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Showcase February 2014: The People's Guide to Spatial Thinking

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Announcing the publication of

The People’s Guide to Spatial Thinking

Diana Stuart Sinton, with Sarah Bednarz, Phil Gersmehl, Robert Kolvoord, and David Uttal

2013, Washington, DC: National Council for Geographic Education

book coverOne of SILC’s goals is to build a larger community of researchers, educators, and informed citizens who understand the importance of spatial thinking. Until now, that goal has been hampered by the lack of an accessible guide to understanding what spatial thinking is and why it is important. This small but very informative is a major step forward, because it explains many aspects of spatial thinking in clear, concise, and very interesting way.

The lead author of the book is Diana Stuart Sinton, a geographer and educator who has devoted her professional life to increasing public awareness of the importance of spatial thinking in education and everyday life. SILC members David Uttal and Robert Kolvoord also joined Sinton as authors.

The book opens with a short chapter that defines spatial thinking and the range of situations in which it is used, ranging from navigation to scientific discovery. The first major section of the book deals with spatial thinking across a variety of different spaces or geographies. The first is the geography of life spaces. They note that many aspects of our lives have a spatial component. Whether we are navigating in a forest or setting a table for dinner, we are thinking spatially. The chapter realizes its goal of showing the ubiquity of spatial thinking.

In the next few chapters, the authors consider thinking about several other geographies and spaces. These include physical spaces, such as the components of a bridge or the causes of a lunar eclipse, and social spaces, such groups forming on a playground. The final geography is that of intellectual space, including charts, graphs, and relational reasoning. In discussing each of these geographies, Sinton and her co-authors highlight the importance of spatial thinking across a variety of contexts, tasks, and goals. These chapters may prompt a moment of insight, in which readers realize how space and spatial thinking connect many seemingly diverse aspects of human experience.

In the next section of the book, Sinton and her co-authors consider the process of spatial thinking, now focusing more on the psychological aspects of this topic. They consider different kinds of mental representations and spatial processes, and how these are used to support thinking in the different geographies discussed above. They also consider how spatial thinking is used in reasoning and in the process of discovery and creativity. The book ends with specific suggestions for educators, and endorses the move toward emphasizing spatial thinking across the STEM curriculum that SILC also supports. It is a very welcome addition to the literature on spatial thinking and education.

Sinton author picture

Bumper Sticker Contest

By the way, Sinton and her co-authors are hosting a contest for the best spatial thinking bumper sticker. Some possibilities are “Spatial thinking—the why of where” and “Spatial thinking—thinking outside the box”. If you have suggestions, please send them to David Uttal:

duttal [at] northwestern [dot] edu

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