “discuss.” Here is the link to the PDF file: FRQ Writing Command Protocols
  4. AP HuGe Facebook Group: WHAT A RESOURCE! Not only do I feel this is better than the AP Central website threads, if my students have a question and they want an immediate answer, I post it and can expect a response before the end of class. The other professionals on the site are so knowledgable and helpful. We are all teaching the same thing, but with different resources and it is fascinating to see the creativity that comes from this group. I dropped my personal Facebook page about 4 years ago, and it wasn’t until someone from the reading convinced me to join the group that I made the decision to join back. While I still do not have a personal Facebook page, geography is the only reason that I keep coming back. I believe it is the single best resource outside of the AP grading for professional development.
  5. Write Test Questions: The more test questions and hypothetical FRQ questions that I create for my students, the better I am at helping my kids know what to expect on “game-day.” I know that there is a lot of upset teachers who find test banks leaked online and there are issues with test security. But cheating has always existed and it will never go away, the best we can do is keep being creative and trying to adapt to the situations we are dealt. After all, we are teachers, I think we are the most flexible, creative, and hard-working group of people on the planet. I know it takes time, but writing my own questions has been one of the most rewarding exercises for my professional growth. A group of teachers started to write a question bank through the Facebook group and is in the form of a Google Doc. Let me know if you would like to contribute. Unless a teacher gives the URL to a student, there is no reason anyone but those who have access should be able to view it.

RESOURCE: Earth-Picker – Web based map game

Earth-Picker is a web-based game that presents players with GoogleEarth panoramic images while in street view and asks them to place where they think it is on a map.

What is great about this is that you have to use cultural and physical land clues as to where you think the location is. There are 5 rounds that provides a score.

If players get stuck, they can click on the arrows to move around and perhaps find more clues such as a street sign that hints to a language used.


NEWS Via NOLA: Putting hip on the map: Real estate markets heat up when a neighborhood turns cool

Putting hip on the map: Real estate markets heat up when a neighborhood turns cool

By Richard Campanella
on March 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated March 12, 2014 at 8:25 PM

“Location, location, location,” the real estate adage goes. In fact, a number of complex variables drive the value of land, particularly for residential areas. They range from schools and quality of life, to amenities and safety, to prejudices, perceptions and social status.

In recent decades, a new variant of social status has entered the real estate equation, and it has since transfigured downtown New Orleans and other American cities.

It’s the curious cultural phenomenon known as cool.

Neighborhoods that a decade or two ago were viewed as dirty, dangerous and disregarded now rank among the region’s hottest real estate markets, turned around courtesy of an emerging social charisma that may be described as “hip” or “cool.” Among them are Bywater and adjacent areas down St. Claude Avenue; Faubourg Treme and St. Roch; the Irish Channel; and Mid City. A generation earlier, places like Faubourg Marigny and the Lower Garden District underwent the transformation.

True, these neighborhoods boast other advantages. They have history, architecture, walkability, high topographic elevation and favorable flood zones, not to mention proximity to resources and employment. But they had these advantages years ago, yet few came a-bidding.

What changed is that they became cool on the social scene. And that made them hot — on the real estate scene.

Coolness is elusive, and some might be inclined to scoff at the notion, as it smacks of affectation and brings to mind poseurs. To be sure, coolness is purely perceptual; it is constructed and superimposed, not innate.

But any illusion that can so thoroughly change the character, composition and property value of a neighborhood cannot be dismissed. Coolness is real in its effects, if not in its posturing, and as such, it’s a fairly recent phenomenon, though not entirely unprecedented.

New Orleanians in times past perceived certain spaces within their city to bear a particular dash, and it was based largely on class. The word “fashionable” appears in real estate ads in the 19th century, usually with respect to St. Charles Avenue or the Garden District. Other code words included “genteel” and “stylish.” Vanity Fair explained in 1869 how “the Americans adopt the term of “down-town” for the (Creole quarter), and dignify their own residential quarter as ‘up-town.'”

But fashion, style and dignity are not the same as cool; if anything, coolness sneers at such bourgeois aspirations. Coolness exudes an aloof poise and a confident sense of self-possession; it is never boastful or chatty, but rather vaguely mysterious, unknowable, and, above all, separate and apart from the masses. It explains why celebrities wear sunglasses, and why the smarter ones know to act taciturn and keep themselves scarce.

Coolness constantly needs to be ahead of the mainstream, and if the mainstream catches up, coolness goes elsewhere. “The act of discovering what’s cool,” observed Malcolm Gladwell in an influential 1997 article entitled “The Coolhunt,” “is what causes cool to move on.” As it does, coolness often produces new cultural innovations and explores increasingly edgy terrain. Coolness thus becomes geographical: it occupies certain spaces, disdains others, and seeks new ones when uncoolness approaches.

And that’s when, and where, it affects real estate.

Decades ago, for example, Bourbon Street was considered cool. But when corporate hotels and mass tourism made the strip all too plebian and crass in the 1960s, coolness moved on to new spaces, such as lower Decatur Street in the 1970s, and extended in the 1980s and 1990s across Esplanade onto Frenchmen Street. By that time, the surrounding area, along with the blocks around Coliseum Square, became the city’s coolest “new” neighborhoods. Both were rechristened, one with the revived historical moniker “Faubourg Marigny” and the other with a circa-1960s coinage “Lower Garden District.” Property values rose, renovation broke out all over, the areas gentrified, and coolness spread adjacently.

After Katrina, when a wave of youth from places like New York arrived in New Orleans in search of undiscovered bohemian coolness, they found places like Frenchmen (not to mention Bourbon) all too similar to what they had left behind. So they proceeded to push coolness into new spaces, down St. Claude Avenue, across Rampart and beyond. Those areas are now changing as Marigny and the Lower Garden District did previously.

Lovers of Frenchmen Street now openly worry that their street is “becoming like Bourbon Street,” an explicit fear that uncoolness may be knocking at its door. That’s happened before, too.

When Bourbon Street became uncool, and the white middle class moved en masse to Jefferson Parish, a new cool space popped up rather spontaneously (coolness is hard to choreograph) in the heart of Metairie. It was dubbed Fat City, and it peaked in the late 1970s with more than 70 nighttime drinking, eating, music and entertainment venues.

But in the 1990s, downtown New Orleans had regained the cool advantage, and Fat City soon found itself in a wilderness of uncool, catering to an aging demographic with musical tastes ranging from hair bands to The Yat Pack.

Jefferson Parish authorities hired a consultant from Manhattan to advise them on how to revive the district. His advice: “create a ‘cluster of cool'” in the heart of Fat City, “where you can really make it look and feel different.”

Managers are trying a similar strategy for the cool-challenged French Market. They’ve been running “Hip Scene, Historic Setting” ads in cool magazines like Offbeat, recruiting earthy craft vendors to counter the beads-and-T-shirts stigma, and piping in the very cool sounds of WWOZ into the flea market like intravenous nourishment for the ailing.

Here and elsewhere, coolness has become an urban planning strategy, and planners today wield its trappings the way their predecessors once plied golf courses and gated subdivisions. “Real” cool, meanwhile, has a mind of its own.

The ever-changing geography of cool has brought with it a cycle of neighborhood change, introducing newcomers and new wealth, sometimes displacing natives and poverty, and making the phenomenon of gentrification one of the most polemical topics in town.

Some would argue that developers and a complicit local government instigate the cool-neighborhood-cum-hot-real-estate cycle, and that may well be true in some cases (such as the Warehouse District and newly christened “South Market District”) and in other cities (such as New York). But I would argue that these forces, in most cases in New Orleans, are eagerly responding to the geography of cool, not initiating it.

Much has been written about gentrification, including by yours truly, and debates about its costs and benefits can be found elsewhere. My interest here is to contend that, while coolness is illusory, its effects upon the cityscape are quite real, and thus can be mapped.

Where is the geography of cool?

To address this question, I devised a technique entailing the distribution of hundreds of points digitally throughout a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map of downtown. Each point was then ranked 0 (uncool) through 10 (very cool) reflecting how that neighborhood, bar, restaurant or venue is generally perceived, based on a wide range of observations, readings, conversations and vibes from the zeitgeist. I then processed the ranked points into a “heat map” and color-coded from red (uncool) to yellow to blue (cool) to dark blue (very cool).

Yes, it’s subjective; of course it’s imprecise; but after bouncing the estimates off a number of people, I found that a general consensus prevailed.

The resulting map, which accompanies this article, does not represent my personal opinions of what’s cool or uncool. Rather, it represents my attempt to estimate everyone else’s opinions, as best as I can discern them.

By no means should readers take offense at areas mapped in red which they think ought to be blue (or vice versa); personally, I am a neutral observer of coolness, and find the entire phenomenon quite interesting

Where would you map coolness? Where do you seeing it going next? What impact will it have? For better or worse, the geography of cool may influence the future cityscapes of New Orleans.


Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane University School of Architecture and a Monroe Fellow with the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, is the author of the newly released “Bourbon Street: A History,” as well as “Bienville’s Dilemma,” “Geographies of New Orleans,” “Lincoln in New Orleans,” and other books. He may be reached through richcampanella.com, rcampane@tulane.edu or @nolacampanella on Twitter.


Via NewYorkTimes: Some Who Fled Cuba Are Returning to Help

Some Who Fled Cuba Are Returning to Help

At Atelier, foreigners and Cubans find food and service that had disappeared from Havana for decades. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

HAVANA — The business ideas have ranged from a bikini franchise to a peanut farm, restaurants, and design firms for software and home interiors. But even more novel than the pitches — in a country where entrepreneurship used to be illegal — is the financial muscle behind them: Cuban-Americans whose families lost their previous ventures to Cuba’s Communist government.

“It’s all about people not losing hope and seeing that starting a business is a way to improve their lives,” said Eduardo Mestre, 65, a Wall Street banker who returned to Cuba last year for the first time since 1960 to see the start-up training he helps finance. “Emotionally, it’s very hard not to connect with people who have all this ambition in a place where maintaining hope is very hard to do.”

Many of the first Cubans to leave after Fidel Castro took over are beginning to come back, reuniting with the island they left in bitterness and anger, overcoming decades of heated opposition to its leaders, and partnering with Cubans in direct, new ways.

Some are educating a new crop of Cuban entrepreneurs to take advantage of the recent limited openings for private enterprise in Cuba. Conservative Republican exiles in Miami have also helped finance the renovation of Cuba’s most revered Roman Catholic shrine. Young heirs to the Bacardi family, which fled Cuba after the revolution, leaving behind luxurious homes and a rum business that employed 6,000 people, are sending disaster relief and supporting artists. And Alfonso Fanjul, the Florida sugar baron, recently acknowledged that he had gone back to Cuba twice, meeting with Cuban officials and later declaring that he would consider investing under the “right circumstances.”

It has been a shocking reversal for a community of exiles that has long represented a pillar of support for the American embargo against Cuba. And though the activity is legal through humanitarian or other licensed exceptions to the sanctions, some Cuban-American lawmakers have responded with outrage. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami, called Mr. Fanjul’s trips a betrayal.

“The question is how can we better help the Cuban people free themselves from this regime that has been there for over half a century,” he said. “And the best way to do that is to deny funds to the regime in any way we can.”

But what has emerged in Miami, New York and elsewhere over the past two years, as President Raúl Castro has opened the economy, just a crack, is an alternative approach that emphasizes grass-roots engagement, often through churches, as a tool for giving Cubans skills and independence from the state. Among many Cuban-Americans who now describe themselves as a part of a diaspora, rather than exiles, a new sense of responsibility — to Cubans on the island, not to the property they lost or to fighting the Castros — has gathered strength.

“We think engagement, dialogue and interaction — lowering the barriers — is the best way to develop civil society,” Mr. Mestre said, “but also some of us who feel some respect for the 11 million people stuck there, we just really feel that’s the right thing to do.” He added that he sought a relationship with Cuba, despite the loss of his family’s homes and businesses, including what was once Cuba’s largest television and radio network, because “the loss of our property and wealth is kind of secondary to the feeling about what happened to the country and its people.”

The expanding exchange of people, ideas and money is a result of policy changes over the past few years in Washington and Havana that have opened up travel and giving for Cubans and Cuban-Americans. After decades of being cut off by politics, the airport here is always crammed with Cuban-Americans coming to see family and lugging in gifts, just as it is now more common to see Cuban artists, academics and dissidents in Florida or New York, often mingling with the established Cuban-American elite.

“The broad trend is Cubans’, regardless of their politics or ideology, coming here to visit, live and work, and go back and forth,” said Julia E. Sweig, the director for Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s an organic dynamic in which the elite are participating.”

For many families, the transition from keeping Cuba at a distance to pulling it close has taken time and multigenerational discussion. When Kevin O’Brien and some of his cousins decided a few years ago to take charge of the long-dormant Bacardi Family Foundation, they agreed to focus much of their support on Cuba, returning to a version of an old family custom: Relatives pool money together and distribute it to a chosen cause or person.

Not everyone gives; there are about 500 Bacardis now, and disagreements over the homeland are common, said Mr. O’Brien, the foundation’s president. But since reactivating the foundation in 2012, the Bacardis have raised $28,000 for water filters after Hurricane Sandy and financed efforts to encourage creative expression, with art, photography and music.

Cuban officials seem tolerant, to a point. Eager to improve their weak economy, they welcome the money but fear its power, said one artist supported by the foundation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals. He added that while Cuba’s leaders had become more welcoming — no longer calling exiles gusanos, or worms — they were still distrustful, determined to keep Cuban-American influence from becoming an immediate challenge to the state.

Higueras Martinez, 39, in the kitchen of Atelier. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
For now, experts say that seems unlikely. The organized money going to Cuba, beyond an estimated $2.6 billion in family remittances, mostly from the United States, remains relatively small. A lot of it is still funneled into the Catholic Church, one of the few institutions allowed to play a role in civil society. The Order of Malta provided 800,000 meals for the elderly in Cuba last year with around $250,000 in donations, mostly from Cuban-Americans in Miami. The Cuban police nonetheless interrogated some of the old women being fed.

The Cuba Emprende Foundation, a nonprofit on which Mr. Mestre is a board member, has also struggled to reassure Cuban officials that its founders — a bipartisan mix of exiles long dedicated to engagement and others who only recently embraced the idea — are interested only in incubating small businesses, in line with the government’s stated economic policy. The organization’s official tax forms filed recently with the I.R.S. state that it has disbursed about $225,000 so far, none of it from the United States government.

Board members say that Cuban officials suggest that Cuba Emprende must be part of a covert Washington plot. A Cuban instructor in Havana, who spoke anonymously to protect the program, said the pressure had increased as Cuba Emprende grew; by mid-March, 731 graduates will have completed the 80-hour course, run through the church in an old seminary here and at a rectory in Camaguey.

Cuban-American lawmakers who back the embargo also seem displeased with the increased engagement, even though Cuba Emprende and other groups in Cuba emphasize that their work does not violate the embargo.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Cuban-American Democrat often described by administration officials as Washington’s main impediment to broader changes in Cuba policy, said it was simply ineffective. “I’m not seeing this engagement produce the results they say it would,” he said, adding that “the regime hasn’t become more open,” even as Europeans travel and invest in Cuba, unfettered.

Mr. Mestre contends Mr. Menendez and other embargo supporters in Congress are counterproductive. “With that attitude,” he said, “you’re just hurting the people you’re trying to help.”

Increasingly, many Cubans and Cuban-Americans are building their own ties, reveling in the surprise of a rediscovered connection. “Cubans are Cubans,” said Niuris Higueras Martínez, 39, one of Cuban Emprende’s first graduates, in 2012. “We find ways to work together.”

That bond is now evolving alongside, or within, Mr. Castro’s limited opening to market ideas. Ms. Higueras, a whirlwind who had always dreamed of opening a restaurant, now owns Atelier, one of Havana’s most popular eateries. Cuba Emprende played a major role in making it happen.

“Everything in that course was important,” she said, including how to calculate her books or change her menu for the slow season. She said she also benefited from the sense of a shared mission with her classmates and the accountants and other professionals Cuba Emprende relies on for help in Cuba. “There was just such chemistry,” she said.

Now, in her business and others, there is a demand for more opportunity, more possibility — but also the usual barriers. Cuban law and the American embargo prohibit Cuba Emprende from bankrolling its students’ ideas as it would like to. Without enough capital for bigger ventures, including Ms. Higuera’s dream of a cooking school, some ambitions are just visions.

During the dinner rush at Atelier, however, with foreigners and Cubans enjoying food and service that had disappeared from Havana for decades, Ms. Higueras was more interested in focusing on how far she had come. “If you have 15 employees, you have at least 10 families whose troubles are suddenly resolved,” she said, wiping a few drops of chocolate from the corner of a plate on its way out of the kitchen. “If you open a little, you get a lot.”

via Telegraph: The maps which explain the Ukraine crisis

The maps which explain the Ukraine crisis

As Russia and Ukraine come ever closer to blows over Crimea, we explain, using maps, the issues at stake

10:35AM GMT 04 Mar 2014

Ukranian and Russian Military Balance

Ukraine’s regular army has only 65,000 soldiers, compared with almost 300,000 deployed in Russia’s western and southern military districts, which border Ukraine. Russia also has an established military presence inside the Ukrainian region of Crimea, centred around the Black Sea Fleet base at the port of Sevastopol. These forces have now fanned out across Crimea and seized de facto control of the territory.

EU gas dependency

The three pipelines that carry gas across Ukraine to Poland and Slovakia and on to the EU. Trade sanctions are unpopular among European countries, which are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas. Europe gets 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia. Germany is particularly reluctant to get into a sanctions war since it imports more than a third of its oil and gas from Russia.

Distribution of the population speaking Ukrainian or Russian

Via NBCNews: First Americans May Have Been Stuck in Beringia for Millennia

First Americans May Have Been Stuck in Beringia for Millennia

This map shows the outlines of modern Siberia (left) and Alaska (right) with dashed lines. The broader area in a darker shade of green, which is now covered by ocean, represents the Bering land bridge as it existed about 18,000 years ago.
Anthropologists say that the ancestors of Native Americans started making their way from Siberia to the Americas 25,000 years ago over a land bridge that once spanned the Bering Sea — but there are gaps in that story: Why didn’t those migrants leave behind any archaeological traces until 10,000 years later?

Now scientists are homing in on an explanation: During all those millennia, the first Americans were isolated on the land bridge itself. When the land bridge vanished, so did the evidence of that Beringian culture.

The “Beringian Standstill” hypothesis was first proposed by Latin American geneticists in 1997, as a way to explain the genetic evidence indicating that Native Americans started diverging from Siberians 25,000 years ago. In contrast, the archaeological evidence for the first Americans goes back only 15,000 years, to the end of the ice age known as the Last Glacial Maximum.

In this week’s issue of the journal Science, three researchers report new clues that support the claims for Beringia’s lost world. They say fossilized insects, plants and pollen extracted from Bering Sea sediment cores show that central Beringia was once covered by shrub tundra. That would have made it one of the few regions in the Arctic where wood was available for fuel.

Thousands of Siberian migrants might have found refuge in central Beringia until the climate warmed up enough for glaciers to recede, letting them continue their movement into the Americas, the researchers say. “This work fills in a 10,000-year missing link in the story of the peopling of the New World,” Scott Elias, a geography professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, said in a news release.

A photo of Alaska’s shrub tundra environment today shows birch shrubs in the foreground and spruce trees scattered around Eight Mile Lake in the foothills of the Alaska Range.
In addition to Elias, the authors of “Out of Beringia?” include lead author John Hoffecker and Dennis O’Rourke. For more about the “Beringian Standstill” concept, check out the reports from the University of Utah and the University of Colorado, plus this online animation and PDF presentation. For an alternate explanation of the spread of the first Americans, check out this archived story.

First published February 27th 2014, 1:37 pm

Alan Boyle is the science editor for NBC News Digital. He joined MSNBC.com at its inception in July 1996