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Atlas of New York and the Erie Canal - Moving Toward Completion

August 26, 2011
Timothy McDonnell


One of the most important projects the New York Geographic Alliance is sponsoring is a publication of the Atlas of New York and the Erie Canal. A few years ago, thirty-two pages of  maps and charts about New York were created by Phil and Carol Gersmehl and the staff of the Center for Geographic Learning at Hunter College (NYC). There are maps on physical and human characteristics of New York. They have been designed to stimulate geographic lessons, not just as a reference book to sit on a classroom shelf.

Keeping this in mind, a group of New York Geographic Alliance members came to Monroe Community College in Rochester on August 24, 2011 to review the map resources and to develop activities that relate to all maps in the Atlas. Phil Gersmehl showed the participants a PowerPoint, and all the maps were discussed thoroughly. Ideas were generated for possible one-page lessons to complement the Atlas. An example is shown below. The map on the left shows the position of glaciers near the end of the last Ice Age. The one of the right shows major waterways and the Erie Canal's 19th century route.


The big question is how are these maps related? For example, where did the water from the melting glaciers go? How did that impact the depths of the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys? Why did this make the construction of the Erie Canal practical in the early 1800s? Does this help us understand why the Hudson River is an estuary at sea level today from Albany to New York City?

NYGA Teacher-Leaders Carol Gersmehl, Jennifer Markham, Delores Coleman, Tim McDonnell, Therese Torchon, Deborah Hamza, and Mary Duffin are all currently working on activities for the Atlas Project. We could definitely use help! If you are interested, contact Tim McDonnell. He will send you the PowerPoint with the maps and ideas for lessons that are needed. Stipends will be paid for completed activities. Our goal is to have a review copy of the Atlas of New York and the Erie Canal with lessons/activities and other resources (photos of New York State, clickable pdf maps, etc.) available early in 2012.