I created a lesson where students determine the optimal location for a bicycle and ski rental and sales shop using Esri’s Community Analyst software. The lesson begins with a scenario where the student’s task is to select the best site near one of the oldest and most beautiful rail-to-trail segments in the country—the Sparta-Elroy Trail in west-central Wisconsin. I have personally bicycled this trail, including its three famous railroad tunnels, and sometimes those personal connections to the area being studied make curriculum creation all the more enjoyable, and, I hope, valuable.
Students using the lesson examine local terrain, proximity to towns, the trail (shown by the thick green line in the image), interstate highways, campgrounds, and state parks, the area’s population, median income, amount of money spent by regional households on bicycling equipment in the past year, and the location of existing bicycle rental and sales shops. They also consider customers who would rent versus own the equipment, and consider how winter sports such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling would impact the shop’s year-round and overall viability.
I chose Esri’s Community Analyst platform for several reasons. The platform is cloud-based, and as no software is needed, accessing the toolkit is as easy as accessing a web browser and logging into Community Analyst. Some universities have access to this toolkit already, so check with your university. If the software is not part of your university license agreement, you can request a 30 day free trial. Better yet, ask your university Esri software point of contact to add Community Analyst in the future. The toolkit can easily create reports, thematic maps, 5-, 10-, and 15-minute drive time buffers around proposed locations, and export those maps and reports.
The software includes thousands of data variables, not only Census data, but thousands of consumer behavior and expenditure variables, plus thousands of business locations. I still feel like I’m in Willy Wonka’s candy shop when I’m using it because like many of you, I have gone the “long route” numerous times over the past 25 years, spending hours, days, and weeks formatting data from various sites to be able to get it to the point where I could analyze it. With Community Analyst, the data is at your fingertips, ready to be analyzed!
How might you use this lesson, or create a site selection lesson of your own using Community Analyst, to foster spatial thinking, business skills, and GIS skills?
- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager