Geography 2050

November 17, 2016 · Columbia University, NYC

Join the American Geographical Society for a ‘Mapathon’, an OpenStreetMap (OSM) training event. As part of the Geography 2050 conference, you’ll learn how to contribute to the map, focusing on marginally mapped communities across the United States. Given the theme of the 2016 AGS Fall Symposium, Envisioning a Sustainable Planet, gateway communities around U.S. National Parks have been selected as the target areas. Please bring your laptop, mouse and your open mapping curiosity to join the mapping!

OSM Mapathon

What is OpenStreetMap?

OpenStreetMap is the free and open web map of the world. Anyone can edit OpenStreetMap and it supports a level of granularity not common to maps produced by official agencies. Because of that, OpenStreetMap is an ideal platform for teaching the fundamentals of geography, such as place, space, and location.

Why would you teach OSM in the Classroom?

Mapping has applicability across many fields and communities of interest. Students of Public Policy, Public Health, International Affairs and Sociology, to name but a few, can use mapping to document, archive, plan and contribute to both local and international initiatives. The openness and flexibility of the OpenStreetMap platform make it especially well-suited for incorporating spatial learning in virtually any academic discipline or subject area.

How can maps help community visibility?

OSM has also become a popular avenue for marginalized communities to literally “put themselves on the map”. One excellent example is the Map Kibera initiative, a community project (using OSM) to map one of Africa’s largest slums, home to more than half a million people, in Nairobi, Kenya. Its street and building infrastructure (most of it informal and unplanned) cannot be found on any official maps, nor the other major mapping platforms (including Google Maps).Visibility is an important step toward recognition for communities like Kibera, but perhaps more importantly, an open mapping platform allows the community to direct planning processes and social organization. There are many communities in the USA that are not represented in the OSM platform, and are considered marginalized in their own country.


Geospatial experience
Students gain direct experience of space, place, location, and navigation.
Students experience Geography at a 1:1 scale. Nothing beats a street survey on foot, as the terrain is literally the map. Students learn through interacting with the landscape.
Academic & career options
Mapping and Geography provides meaningful engagement for students of all ages that can broaden academic & career options. Students learn about mapping technology, about modeling their world, and representing the world cartographically.
History and geography
History-shaping events often happen at certain places for reasons of geography, which are often revealed during an active mapping project.
Contributing to OSM, through site surveys, editing, and meeting other mappers helps form a sense of place. Through mapping, we establish positive relationships with other citizens in the community.
Mapping on OpenStreetMap provides opportunities to engage in ongoing community service projects and service learning engagements. Individuals can contribute to humanitarian relief efforts through Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), the US State Department’s MapGive initiative, and the MissingMaps project.



GeoBadges is a project convened by the American Geographical Society that aims to help teachers across the United States leverage the power of project-based mapping activities to drive student learning. This initiative enables individuals to work together to advance their geography awareness by engaging in practical, real world projects and skill building.The project allows for the recognition of work performed, such as part taking in a mapathon, helping to map disaster areas, skills in geography related software.

Watch Geobadges video
Go to Geobadges website
AGS Junior Service Fellow

Any high school students who have taken the AP Human Geography course, scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on the exam are eligible to become an American Geographical Society Junior Service Fellow. These students have chosen to master collegiate level human geography while still in high school, where they have learned the core geographical concepts that serve as the foundation for a lifetime of geographical learning, public service, and professional success.

Watch AGS JSF video
Learn more about AGS JSF


What is TeachOSM?

TeachOSM is an online resource to assist educators at all levels to establish and sustain open source mapping projects using the OpenStreetMap platform for learning. Individual instructors are encouraged to make use of the instructional materials provided here to develop assignments for their particular discipline and curricular needs. This site provides the resources help instructors identify, assign, manage and grade a mapping assignment. This site also includes training documentation for both the instructor and students.

What is Map4America?

Map4america is a new program between TeachOSM and the US Census Bureau to engage student geographers in mapping marginalized places across the US, particularly areas with hard-to-enumerate populations. In doing so, the project aims educate a new generation of citizen scientists, and reward student mappers with service learning credit for demonstrated proficiency in mapping techniques. This project is designed to meet the growing demand for meaningful, low-cost project-based learning opportunities in digital geography, as well as improve geo-data in areas of the country where quality is hard-to-maintain, both for OSM and the US Census Bureau.

Global Applications of OSM

There are several excellent examples of how OSM is used for community awareness, and programming, especially in the case of humanitarian and development organizations. Please visit some of these projects to get a sense of how OSM is used globally:


Nuala Cowan

Assistant Professor of Geography

George Washington University

Director, Graduate Certificate in GIS

TeachOSM Co-Founder

Steven Johnson

GeomanticLabs, LLC

Adjunct Professor of Geography

George Washington University

TeachOSM Co-Founder

Richard Hinton

Spatial Analysis Lab Manager

Adjunct Professor of Geography

George Washington University

TeachOSM Co-Founder

Today's Mapping Tasks

The tasks that we will work on during this training session are scattered all over the USA (and one crossed the Mexican border). All represent communities that are either socially, or environmentally vulnerable, and in three specific cases, are communities at the gateways to National parks and forests. We will all start together on Task 1, then branch out to our preferred tasks for the later part of the training session.

    • Task 1

    • Nogales, AZ, USA &
      Nogales, Sonora, Mexico
      Gateway to the Coronado National Forest

    • Launch Task #1
    • Task 2

    • Cherokee, North Carolina
      Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain
      National Park

    • Launch Task #2
    • Task 3

    • Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
      Buffalo Gap National Grassland/Badlands National Park

    • Launch Task #3
    • Task 4

    • Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana
      Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw Community

    • Launch Task #4



8:00 - 8:30

Registration & Breakfast

8:30 - 8:40


Dr. John Konarski III, Chief Executive Director, American Geographical Society
8:40 - 8:50


Mr. Andrew Dearing, Chief Executive Officer, Boundless
8:50 - 9:30

Mapathon Tutorial

Led by:
Dr. Nuala Cowan, TeachOSM Co-founder
Mr. Richard Hinton, TeachOSM Co-founder
Mr. Steven Johnson, TeachOSM Co-founder
9:30 - 10:30

Session 1 Mapping

10:30 - 10:45

Welcome to AGS

Dr. Christopher K. Tucker, Chair, American Geographical Society
Dr. Marie Price, President, American Geographical Society
10:45 - 11:00


11:00 - 12:00

Session 2 Mapping

12:00 - 12:45


Venue and Contact info


The Mapathon will be held in the Roone Arledge Auditorium in Lerner Hall (2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027) at Columbia University. Participants should enter though the Broadway entrance and go to the Registration Desk and ask for Ms. Ana Tom, Manager of Communications and Outreach.

Phone number

(916) 745-8354


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