This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.

Using travel photos to help introduce ideas and link to cultural stories

Matthew d'Alessio
Topic: Varied (Example below is about climate change)
Course Type:intro


This idea note is a reminder to faculty to encourage them to utilize photos and pictures of their own travels when introducing relevant geoscience concepts. I don't share photos of my family often, but students seem to really enjoy seeing these brief glimpses into my life. ("Did you take that?" or "Is that you?" are common questions that students ask with enthusiasm).

In my own class, I assign a brief exercise plotting the date cherry blossoms bloom each year as a proxy for climate change (see link below). I traveled to Japan during cherry blossom season and have several pictures that include me and my wife together enjoying the cherry blossoms. I begin by showing the photos and talking about the importance of cherry blossoms to the Japanese culture, as the cherry blossoms represent newness and the coming of spring. It gives me an opportunity to share a few brief stories about Japanese culture. I show pictures of "hanami matsuri" (flower watching festivals) with Japanese people having picnics and parties. The photos allow me to highlight the importance of cherry blossoms to the Japanese people. I also emphasize the fact that these cherry blossoms are islands of natural beauty in the middle of very dense urban city of Tokyo, which makes them even more special. Urban students seem to relate to this idea well. After this introduction, it's less surprising for students to hear that the Japanese people have been recording bloom dates for over 1000 years. The flowers don't bloom at the same time every year. Why not? Then we begin the activity.

Professors could also make requests for students to send travel photos about certain areas. ("Has anyone ever visited the cherry blossoms in Japan or Washington DC? Email me a photo and I'll give extra credit if I use it in my lecture.") This could create a greater sense of ownership among students to the lesson material.


  • Provide the opportunity to link to cultural traditions and world cultural events
  • Humanize geoscience faculty
  • Present geoscience as a career that offers travel as a perk



Blooming Thermometers: