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Mapping the Impact of Air Raids on Japanese Cities

Published onJun 11, 2020
Mapping the Impact of Air Raids on Japanese Cities

Author & Project Role

Author: Chris Saladin, History PhD Candidate and U-Spatial Graduate RA, University of Minnesota

Role: assignment consultant

Assignment URLs


Shared Resources:

Learning Objectives

What did you want students to be able to do by completing this assignment?

  • Identify and describe features of Japanese geography.

  • Use spatial thinking to analyze historical phenomena.

  • Conduct historical research.

  • Demonstrate the potential for collaborative digital projects.

Technology-Dependent Learning Outcomes

Was there anything this assignment taught students that you felt they wouldn't have been able to learn through other types of class assignments?

On a basic level, this assignment familiarized students with the geography of Japan and allowed them to learn about its cities in more detail than a static map quiz would allow. It also demonstrated the power of spatial tools to visualize historical phenomena and the potential scale of a collaborative class project. It met these goals without requiring a long involved project.

Skill Level

What is the course title and level?

  • HIST 3471: Modern Japan, Meiji to the Present

  • Intermediate level

What kinds of prior knowledge is necessary to complete this assignment? How do students gain this knowledge?

Students needed no prior knowledge of the technology but did rely on basic historical and geographic context from the course lectures.

Assignment Description

In this assignment for Dr. Hiromi Mizuno’s course on modern Japanese history, students contributed to a crowd-sourced map of Japanese cities impacted by air raids in WWII. Each student was assigned a specific city, located it on a map, answered related questions about the air raid there, and submitted their responses via the program Survey123 for ArcGIS. A graduate RA then compiled their responses into a series of interactive GIS maps that visualized the different impacts of the air raids. These maps were displayed in a Story Map web application, which students then responded to and discussed in class.

Storymap tab “Introduction”: Text reads, “Towards the end of World War II, Japan’s cities were afflicted with repeated air raids carried out by Allied forces. These raids caused tremendous destruction across the country and cost the lives of many civilians.” Story map shows a historic map showing cities that were bombed next to an interactive version in which users can click to read about each city.

Storymap tab “Cities Impacted”: A gallery images depicting each city attacked next to a map of all Japanese cities that were bombed.

Storymap tab “Population (Before)”: Japanese cities that were bombed are marked by a circle. The circle’s size indicates the city’s population size prior to its bombing.

Time Needed

How much time did you allot to this project?

This assignment took place over a 2 week period and students spent between 1-3 hours researching and writing their submissions. Class time was only used for a 15 minute introduction to the assignment and a 30 minute discussion of the completed Story Map.

Support & Training

What kinds of support or training did you provide to help students learn to use new techniques or specialized tools?

Students were given brief instructions on filling out the survey and locating historical locations.


Did you need any specialized equipment, tools, or human resources to make this assignment feasible? If so, please describe.

This assignment required access to the online programs Survey123 for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Online, and Story Maps, all of which were made available via a university ArcGIS enterprise account. The instructor designed the survey with the help of a graduate RA specializing in GIS, who created all maps in the web application.


How did you assess or grade this project?

Student submissions were graded on the accuracy of locations, quality of question responses, and response to the complete map.

Challenges & Opportunities

If you assigned this project again, would you change anything? If so, what?

We would have the students spend more time with the completed maps and submit a written response that required them to analyze spatial patterns across the mapped cities.

Describe any trouble spots or complications someone else might want to be aware of before trying a similar assignment in a course of their own.

While Survey123 is easy for instructors to work with, it is recommended that someone familiar with GIS build the web maps and Story Map. When designing the survey and sharing its data, instructors must change the settings to share the content publicly. Also, images must be available in a URL format to display in the map. Please see our instructional guide and assignment prompt on for more details.

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