Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere means exploring mazes cut into fields of corn (maize) whose intricate patterns and shapes are created with GPS and a creative imagination. In a recent electronic newsletter from Point of Beginning, a resource dedicated to serving GPS, surveying, and GIS professionals, the editor discussed my article entitled “Teaching Geography Using Corn Mazes.” In this article, I created 10 lessons using corn mazes in the geography classroom that consider wayfinding, GPS, land use, mathematics, products from corn, soils, and more.
Let’s say you want to map the distribution of corn mazes. While corn maze websites abound, it is difficult to find a truly comprehensive one. What criteria would you use as a guideline to evaluate this or any site offering spatial data? I settled on The Corn Maze Directory. The issue then was a familiar one to GIS users—formatting. Because no text file or spreadsheet of maze locations existed, I visited each state’s link, copied and pasted the locational data into a text file, and inserted commas between the fields: Maze name, address, city, state, zip, telephone number. Next, in ArcGIS Explorer, I “added content” and pointed to my text file. The geocoding required 10 minutes for my 429 corn mazes, but considering that geocoding is performed in the cloud, with some addresses only indicating street intersections, this is amazing. Once finished, I could examine the corn mazes spatially:
Next, to analyze the relationship of where corn is grown to where mazes are located, I created a layer package from agricultural census data showing corn acreage by county; darker green indicating more corn. I added it along with a political boundaries base map from ArcGIS Online. I packaged up the data and placed it on ArcLessons. Interestingly, more corn mazes exist in New York and New Jersey than in the western corn belt states of Iowa and Nebraska, though the eastern corn belt states of Illinois and Indiana are well represented. Clearly, market population is also an important factor in locating corn mazes.
- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager