This Week in Geographic History, April 24 – 30

Here’s an advance look at some of the “This Day in Geographic History” (TDIGH) events coming up this week. For each date, we’ve matched it with a map or visual, background information, and a classroom activity so you can plan ahead.

Tuesday, April 25

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All living things on Earth contain double-helix shaped molecules called DNA. Artwork by Kirk Moldoff, National Geographic.


By identifying the structure of DNA in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick answered a fundamental question about how cells reproduce.

Map: DNA sequences and human migration

Background: Short video: What are DNA and Genes?

Activity: Learn how DNA samples are helping scientists reconstruct human migration routes.


Wednesday, April 26

TDIGH: Chernobyl Explodes

The 1986 explosion of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the USSR is considered the worst nuclear accident in history.

Map: Chernobyl

Background: Nuclear Energy

Activity: Watch this video about the Chernobyl disaster and its lasting impact.


Thursday, April 27

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Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa from 1994-199, fought to dismantle apartheid. Photograph by Chris Johns, National Geographic.

TDIGH: Mandela Elected President

Four years after being released from prison, Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

Map: South Africa

Background: Mandela freed

Activity: Explore this interactive timeline of Nelson Mandela’s life.


Saturday, April 29

TDIGH: Verdict Sets Off Los Angeles Riots

Deadly riots broke out in L.A. in 1992 after a jury found police officers not guilty in the beating of Rodney King.

Audio: “The L.A. Riots, As A Neighbor Remembers It”

Background: ABC News footage announcing the verdict

Activity: Use the video “America After Ferguson: Learning from Los Angeles” as a starting point for a class discussion.


Sunday, April 30

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A US Army helicopter flies over Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1965. Photograph by W.E. Garrett, National Geographic.

TDIGH: Fall of Saigon

North Vietnamese troops captured the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in 1975, ending the nearly 20-year war.

Map: North and South Vietnam

Background: Timeline of the Vietnam War and The Tet Offensive

Activity: Watch “Vietnam: The End of the War and the Draft” and discuss students’ view of the draft. Ask “How would you feel if you had been drafted?”


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