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Wyoming Geographic Alliance

University of Wyoming | Department of Geography

Spring 2011 Newsletter

Wyoming Geographic Alliance Spring 2011 Steering Committee Meeting a Success


A total of fourteen WGA steering committee members joined together on a rainy Saturday in Casper for a day discussing the progress of the alliance.  The WGA Strategic Plan was the hot topic of the meeting with Boulder-based strategic planner, Will Murray, leading morning discussions on the final draft of the plan.  Members of the steering committee were highly involved in discussions on topics such as making the case for geography, solidifying WGA’s core values, to deciding on the long range visions of WGA, and editing WGA’s final strategic goals and objectives.  Some interesting comments were made on making the case for geography or in other words ‘why is geography essential?’  Some answers included:       

  • Geography drives history and history drives geography
  • Geography encompasses all subjects
  • Geography creates an interconnection between all subjects in the world
  • Wyoming students should understand why the majority of world pop. lives in urban areas
  • Geography and Social Studies help create critical thinking and reflection skills
  • Geography creates global and resource awareness
  • Geography is essential to surviving in a global society, otherwise “your world is flat”

When it came to discussing the goals and objectives of the strategic plan some insightful comments were made and the proper edits were applied to the document.  Goal number two of the strategic plan, “Train at least one teacher consultant in 50% of school districts, increasing the proportion to 80% in five years,” sparked comments from Will Murray.  Murray asked what are the benefits and obstacles to current or potential Teacher Consultants?  It was agreed among the group that the benefits of being a WGA Teacher Consultant should be highlighted.   Dr. Ron Beiswenger mentioned that in the past, WGA Teacher Consultants were the heart of the organization and that WGA should focus on reinvigorating that group of leaders.  It was also mentioned that the recruitment of Teacher Consultants should not be limited to social studies and geography teachers, and that teachers from art, science, and math should also be considered.

Financial planning was also discussed with a brainstorming session deciphering where potential future funding for WGA may be generated.  To finish up the overview of the strategic plan, Will Murray asked, “So what will be the ‘Big Idea’ of this all?”  Some responses included:

  • To make education “FUN” again and to ignite curiosity
  • To help make the connection that Wyoming influences and is influenced by the rest of the world
  • To convince education leaders that geography education is valuable
  • To promote more teacher training in geography
  • To promote exploration of the world
  • To convince education leaders that geography is essential to surviving in a global society

The afternoon session dealt with various odds and ends of WGA’s ongoing work.  Updates were provided from primarily Coordinator Judy Kallal and Graduate Assistant Nadia Kaliszewski regarding the WGA ‘Friend of Geography’ Award which was presented to General Ed Wright in late March, the upcoming Energy Institute for Teachers June 26-July 1, 2011 at the University of Wyoming, restaurant placemat funding progress, the fall bookmark contest for Geography Awareness Week, and legislative lobbying successes.

The WGA Strategic Plan will undergo the various edits discussed during this meeting and will be up for a vote of adoption during the fall Steering Committee meeting.   The Wyoming Geographic Alliance is making great progress in reestablishing itself in Wyoming and feedback from National Geographic has been very positive.  We thank all those in attendance at the spring 2011 Steering Committee meeting.

First Two WGA ‘Friend of Geography’ Education Awards Presented

Friends of Geography

Approximately two years ago, Judy Kallal sent Major General Ed Wright a memo requesting funding for the National Geographic Giant Traveling Map of Asia.  She had been the Wyoming Geographic Alliance Coordinator for National Geographic officially since January 2009.  The Wyoming Alliance was in a “reinvigorating” phase after several year of being relatively inactive.  The National Geographic Giant Traveling Map of Asia was key to reinvigorating the alliance and a positive way to educate Wyoming teachers and students about Wyoming’s ties to Asia with the Wyoming National Guard.  General Wright agreed.

General Wright called a meeting with members of the Guard—The Yellow Ribbon program represented by CPT Jeremy Sparks (he was associated with rodeo bulls more than the Guard, since he is also a bull fighter) and the Family support Program represented by Robin Gorsuch and Bill Breckenridge.  Most importantly, General Wright assigned Tim Fisher, now retired, to help with the Giant Traveling Map.  Tim even took the Giant map to Casper when it left Cheyenne after it was at the Laramie County School District #1 auditorium and St. Mary’s where his son went to school.  Other Guard members were involved with the first meeting that General Wright assembled—everyone was supportive of the Giant Traveling Map and felt that it met the mission of the Wyoming National Guard, and when General Wright gave the directive that the Wyoming National Guard would support the map…the deal was sealed.  And, truly the Giant Map of Asia helped to reinvigorate the Wyoming Geographic Alliance. 

The first year went well, the Map visited over 16 school districts and numerous schools in each district.  The Wyoming Guard supported the Giant Map of Asia again during the first semester of the 2010-11 school year.  CSM Kent Franklin was given the responsibility of helping the WGA with the Giant Traveling Map.  He even suffered a wound while helping.  This time the map was even larger than the one from the year before. He and Bill recommended that we take it out of its travel tube—which is what inflicted the wound on Sgt. Franklin.  That was great advice.   From October 4th through December 17th, the extra-sized Giant Traveling Map visited 12 more school districts including the University of Wyoming for Geography Awareness Week in November.  The Wyoming National Guard and the Giant Traveling Map of Asia put the Wyoming Geographic Alliance and Geography back on the map of Wyoming and let Wyoming teachers know that the Wyoming Geographic Alliance was again active in the state.

Dr. Jerry Webster, UW’s Geography Department Chair and member of the WGA’s Executive Board thanks the Guard for their support of Geography Education in Wyoming.  As he said, “the WGA is the only National Geographic State Alliance that hosts the Giant Maps for a full school year—without the Guard’s support WGA would not be able to accomplish that.”

Dick Kean, retired LCSD #1 teacher and currently WHD State Coordinator and a Senior Consultant for Center for Civic Education and a member of the WGA Steering Committee, presented the first WGA Friend of Geography Education award to General Ed Wright.  Then Don Morris, retired LCSD #1 teacher and LCCC instructor and member of the WGA Executive Board, presented the second WGA Friend of Geographic Education Award to the Wyoming National Guard to Major General Luke Reiner, the new Adjutant General of the Wyoming National Guard.  Tom Collins from the Wyoming State Department of Education and member of the WGA Steering Committee and Strategic Planning Team presented the Eighth Edition of the National Geographic World Atlas to both Major General Ed Wright and Major General Luke Reiner.

The ceremony was concluded with comments from Major General Wright.  He told the audience that he collects old photos of people going to war as far back as the Civil War.  He said that he was going to donate all of them to the Wyoming National Guard Museum and the only photo he was keeping was of the three Guard children praying for their dad in Iraq.  The framed photo was given to him by Judy Kallal who took the photo.  WGA has booked the Giant Map of North America for travels around the state during the fall 2011 semester and is excited to continue to build the program.

WGA Partners with University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources for Summer Energy Institute for Wyoming Teachers, June 26-July 1, 2011

Geography prepares students to understand the complexities of environmental and societal issues.  Geographic literacy as it pertains to energy extraction and energy dependence is crucial to decision- makers mapping the future of the state of Wyoming, the United States and the world.  

This geographic literacy is also central to the ability of American decision-makers to maintain the country’s political and economic leadership in a world of complex cultural and environmental relationships.  Energy education plays an important role in these decisions and that is why WGA and the School of Energy Resources have joined forces to offer a summer institute focused on the geography of Wyoming energy resources and how teachers can incorporate the topic of energy into their classrooms.


The institute will include discussions relating energy to the Wyoming Social Studies Standards, provide presentations on a range of Wyoming energy resources, provide a field trip to energy developments, and present focused workshops on lesson plan creation.  Teachers will be given time to develop and present a final lesson plan appropriate for their grade level utilizing the large floor map of Wyoming as it relates to energy in Wyoming.  The lesson plans will be posted on the WGA website.

Teachers may receive three Continuing Education credits from the State Department of Education or may chose to receive three graduate credit hours for the forty-five contact hours in the five day Energy Institute.  Participating teachers will return to their districts as WGA Teacher Consultants and conduct workshops for their district teachers. Thus, WGA will be confident that the benefits of the institute will be shared with other teachers and students across Wyoming.  If this pilot institute is successful, it may be offered to other Wyoming school districts in future summer institutes.

Wind Mill

For more information about the Energy Institute for Teachers or to inquire about attending the workshop contact Nadia Kaliszewski at

Dr. Gerald Webster’s Remarkable Commitment to Geography Education Spans Decades

Dr. Gerald Webster

Dr. Gerald Webster is currently the Chair of the Geography Department at the University of Wyoming and plays an active role in the National Council of Geographic Education (NCGE), the Institute for Global Affairs, and the Wyoming Geographic Alliance to name a few.  

Dr. Webster was instrumental in laying the foundation for what would become the Wyoming Geographic Alliance alongside Dr. Bill Gribb and Dr. Ron Beiswenger in the late eighties.  Upon his return to Wyoming, Dr. Webster became a member of the Wyoming Geographic Alliance’s Steering Committee and enjoys being involved with the organization as much as time allows.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of Dr. Webster’s commitment to the advancement of geographic education is in the time he has pledged to the National Council of Geographic Education (NCGE).  The NCGE is one of the oldest and most well-respected academic organizations promoting geography education worldwide.  Dr. Webster’s dedication to the promotion of geography education is evident in the more than twenty research presentations he has given at NCGE conferences throughout the past twenty-five years.  Since 1992, Dr. Webster has published eight scholarly articles in the National Council of Geographic Education’s Journal of Geography with titles such as, “Representation, Geographic Districting, and Social Justice,” (2004) and “Globalization and the Balkanization of States: The Myth of American Exceptionalism”(2002).  In 2001, Dr. Webster was awarded one of NCGE’s most highly esteemed honors, the Distinguished Teaching Award.  The Distinguished Teaching Award is given to university-level educators who have demonstrated a significant contribution to the advancement of geography education.    

When asked what he sees in the future of geography education he responds with the following:

Over the past quarter century, geographic education has become a speciality in higher education and that bodes well for its future.  I believe geographic education should be seamless from grade school through graduate school, and the reentry of university faculty to "the cause" is promising.  In part as a result, there will be many university faculty in Portland for the NCGE meeting including those participating in some political geography sessions I am organizing.  Geography faculty at the K-12 and university levels don't interact enough - I suspect both groups could learn a lot from one another.  One of the reasons I go to the NCGE meeting every year are to see the enthusiasm of K-12 teacher - it is very encouraging.

Today, Dr. Webster sits on the Editorial Board for both the Journal of Geography and Political Geography taking on paper refereeing and reviewing responsibilities. When not conducting research, promoting geography education, or giving thought-provoking lectures (that lead to after-hour debates), Dr. Webster enjoys watching old westerns, reading good books, and sitting back in a lawn chair fishing lazily for trout.

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