Lizard Point Quizzes

...discovering the world we live in

Geography dictating history - Russia's curse

Nov 042015

It is a bit of an axiom to state that geography dictates history. Leaders through time immemorial have played the cards that were dealt them in terms of their land's terrain, mountains, rivers and climate. In today's world, with technology essentially shrinking distance, we may be a little inclined to discount the true influence of geography on world matters. The recent Atlantic piece by Tim Marshall entitled, Russia and the Curse of Geography, does an excellent job of underlining its critical importance - notwithstanding technology.

map of Europe showing the European plain in grey

The European plain, shown in dark grey. Source: Wikimedia: user Jeroen


The European Plain, directly to Russia's west, has throughout history been a challenge for Russia. With no significant geographical barriers, this has been the path of many invaders into the motherland. The Poles came across the European Plain in 1605, followed by the Swedes in 1707, the French under Napoleon in 1812, and the Germans twice, in both world wars, in 1914 and 1941. The plains would also explain why Russia has repeatedly invaded Poland - occupying Poland allows for a defence of the plains at their narrowest point (300 miles).

The other key challenge to Russia is access to warm water ports. Without those, Russia is limited to the world's busiest sea-lanes only during warmer weather. Their northern ports are in the Arctic and their major port on the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, is enclosed by the Sea of Japan, and under largely Japanese control.

These two key strategic factors, Russia's vulnerability on land and its lack of access to warm-water ports, came together in Ukraine in 2014. When protests in Ukraine brought down the pro-Russia government and a new, more pro-Western government came to power, Putin did what Russian leaders have done for centuries. He chose his own kind of attack as defense, annexing Crimea to ensure Russia’s access to its only proper warm-water port, and moving to prevent NATO from creeping even closer to Russia’s border.

The article goes on to discuss similar rationale regarding Syria. Click the link for a fascinating read and reminder of the power of geography.

The dawn of a new epoch

Nov 032015


Yes, that does sound a little like hyperbole, but it is actually true. Epochs are subdivisions of Earth's geologic timescale. The progression from one to another is marked by some easily distinguishable, global stratigraphic 'event' such as mass extinction or shift from one climate regime to another. Scientists are currently moving toward the formal declaration of a new epoch - the Anthropocene Epoch.

The event that distinguishes this epoch from the previous (Holocene Epoch) is the arrival of mankind as an agent of change on a global basis. James Syvitski, IGBP Chair, explains this in his 2012 article  "Anthropocene: An epoch of our making" (pdf). His report describes broad changes since the Industrial Revolution spanning dramatic alterations in eco-systems from coastal zones, loss of rain forests, domesticated land, ozone depletion and water use. Syvitski states, "By any unbiased and quantitative measure, humans have affected the surface of the Earth at a magnitude that ice ages have had on our planet, but over a much shorter period of time".

The impacts of these global changes aren't reported in doom and gloom, end of the world terms - in fact the report ends on a hopeful note. Sustainability is simply a goal to be achieved to keep improving human wellbeing. Says Syvitski, "Our strength as humans is the capacity to recognize problems, to understand them and to develop solutions". Let's hope so. At Lizard Point, we're encouraged by the emerging recognition of the degree to which mankind is actually influencing the world we live - and we have faith in new generations of globally aware and sensitive humans.

Here's the  "TedTalk" video on the Anthropocene.

Overheard in the classroom...

Oct 282015

A collection of funny classroom stories from various web sources.

First grader #1: Miss D.*, how old are you?
23-year-old Miss D.: Well…
First grader #2: Shhh! Don’t you know you’re not supposed to ask an old lady how old she is?

— Hauppauge, New York Overheard by: Toni

(We are studying the US state capitals in class, and the teacher is quizzing us on them.)

Teacher: “What is the capital of Connecticut?”
Class: *silence*
Teacher: “Umm… here’s a hint: It’s a shape and a car.”
Student: “Square Lamborghini!”

(It’s really Hartford. We still laugh about that to this day.)


Students were creating a human skeleton using a variety of pastas. They could break them and shape them pretty much any way they needed to in order to complete the skeleton. I noticed something odd on one students skeleton and stupidly decided to ask about it…

Me: "Hey Ashley…why do you have that piece of fettuccine stuck to the pelvis?“
Student: "Well he’s a boy so…it’s a penis.”
Me: "Oh! Uh…well just so you know there isn’t actually a bone…there.“
Student: "Oh my gosh really?! …Wait…then why do they call it a….”
Me: "NO! Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. No more talking.“

I backed away and never questioned another pasta skeleton the rest of the day…


Teacher: What’s daddy’s first name?
Student: Daddy.
Teacher: No, his real name…like what does mommy call him?
Student: Oh, lazy.


Student: My babysitter is picking me up today; mommy had to go to the vagina doctor.


Four Yr. Old on a field trip: Is this whole place China?
Teacher: We are still in NY but this is China town
Four Yr. Old: I bet Chinese McDonalds is deeelicious!!


Teacher: Class, what comes after the letter K?
Student: Elameno


I recently asked a student where his homework was. He replied, “It’s still in my pencil.”

—Larry Timmons, Surprise, Arizona

My sixth-grade class would not leave me alone for a second. It was a constant stream of “Ms. Osborn?” 
“Ms. Osborn?” “Ms. Osborn?” Fed up, I said firmly, “Do you think we could go for just five minutes without anyone saying ‘Ms. Osborn’?!”
The classroom got quiet. Then, from the back, a soft voice said, 
“Um … Cyndi?”

—Cyndi Osborn, New York, New York

"Yeah, I want to go to college! I really want to go! I have lots of money to pay for college!"
[Later on in conversation]
"Wait, college is school? I don't want to go to college! I didn't know college is SCHOOL!!"

On the last day of the year, my 
first graders gave me beautiful handwritten letters. As I read them aloud, 
my emotions got the better of me, and I started to choke up.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m having a hard time reading.”
One of my students said, “Just sound it out.”

—Cindy Bugg, Clive, Iowa

Max knows Africa's geography way better than you!

Oct 262015

Sigh... I thought I was doing all right with knowing about 65% of African countries... but little Max here seems to have me out-paced by some margin.  The video was originally posted to the Tony Kroukamp YouTube Channel and shows 3-year-old Max rattling off names to countries while his father points them out on the map. 

Now we just have to get Max onto Lizard Point and let him loose on the rest of the world.  (Here`s a link to Lizard Point`s Africa quiz to test yourself against Max.... )

Tip: Printing and saving your class results

Oct 262015

We're always thankful for teachers who contact us and let us know what features they need. Big thanks go out today to Dean H, who asked about how to print the class results, or save them to a CSV file.

We realized, upon reading Dean's question, that the basic browser print of the class results included  the site navigation, and was not exactly printer-friendly. So we got the print version cleaned up. We hope you'll find the printed version of the My Classes: Students scores and results much more usable now. 

screenshot of print results New and improved Print my classes: student scores page

As for saving to a CSV file, we don't have a function for that yet, but, it's actually pretty easy to do with just basic cut and paste, from your laptop or desktop. 

We've made a quick video to show you just how easy it is... and here's your first opportunity to meet Bill, the other half of Lizard Point.

World Quiz: New and improved!

Oct 222015

We announced a quiz of the whole world the other day (see our Oct 19 blog post), and feedback told us, there were just too many navigation clicks required to answer the questions. So we put together a new quiz - based on work we had already done for that one as well as the much older one with the slider bar - and we came up with what we hope is finally a solid solution.

In our latest quiz, you can answer many of the questions without leaving the world map. And if you can't answer on the world map, you can click a magnifier to get to an enlarged continent or region map.


As with the previous version, once in a continent map, you can use one of 3 ways to return to the world map, and there are no points lost for moving around.


Please give the quiz a try and leave us some feedback here!