Expanding the Convo

This month’s guest blogger is Emma Martell, Manager of Learning Exploration at Lincoln Park Zoo. Emma joined the GeoConvos team in 2017.

Our facilitator guide is improving, our team has grown, our goals are set… It’s finally time to share GeoConvos with a new audience! Facilitators from programs at Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and Project Exploration gathered for a half-day workshop to learn about GeoConvos before diving into their summer curriculum.

As a team, we’ve learned that GeoConvos are best understood in action, so the facilitators who attended the workshop tested 6 activities before brainstorming ways to integrate them into their programs. We gathered around maps to answer the question “how did you get here?”, created photospheres of zoo exhibits, imagined our futures and much more.



One facilitator shared, “I was surprised how people really did connect to the places they talked about. In turn, these activities did a great job encouraging discussion around identity and place-based meaning.” Throughout the day, facilitators learned more about themselves, each other, and of course GeoConvos.

Digital media

One of my favorite aspects of GeoConvos is that the activities introduce resources that can be used for GeoConvos and other program activities. The facilitators jumped at the chance to integrate digital media into their programs. One participant said the workshop helped him find “ways to incorporate technology into my programs that don’t seem too forced.”

A facilitator shares a 360-degree image on the Lincoln Park Zoo’s giant touchscreen

Check out some of these free resources:  

StoryMapJS can be used to pin pictures or narrative descriptions to specific locations. Explore how youth in the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s TEENS program mapped their journey here.

Did you know you can capture 360 degree photos on your phone or tablet and upload them to Google Street View? It’s easier than you’d think. Find some great examples of student work here.

Field Papers is an excellent tool for any program requiring maps. You can choose the size and location for your map and print as many copies as you need.

Two program facilitators create a photosphere using the Google StreetView App.

In their own words: Facilitators describe GeoConvos

One question keeps recurring throughout all the cycles of this project: what is GeoConvos?  We posed this question to the facilitators after they completed the training. It was exciting to see definitions from an audience coming to the project with new perspectives.

This word cloud combines all of the facilitator definitions and emphasizes an important feature of GeoConvos: that places have the power to connect people.

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Words describing GeoConvos

Each individual’s response highlighted different aspects of the project. Some focused on the personal significance of locations: “GeoConvos is an interactive activity/tool you can use to link people’s stories, backgrounds, experiences, etc. to specific locations in their lives. It’s a bridge between personal connections and specific locations.”

Others mentioned the metacognitive dimensions of the project, calling GeoConvos “A way of reexamining your surroundings and rethinking the significance of where you are and where you’ve been on where you’re going.


So, where is GeoConvos going? After a summer of piloting activities in all three organizations, we’ll be regrouping to share lessons learned and map out future directions.

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