I’ve written here before about my serendipitous journey to geography.  I neglected to add the dedicated training my map-loving mother gave me.  Trying to occupy her two children on long road trips, she would open a road map, fold it into a square, find a town, hand us the map and tell us the town name to find thereby gaining for herself many minutes of silence.  I gained an intimate knowledge of the small towns in Texas, an understanding of the connections between them and her love of maps.  

Now, I rely on the GPS on my phone or in my car to help me navigate the strange road layouts and terrible traffic in Northern Virginia.  Still learning those connections between the places here myself, I wonder if my son is building the same spatial thinking skills my mother gave to me especially given my new reliance on GPS and the accessibility of other types of entertainment for him on our long (and short) road trips?  But on the other hand, given the availability of GPS does he even really need to learn how to read maps if a voice will tell him when and in what direction he will need to turn?

Desert Map(with treasure and quicksand) by B, age 6

It turns out that yes, children still need to learn how to read maps.  Spatial thinking is a critical component of their development and growth and can help put them a step ahead in our increasingly global and technological society.  PBS published a nice article about this in January:
http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2016/01/children-still-need-read-draw-maps/.  Additionally the National Geographic Society has many resources to help teach about geography, data and maps: http://nationalgeographic.org/education/mapping/.  And based on what he likes to draw, I think he is clearly on his way to at least appreciating maps.

The team at HealthLandscape also wants to help you find and show the connections that exist in your communities between social determinants of health, health workforce distribution or use of federally funded health centers.  In addition to the many free webinars we host, the user support team is here to answer your questions.  We have added a new chat feature to our sites so that you can reach us faster, as you are using the maps.  For the first few months (or more depending on your response) we will happily provide you with fun, weekly tasks called Map Missions to find certain things on our, and some external, mapping tools.  Quite the opposite of my mother, I hope handing you these fun tasks will generate conversation,  lead you to search for similar connections in your communities, and help you to discover different data sets and mapping tools that you did not know we had.

To request a weekly Map Mission simply visit a HealthLandscape mapping tool and in the upper right-hand corner click where it says, “Can I Help You?” to start chatting with us to make your request.

Jennifer Rankin
Senior Manager for Research and Product Services

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