Design Challenge 2022: K-5 Geography Curriculum Development

by Chelsea Nestel (Geography graduate student) & Tanya Andersen (creative director, Cartography Lab)

Maps! Graphics! Visualizations! Design Challenge!

Each year, the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab invites geography students to spend a Saturday partnering with a community organization or geography faculty to create visualizations supporting applied work. The Design Challenge brings together stakeholders and students for a day-long event of creativity, collaboration and problem-solving. Past products from the Design Challenge have been published in peer-reviewed research papers and led to new angles on existing research.  

On Saturday, February 12th, twenty-one students gathered in person and virtually for the 2022 Design Challenge. While enjoying a breakfast buffet in the Old Geography Library, students learned about the initiative from the UW Cartography Lab (UWCL) and the UW Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring (CTLM) to develop Wisconsin K-5 cartography education standards. These standards are the first dedicated cartography standards in the US. They are a critical opportunity to put the Wisconsin Idea in action and expand the next generation of geographers and cartographers. 

The Challenge!

Participants designed cartography lesson plans for the new cartography K-5 educational standards. These lesson plans addressed five learning outcomes that shape the planned cartography curriculum. 

The design context was critical for a successful lesson plan. Lesson plans had to meet the following criteria:

1. Support learning outcomes,
2. Accessible without cartography training,
3. Fit classroom needs.

Volunteer subject matter experts from CTLM and the UW-School of Education worked closely with participants to share their knowledge of the classroom setting, providing real-time design feedback. The close collaboration between classroom experts and participants resulted in lesson plans reflecting K-5 student and teacher needs.  At the end of the day, students presented their lesson plans while enjoying Chipotle burritos and a smorgasbord of novelty desserts. Completed lesson plans will be credited and revised for inclusion in the K-5 cartography curriculum.  The 2022 Design Challenge will serve as a model for future curriculum development events, including a planned workshop at the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) meeting in Fall 2022. 

Join us!

Passionate about the future of Geography education? Collaborate with us! Contact Cartography Curriculum Development project lead Chelsea Nestel at for updates and information on how to get involved. 

Shout outs!

Tanya and Chelsea would like to thank the Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring for their support of Design Challenge 2022. We want to thank our design challenge day volunteer subject matter experts: Dr. Margene Anderson, Julie Collins and Lisa Jong at CTLM, School of Education Curriculum and Education master’s students Raina Eddy, Amber Melin, and Anna Vodenlich, our zoom experts Lois Buckingham and Eleanor Buckingham, and cartography experts UW Cartography Professor Dr. Robert Roth and UW Cartographer in Residence Daniel Huffman.

And our participants! Gareth Baldrica-Franklin, Anna Beck, Kenz Carlton, Aileen Clark, Adrian George, Atlas Guo, Lily Houtman, Alicia Iverson, Yuhan Ji, Yutong Jiang, Ashley Kuehl, Austin Novak, Jacob Steinberg, Rachel Stowers, and Jane Zheng

A heartfelt thank you to everyone for your support of WI K-5 Geography Education.

Author: iwarner2