This Week in Geographic History: April 23-29

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 lesson plan so you can plan ahead.

Check out our Pinterest board for more resources!

Monday, April 23

The Boston Latin School, established in 1635, was the first school in what is now the United States. Although it has changed locations, the public school is still operating today.
Illustration by Ebenezer Thayer, courtesy Wikimedia

TDIGH 1635: First Public School in America

Puritans in Massachusetts founded the first public school in what would become the U.S.—and it’s still operating today.

Map: How much does your district spend per student? Delve into this remarkable map to navigate public school funding in the United States.

Context: Learn more about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the debate surrounding “school choice.”

Activity: Review this simple ProCon framework on the debate surrounding school vouchers, and use the footnotes to have students investigate the issue further. Then hold a class debate on the topic.


Tuesday, April 24

The so-called Mykonos Vase, discovered in 1960 on the Greek island of Mykonos, is the earliest depiction of the Trojan Horse. The vase dates from about 670 BCE, while the idea of the Trojan Horse is about 500 years older.
Photograph by Travelling Runes, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-2.0

TDIGH 1184 BCE: Fall of Troy

Beware Greeks bearing gifts: The decade-long Trojan War ended when Greek soldiers invaded the walled city of Troy hidden in an honorary offering of a giant wooden horse.

Map: Where was Troy? Put the Troy, Greece, and the Mediterranean in context with our interactive map of the Travels of Odysseus.

Context: Was the Trojan War fact or fiction? Does it matter? Read accounts of the wooden horse in the Odyssey and the Aeneid, then reflect on the story with this introduction by Nat Geo scholar Eric Cline.

Activity: Use this lesson plan to introduce students to the question of “Fantasy or History?” in relation to the Trojan War. 


Wednesday, April 25

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


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

Map: Use this map to trace how DNA helps scientists navigate ancient human migration patterns.

Background: Watch this short video: What are DNA and Genes?

Activity: Use our activity to help students brainstorm human traits that are inherited from one generation to the next, and how this information allows scientists to reconstruct early human migration routes.


Thursday, April 26

Map by National Geographic

TDIGH 1986: Chernobyl Explodes

The explosion of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine) is considered the worst nuclear accident in history.

Map: Download these maps to trace radioactive contamination stretching through Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.

Background: What is nuclear energy? Read through our resource to learn what the Chernobyl power plant was doing.

Activity: Watch this video and use the worksheets to help students learn more about the Chernobyl disaster and its lasting impact.


Friday, April 27

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

TDIGH 1994: Mandela Elected President

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

Map: Look at this map of South Africa, and dig deeper with this map-based analysis of how race and language influence elections there.

Background: “My installation as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of South Africa was imposed on me much against my advice.” Scroll through this lovely history of the presidency of Nelson Mandela.

Activity: Use these lesson plans to follow Mandela’s life from rebel to prisoner to statesman.


Sunday, April 29

TDIGH 1992: Verdict Sets Off Los Angeles Riots

Riots or uprising? Deadly conflict broke out in Los Angeles after a jury found police officers not guilty in the beating of motorist Rodney King.

Map: Use this interactive map to navigate the impacts of the conflict.

Background: Follow this timeline of the riots and their impact 25 years later.

Activity: Use the video and lesson plans “America After Ferguson: Learning from Los Angeles” as a starting point for class discussion and projects realted to resistance to racial bias in law enforcement.

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