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February 11, 2004

a windshield tour

Today, I rode with two colleagues up and down the streets of Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Riverdale, Maryland--communities northeast of the District of Columbia. We are planning a high school course for later this spring, in which students will make maps to show features of the local geography that might contribute to healthy or unhealthy living. This is a fairly complex and ambitious project, now involving six graduate students or colleagues from the university, one high school teacher, and a colleague from the Orton Foundation in Vermont. Today we were simply trying to decide what precise areas we should map. The landscape is largely suburban, with strip malls, big highways, and used car lots. There are also patches of older housing on urban grids, and some large apartment complexes. Although the topography is suburban (and sprawl is an issue), the population is stereotypically urban: most people are African American or Latino, with a low-to-moderate income level, and there is a sprinkling of mostly White graduate students and artists. Although I suspect that even most residents would not describe the setting as attractive, there is great cultural diversity. Planning to make maps of an area forces you to recognize the complexity and the wealth of human assets that it contains.

February 11, 2004 8:56 PM | category: a high school civics class | Comments


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