Tag Archives: Science
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Moore, Oklahoma, victims of our violent planet. The tornado that atomized houses, plucked trees, and pulverized schools was at times a mile wide, with winds that may have exceeded 200 miles an hour.
This monster did not appear from nowhere. Science – including geography, the science of “what is where, and why” – helps us understand the present and see into the future. Our vision grows stronger with each year, but we still have a long way to go.
Air, water, fire, and earth … we cannot yet control the storms, the quakes, the floods, the fires, though we may perhaps influence them … consciously or not, and whether we admit it or not. We can only hope to understand them better, and learn to make better decisions regarding them. Science – including geography – will yield many lessons. It is up to us to learn the lessons. And, until we understand well enough the many rules of our perilous planet, we will continue to mourn the lost.
Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of these events.
STEM education is everywhere
STEM education and workforce development programs seem nearly ubiquitous across the United States. Across industry, nearly every science and technology company of any stature has some form of STEM education initiative (from Raytheon and Microsoft to Bayer and Toyota) . Across government, most federal agencies (especially those with a science and technology focus) have a STEM initiative, like that of NASA, EPA, National Park Service, and many more. Non-profits from the 4-H and National Girls Collaborative Project to the National Institute of Building Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association are growing STEM across multiple facets of education.
GIS is STEM
Whether the data and analysis are rooted in a particular discipline of science or engineering, or students are learning about GIS technology itself, GIS drives STEM. What’s more, the mathematics of GIS data and geoprocessing range from the straightforward to quite advanced, as colleagues are noting in a forthcoming spatial mathematics book.
The value of GIS as a tool for critical data analysis cannot be overstated. In the forthcoming, Next Generation Science Standards, the emphasis on data analysis as a key part of “science and engineering practice” is central to the standards and to K12 science education in the US. Mapping data is useful – but analyzing it is even more powerful for problem-based and inquiry learning at any level or discipline.
Learn more about how schools and clubs are already using GIS to advance STEM education.
- Tom Baker, Esri Education Manager
Hurricane Sandy is raging. It has been decades since such a storm hit the mid-Atlantic to New England. Sandy has already created havoc, and many will suffer. Yet it is exciting to me, because for days meteorologists have predicted it would be serious. How could they know? Science and geography — two elements often derided in the general public, including an unfortunate number who influence legislation, public policy, and education.
If ever there were a clear case to be made for the power of these two ways of thinking, this is it. So far, forecasters have been impressively accurate in predicting Sandy’s path, development, and impact. Days ago, they said it had the potential to become a megastorm.
Learning about the world takes focus, and should not be left to chance. Earth’s forces remain strong, but humanity has three key powers: (1) We can influence some physical phenomena; (2) we can learn; (3) we can influence our own behaviors.
Click the image above to see a larger image or current map
Science is a way of knowing which goes beyond faith and beyond hope. We need to understand as much as we can, about all things large and small, including the things we affect and those that affect us.
Geography is a way of seeing the world, being attentive to patterns and relationships. In this case, it means paying attention to the location, movement, and timing of air masses; the lunar cycle (the impact of a full moon and timing of tides); land use; demographics; engineering; human behavior and the weekly calendar; and events from living memory and more distant past. Up and down the eastern seaboard, people are already trying to cope with the chaos that the physical world can generate for us.
If there is any good to come from chaos, it will be to reinforce the importance of understanding patterns and relationships. Thinking geographically means understanding and integrating multiple phenomena, viewing things holistically. GIS facilitates interpreting vast volumes of disparate data, converting it into information, which can be combined to form knowledge that feeds action. Wisdom is the ability to act intelligently on the basis of knowledge.
Hurricane Sandy is already a troublesome event. We know from science that it will not be the last. We need humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness to learn about the world around us and behave with wisdom.
- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is a multidisciplinary approach to improving education, the work force, and national competitiveness. President Barack Obama
noted that “Strengthening STEM education is vital to preparing our students to compete in the twenty-first century economy, and we need to recruit and train math and science teachers to support our nation’s students.” (White House Press Release, September 27, 2010).
Geographic information system (GIS) technology can engage several critical elements in STEM curriculum and instruction. GIS tools and techniques lead to understanding cross-disciplinary phenomena and solving problems rooted in academic and real world concepts. People use GIS to make maps, analyze data, and decide on best solutions. From a curricular perspective, GIS allows us to study climate change, design cities, inventory geologic samples, plan ecological growth models, catalog contents of an archaeological site, and countless other activities. GIS and related geospatial technologies of global positioning systems (GPS) and remote sensing can be used to simultaneously engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math.
To support the ever growing interest in GIS and STEM from teachers, researchers, and administrators, Esri has released a new (free) ebook addressing the multi-faceted supports GIS offers STEM classrooms. Dr. Tom Baker begins the ebook by addressing the core question, “How does GIS enhance STEM learning?” The ebook is filled with rich case studies of STEM in formal and informal environments. The power of STEM collaborations and partnerships and ties to career and workforce development is also a central theme of the volume. The ebook outlines three beneficial tracks for student learning in STEM by integrating GIS technology:
- Improved declarative knowledge
- Improved procedural knowledge (critical thinking, problem solving, spatial reasoning, etc)
- Career skills development
The new ebook Advancing STEM Education with GIS is available now for download in PDF here
(right-click to “Save as”), perfect for mobile devices and tablets.
- Steve Obenhaus, Olathe North High School
- Penny Carpenter, Byron Martin Advanced Technology Center, Lubbock Independent School District
- Matthew North, Washington and Jefferson College
- Kerry Lagueux, Heather Deschenes, and Maria Elena Derrien
- Jim Baumann, Esri
- Nicole Minni, University of Delaware
- Susan Harp, Esri
- Daniel C. Edelson, National Geographic Society
- Karen Dvornich, University of Washington and Dan Hannafious, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group
- Hans Bodenhamer, Bigfork High School
- Joseph Kerski, Esri
Two points in particular struck me as we talked with hundreds of science educators recently at our workshops and exhibit (video) at the National Science Teachers Association’s annual convention. First, ArcGIS Online offers a rich set of data, tools, and capabilities for educators and their students to begin using. And I think an important advantage of ArcGIS Online is that they could begin using it right away. Everyone we talked with could see a connection with what they are teaching, whether in earth science, biology, environmental science, chemistry, mathematics, or other subjects, and analyzing data spatially with ArcGIS Online.
That leads me to the second point: Sometimes, the thing that really resonates with an educator is something that might seem small. However, for that educator, it becomes a game-changer for a particular lesson or maybe for the entire course curriculum. It could be a tool, data set, or process that allows them to accomplish more efficiently with GIS than what they could do with paper maps or other physical objects. Using ArcGIS allows students to more quickly move to the analytical phase of a project, working with real data in real contexts.
One example of the small-but-big is a discussion I had with an educator from Shoshoni, Wyoming. In this arid part of the mountain west, watering dry fields to grow grass for livestock takes precious water resources. Ants are the one thing that is found in abundance. Ants cause a problem because their large colonies consume a tremendous amount of grass. Eradication with chemicals is ineffective due to the depth of the colonies. Students in the town’s high school routinely get out into the field to measure these ant colonies with GPS and tape measures. When the instructor saw that not only could he and his students use ArcGIS Online to visualize and measure the ant colonies from above, but also geotag and add field observations, audio, photographs, and video to the project, he was overjoyed. As additional fieldwork is conducted, the ArcGIS Online map becomes a living database over space and time.
What is the little thing that you learned to do with GIS that caused major changes in what and how you teach?
-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager
On December 16, 1811 a violent earthquake shattered a winter night along the Mississippi River Valley in an area of present-day northeast Arkansas. While the region was sparsely settled at the time, the local European and Native American inhabitants were being introduced to what would only be the beginning of a nightmarish winter framed by the mid-December occurrence, followed by another main event in late January, and an even more fierce temblor in early February centered outside the village of New Madrid in the Bootheel of present-day Missouri. The community was effectively destroyed, while in St. Louis, over 150 miles upriver, houses were severely damaged with chimneys crashing down. All of the principal shocks were felt far to the east with amazing reports coming from cities as far away as Boston and Toronto. In between and into the spring, numerous aftershocks were triggered and felt. Together, these were the largest earthquakes to have occurred since European settlement east of the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada.
I grew up near this region and have experienced first-hand what can happen in this seismically active area. A few years ago, I created a blog series and a map project using ArcGIS Explorer Desktop to examine some aspects of the region. My work then was triggered by a sizeable event in the spring of 2008 in southern Illinois. Today’s blog post draws a bit from that series but its main purpose is to highlight a new map I’ve been building using ArcGIS Explorer Online, a growing array of map services found in ArcGIS Online, and some CSV files I crafted and added to my map. Not surprising, the map is focused on the Bicentennial of the New Madrid Earthquakes.
Rather than describe the specifics of what the map contains, I have instead added that information as “metadata” and discussion at the map’s storage location in ArcGIS Online, as well as links to some USGS resources. Here’s a mini-URL that you can share, www.esriurl.com/NewMadrid. Once you are at the site, open the map in either the default option, Explorer Online, or the ArcGIS.com mapviewer. Also, rather than take you on a guided tour, here instead are a couple of screenshots of what you’ll discover.
Historical earthquakes and recent events
Historical earthquakes and nearby populated places
Please feel free to augment what I have done and save your own version of the map by logging in with your Esri Global Account, doing a “save as,” and share the new map. If you do craft your version, be sure to add your own description and other information for other users.
Also, remember the New Madrid Seismic Zone and similar zones in the Central US are active. Be sure to examine current population densities in these areas to begin to understand the human risk in a region not immediately recognized as a hazardous area.
Lastly, stay tuned for an Esri Map Story on this topic later this week.
- George Dailey, Co-Manager, Esri Education Program Manager
On November 26 NASA launched our next expedition to the Red Planet—the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) with its car-sized rover named Curiosity. The spacecraft is expected to land on Mars in August 2012 inside the Gale Crater (NASA’s projected landing location: lon/x 137.4, lat/y -4.5).
The mission is projected to last 23 months after touchdown with numerous scientific examinations of geology, atmosphere, and the local environment the craft will explore. The NASA press kit provides great detail about a variety of aspects of the mission including the goal of assessing the former habitability for Martian life in the geography Curiosity will travel.
In addition to the various NASA resources available to learn about Mars and the mission, a rich scientific data and map environment exists to explore the planet and some its attributes—the USGS’s PIGWAD (Planetary Interactive GIS on the Web Analyzable Database) site and viewer. As a key part of the USGS Astrogeology unit’s work in Flagstaff, Arizona, PIGWAD helps the team serve the science community with its expertise in the application of GIS to terrestrial and other planetary settings.
Given the primary audience for this set of resources is the science community, much of the content available via the map viewer carries with it nomenclature and acronyms not immediately known to the average person, but the site does provide pathways for learning more. Despite these snags, I was able to map and discover a number of things about the planet such as its topography, surface geology, and feature names, and pinpoint the intended landing location. Here are a couple of screenshots of my investigation.
What I’ve presented here is but a small sampling of what’s available. Exploration and some study of the many PIGWAD layers presented will help you and your students shed more light on a planetary neighbor well over 100 million miles away.
On a different note, the MSL rover has been christened with a great name—Curiosity—offered by a 14-year-old girl from Kansas. While its moniker seems to be in the same lineage as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, to me, Curiosity carries with it meaning and symbolism of something deeper and necessary, and so much a part of being human. Our inquisitive nature leads to discoveries and creations large and small. They have led to the creation of this mission and its attendant components, but it’s important to remember that Curiosity is simply a machine that will be guided by inquiring humans. And, when the craft sets off on its mission of discovery and research in an unknown world, it’s vital to recognize that we need to spark equal if not greater levels of curiosity here on our world, Earth.
For an added dose, here’s a link to an earlier blog post on why I am so passionate about curiosity and why I believe it is vital for our future.
- George Dailey, Co-Manager, Esri Education Program Manager
The growth of GIS and other geospatial careers is more visible each day. Recently Esri, with the help of Career Corner Digital, has put a spotlight on one of these careers as seen via a “job shadow” of GIS analyst and forester, Chris “Fern” Ferner. The video highlights Fern’s work as she discusses the benefits of using GIS and related technologies in her position with the Colorado State Forest Service.
Fern’s interest in the outdoors began as a child when she accompanied her biologist father on some of his field trips. With her degrees in biology and forestry, strong skills in GIS and other geotechnologies, and a keen interest in the environment, she is following her passion and at the same time making a difference with far-reaching scope.
Fern’s story joins the ranks of other occupations highlighted via the Esri EdCommunity. The series includes a health geographer, a helicopter pilot–firefighter, a conservationist, and a GIS manager.
To learn more about GIS careers in general, the numerous industries and occupations where geospatial technology is being applied every day, and training and certification opportunities, visit the Esri EdCommunity careers page.
Bonus: You can explore some of the geographic content that is exposed in Fern’s video in an ArcGIS Online map, US Forests and Issues Affecting Them. Here’s a look at insect and disease risk coupled with land cover. The darker orange areas are the most affected and/or risk prone and they happen to be the forested lands of Colorado.
- George Dailey, Education Manager
Ocean scientist, geographer, and geographic information system (GIS) author Dawn J. Wright will join Esri as its chief scientist on October 3, 2011. She will help formulate and advance the intellectual agenda for the environmental, conservation, climate, and ocean sciences aspect of Esri’s work while also representing Esri to the national/international scientific community.
“As a scientist, Wright brings a background of rigor that will strengthen our alignment with the requirements of the scientific community,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri president. “In her capacity as chief scientist, she will interface with government, business, industry, and the public and collaborate with them to understand and find solutions for our planet.”
10 Tips for Easy Web Mapping in the Classroom Tomorrow
Date and Time: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 9pm EDT/8pm CDT (1 hour).
Webinar presented by: Esri Education Team, Esri and the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE). NCGE will host the webinar.
About: Learn about the basics in web mapping technology and easy-to-implement strategies for the geography & science classrooms. Critical websites and power tips will be provided to teachers new to geospatial tools – designed specifically for use “tomorrow”. We’ll even show you how to create your own map-enabled presentations, suitable for use in any academic subject area.