Jason Burke, human geography teacher at Abington Heights High School near Scranton, talks gerrymandering. | Image Credit: Linda Breitstein
Patti Belfield (right) ponders gerrymandering along with one of the guests at the DTL mapping party she hosted. | Image Credit: Linda Breitstein

Some were seniors, as in retirees. Some were seniors, as in teens counting down the days until graduation. But both groups proved an engaged and welcoming audience for the Draw the Lines team on a recent swing through Northeast Pennsylvania.

First, a group of Lake Wallenpaupack residents gathered at the Belfield home on a chilly weeknight for a Draw the Lines mapping party.

They munched on sinful desserts concocted by a host Pattianne Belfield and sipped craft beers from the high-quality stores of her husband, Steve.

Steve, who entered a map in last fall's inaugural Draw the Lines,\ competition, joined with Chris Satullo and Linda Breitstein of DTL in guiding the group through the Flashes of Insight exercise and a demo of the District Builder mapping tool.

The participants, engaged and informed citizens all, had heard of gerrymandering, of course, but had never had its ins and outs and negative impact spelled out for them in quite the same way before.

"I'm all fired up now," one woman said as she put on her coat at the evening's end.  "You've got my Irish up.  I'm going to do something about this."

The next morning, Breitstein and Satullo were at Abington Heights High School north of Scranton to talk to five Human Geography classes taught by Jason Burke.   Burke had taken a group of his students to the state capital last fall to attend a georgraphic information systems conference at Harrisburg Area Community College.  There, they heard a presentation on DTL that piqued their interest, leading to Burke's invitation to visit the school.

The veteran teacher had already had his students study gerrymandering, using Draw the Lines resources and activities.  After a discussion of how the issues students in the classes cared about are affected by gerrymandering, Breitstein and Satullo led the class through a tutorial in the District Builder mapping tool.

The kids needed the guided tour, because their teacher expects every one of them to finish and enter a map by the May 31 deadline, either as invididuals or part of a team.

Burke said mapping is an excellent challenge to hold his students' history, given that they'd just taken the Advanced Placement test in the topic and were looking ahead to prom and the end of the school year.

For more on how you can host a Draw the Lines mapping party, see our rundown on the Participate page.