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UW’s Pete Moran and Brother Receive National Award

May 23, 2016
Pete and Mark Moran

A University of Wyoming College of Education professor and his brother, who is a Nebraska high school teacher, teamed up to win “Best Content Article” from a national organization that enhances the quality of geography teaching and learning at all levels of instruction.

UW Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education Associate Professor Pete Moran and his brother, Mark, a Scottsbluff history, government and geography teacher, recently received the award from the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) for “Prelude to Civil War: Exploring Sectional Differences in Antebellum America Through Student-Created Cartograms.”

Through its annual awards program, NCGE recognizes excellence in geography teaching, mentoring, research, instructional design and service. Members include U.S. and international teachers, professors, students, businesses and others who support geographic education.

All award recipients will be honored during the 2016 National Conference on Geography Education July 28-31 in Tampa, Fla.

The Moran brothers completed the project with Mark’s United States history classes. They had students work with primary source data from the 1860 censuses of population, manufacturing and agriculture to explore regional differences between the North and South before the start of the Civil War.

Students used the census data to create cartograms -- a type of data map that accentuates differences between regions by changing the scale of the map. Most maps are scaled according to land area, but a cartogram is scaled according to a different element, such as the amount of iron produced in each state.

“If a cartogram focused on iron production, those states that produce the most iron are drawn the largest, while states that produce less iron are smaller because the scale of the map has been changed to reflect iron production,” Pete Moran says. Creating a cartogram, he says, is a challenging and valuable exercise in data analysis, spatial organization, problem-solving and creative thinking.

He adds that each student in Mark’s class worked with a different data set from the 1860 census that included iron production, ship building, gunpowder production, miles of railroad, wheat production, shoe and boot production, and horses, among others, and produced a cartogram that captured the differences state-to-state and regionally for their data set.

“Cartograms are particularly effective in illustrating these sectional differences, and students were able to recognize the profound superiority that the North had in terms of industrial and agricultural output just prior to the start of the Civil War,” Pete Moran says. “Essentially, from the cartograms, it is quite clear that the Union armies were going to have substantial material advantages at the start of the war.”

To view the project, visit the UW Libraries website at

In his 14th year at UW, Pete Moran teaches undergraduate courses in elementary humanities/social studies methods; art in the elementary school level; and supervises student teachers. He also teaches graduate courses in curriculum studies and the history of education in America.

He earned his bachelor’s degrees in history and elementary education (1987), both from UW; and his master’s and doctoral degrees (1993 and 2000), both from Kansas State University.

Mark Moran also is a UW graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies education (1987).

For more information about the NCGE award program and application process, visit For additional information, visit the organization’s website at

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