Need a short GPS activity that is packed full of a wide variety of interesting tasks and questions? In a new lesson in the ArcLessons library, I have created a “Get Outside With GPS” activity that is designed to do just that. The activity can be used with any model of recreational-grade GPS receiver. The activity gets students out on the landscape, even if the “landscape” is simply the school campus. Based on key science, math, and geography content standards and aligned with initiatives such as “No Child Left Inside” and Earth Science Week, this set of 22 questions is most suitable for upper secondary students and university students, and family events.
However, I tested the activity last week with middle school students and after a short introductory discussion that I led about how GPS works and the meaning behind the different GPS screens, they did just fine. In fact, they had a great time competing with each other to determine who could run the fastest and who could most quickly find the virtual geocaches that I set up. They also began to think spatially when they were drawing their names as tracks with their GPS. They used math and science to determine the circumference of the Earth and how long it would take to walk around it based on their average speed as given by the GPS receiver. They considered seasonal differences when computing the amount of daylight hours at this latitude and at this time of year based on the sunrise and sunset as provided by the GPS receivers.
The activity is designed to be tackled in one to two class periods, but many extensions are possible. An easy next step is to map the student-collected tracks, drawings, and waypoints in ArcGIS Explorer or in ArcMap.
I love seeing students engaged with and excited by geotechnologies, getting outside, and asking questions. What I like most about activities such as this is that, like those activities using GIS, they force students to use the best tool of all—their brains.
- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager