Shipping routes map (2012)

This site, Shipmap.org is a site with a fascinating, interactive map showing the routes of cargo ships for the year 2012. It was created by a firm called Klin, ostensibly to try to calculate CO2 emissions of cargo ships over the course of a year. (I would embed it into the post, but WordPress isn’t allowing it.)

By itself, it’s fascinating to watch, but it also can be used in a number of different ways for teaching.

I zoomed into the area around Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, then asked Tabitha to take a look. I didn’t have any labels on, and I asked her what she saw on the screen. “Lake Michigan”, she said as I pointed the mouse to Lake Michigan. I then pointed to Lake Superior and asked her what that was. “Lake Superior”, she said, without hesitating. I then pointed to a couple of places along the edge of the water that had little dots appearing nearby. “And do you know what is here?” She didn’t, but once I pointed to the locations of a couple of places that we’ve been, she got pretty excited about it. Not a long lesson, but kind of cool, especially for an impromptu session. (I did the same thing with Asher, and even at 5, he recognized the shape of Lake Michigan.)

Depending on age and interests, this map could spark all sorts of interesting things. Of course, there’s place location, but one can also see how goods move and where. One thing that was interesting to me was seeing how there are still ships that travel out past the Aleutian islands, probably mainly linking Korea and Japan to the United States. Russian traders first came out that way for things like fishing and trapping, and in the process colonized much of Alaska (including establishing Orthodox churches there), but as one can see now, this has changed dramatically (though those northern routes are still important). I’m sure there are countless stories, if one wants to dig into histories of particular areas.

Also neat to note is that this is a Mercador projection map, which, of course, has its distortions, but also makes obvious which are the circle routes just by the arcs that the ships’ tracks make.

And I’m sure, if one watches long enough, patterns such as seasonality show up as well, not to mention getting into the specifics of the types of goods going where. The developers claim that there are more than 250 million data points that put this map together, and it is a very, very neat thing to take some time to look at.

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Sorry for the silence

Well, an update here – our first year, “unofficially” homeschooling (meaning that even though we were doing it, the kids were too young still to need to register anywhere) was somewhat of a qualified disaster. Somewhere about 2/3 through the school “year”, between one child’s medical issues, and all of them seeming to have taken turns being seriously ill at one point or another, our “plan”, flexible as it was, ended up kind of falling apart.

That being said, it wasn’t as if the year had been lost.

Tabitha is reading and reading well. Had she been in public school, she would have been in kindergarten, and by the summer, she was easily reading things that first and second graders read. She still likes pictures in the books, so hasn’t really reconciled herself to switching to chapter books without pictures, but in the meantime, there are a couple of series (one’s a Disney princess one) that are chapter books with pictures. She’s doing well in math, pretty easily going through the addition flash card deck, and has done some harder stuff both with addition and subtraction. (Not that she’s always happy to do it.) She’s got a good sense about a lot of things.

Asher, while not quite up to Tabitha’s level in reading, is close. He seems to have an astonishing ability to concentrate and pick things up (at least when he’s interested). Math is good too. As we shift into daily stuff with him, we’re going to have to work on things like handwriting (printing) because he sometimes acts like he’s allergic to writing instruments.

I can’t be to sad about that, especially in a district that is rejoicing in “improvements”, citing statistics that still show LESS than 50% of children enrolled at grade level for reading and math. Furthermore, the kids were still learning here, despite the health issues, which probably would have gotten Tabitha, at least, in trouble with some authority for days missed.

As the “school year” rolls around again, the kids will still be at home; our school district is dismal, and we can’t swing private school tuition, but we try as much as possible to keep them learning. 🙂