This Week in Geographic History, May 8 – 14

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.

Monday, May 8

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General Dwight D. Eisenhower, shown here pointing to a map of Germany, oversaw the U.S. military effort in Europe at the time of Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945. Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart, National Geographic.


The day Nazi Germany surrendered is known as Victory in Europe Day (since WWII did not end until Japan surrendered months later).

Visual: Photo gallery about the fall of Nazi Germany

Background: Interactive timeline: WWII in Europe

Activity: Read this article about the end of WWII in Europe and discuss the “connect to today” question at the end.


Wednesday, May 10

TDIGH: Golden Spike

The completion of the American transcontinental railroad in 1869 boosted westward expansion by cutting travel times from months to days.

Map: U.S. Railroads, 1870-1890

Background: The Oregon Trail

Activity: Explore this interactive map to see how the American West transformed from 1860 to 1890.


Thursday, May 11

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Fragments of ice float at the base of Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park. Glacial melting is an important indicator of climate change. Photograph by Keith Ladzinski, National Geographic.

TDIGH: Glacier National Park Created

In 1910 Glacier National Park in Montana became the tenth national park in the U.S.

Visual: Photo gallery of Glacier National Park

Background: National Park Service Created

Activity: Learn more about glaciers by reading about Antarctica’s “bleeding” glacier.


Sunday, May 14

TDIGH: Jenner’s First Smallpox Vaccination

The vaccine Edward Jenner invented in 1796 helped lead to the eventual eradication of smallpox in 1979.

Map: Global Smallpox Eradication

Context: Smallpox Eradicated

Activity: Read and discuss “Q&A on Measles and Vaccines.”


MM8283 Franz Josef Land Expedition
A polar bear roars from atop an iceberg in Franz Josef Land, Russia. Photograph by Cory Richards, National Geographic.

TDIGH: Polar Bear Listed as “Threatened”

In 2008 polar bears became a threatened species, partially as a result of climate change.

Map: Polar Bear Territory

Background: What is an endangered species? and The Endangered Species Act

Activity: Watch this video about the common ancestry of polar bears and brown bears.

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