Friday, April 29, 2011

Curriculum Resource: Dimensions

Dimensions is a great web resource that I've discovered lately.  It is a website developed by the BBS that helps us actually visualize the size of events or sites in recent (the Twin Towers that were destroyed by terrorists), modern (the Gulf Oil Spill or the Exxon Valdez Spill), historic (the blast radius of a World War II bomb), or Ancient (the length of the Great Wall of China or the destructive range of Mount Vesuvius) by superimposing the distance over modern maps.  Even better, it allows you to put your zip code in the epicenter of these events.

This allows you to present the information to your children/students in a way that is extremely personal.  So, for example, when I was teaching about the Civil War, I could tell my students that the average size of a 19th Century slave plantation in Alabama was about 1,000 acres.  But do they know what that means?  I doubt it, since I don't know what that means (I'm not great at distances, so some of them may have been better than I am).  But with this website, I can tell them that the average slave plantation stretched from close to the intersection of High House Road and Chatham Street to Coronado Village off of Walnut Street on one side, and from almost Cary Elementary School to Wake Med Hospital in Cary along the other dimension.  THAT, I think, will mean something to them.


  1. You know I am not a believer in anything, but this totally freaked me out, apparently based on superstitions of some sort. I know I'd get in big trouble if I tried to teach a lesson like this in Russia. I applaud the visualization idea, but I find the concept extremely disturbing. I remember grown-ups very sternly telling me as a kid to never show, for example, where someone in the movie was wounded, on my own body. Heh, who knew I had these ideas so deeply ingrained.

  2. Gosh, sorry about that. But thank for sharing, because that is a great lesson about how hard it is to develop things on the web with the assumption that you will be having an international audience. There are things that you would never think of being a problem, since they aren't even a consideration in your culture, that can be scary or offensive or such in another one.