Monthly Archives: May 2009

Marching Band Is A Spatial Activity

On high school, university, and professional fields across the country is a fascinating spectacle repeated thousands of times annually—marching band. It is as ingrained on the public psyche as the sports played on those fields. I have attended dozens of marching band performances this year involving thousands of secondary and university students. Marching band might be considered a sport. Some students receive physical education credit for it, as they have to march in all weather types, on all surface types, carrying an unwieldy instrument.

Marching band is an intricate combination of musicianship and athleticism. But what sets it apart are its spatial aspects.

While all sports have spatial aspects, everything about marching band is spatial. Position is everything: Of the instrument, with relationship to the music, of each marcher, and of all marchers as a unit. Band members must visualize how they look from above, important for the judges but also important to avoid collision, a challenge with hundreds of marchers all moving at once. Performances usually also feature a “color guard,” a squadron of people carrying flags instead of instruments, who weave their way in and out of the marchers in their own separate pattern.

Marchers memorize their movements one “set” at a time. A “set” is a sequence of forward, sideways, and/or backwards movements as a full step, half-step, quarter-step, or in the same place. One song might have 50 sets. Marchers keep their left-right position by markers on each yard of a 100 yard field. For backwards-and-forwards positions on a specific yard line, marchers use different marks, chalked on pavement or flagged on fields while practicing, but which must be memorized because only yard markers are present during live performances. A GPS track captured from a single marcher would show a complex pattern of lines, circles, and polygons, as shown in the above photograph. Even the songs played are memorized as a complex spatial pattern of marks and symbols—sheet music!

What other sports or activities are spatial in nature?

- Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

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10 Excellent Reasons to Attend the ESRI Education User Conference

Attending a professional conference such as the ESRI Education User Conference (EdUC) means investing a considerable amount of time and money. So it’s smart for educators, administrators, and others, to ask themselves what benefits they will receive by participating. To help attendees and their organizations understand the value of the EdUC, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons to attend in the May issue of ArcWatch. Read the article.

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Layer Packages, ArcMap, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Explorer 900

A key new capacity in ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1 is the ability to generate “layer packages.” These are sets of data plus the classification and symbolization scheme, exported out from ArcMap, and able to be drawn as the creator saved them. Instead of a folder with a bunch of distinct files, it’s a single “.lpk” file, stored using standard file compression. Users of ArcGIS Desktop 9.3.1 can extract and use the contents automatically. Users of previous versions of ArcGIS Desktop can access the contents via standard file unzipping tools. And users of the upcoming ArcGIS Explorer 900 will be able to just draw it on the fly (no unzipping needed) with the classification and symbolization used in ArcMap!

To test this as a powerful tool for setting up instruction, I added a US counties shapefile into ArcMap six times. I set the top layer as hollow polygons with borders, and used different classification and symbolization schemes for the next five layers. I merged the bottom two layers into a “group layer”, merged the next three into another “group layer”, and left the top border layer by itself. Then I grouped the two “group layers” plus the border layer into a single group layer called “counties” …

and exported the “counties” as a “layer package” …

which looked like this when I unzipped “counties.lpk” to see the contents …

and looked like this when added into ArcGIS Explorer 900 (BETA).

Users of ArcMap 9.3.1 will be able to share layer packages on the new ArcGIS Online (coming soon), making it easier than ever for educators to prepare and share instructional content! Check out all the links, read up, and look for a lot of attention to this at the ESRI Education User Conference and International User Conference this summer!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Analyzing the Spatial Distribution of 4 Crops with a GIS

What did you have to eat today? Where was your food grown? Where was the cotton in your shirt cultivated? An increasing number of books and research initiatives are aimed at helping students to reconnect with the importance of agriculture. A new resource on the ArcLessons library ( invites investigation of four different crops—soybeans (shown on the map below), wheat, corn (maize), and cotton—in a spatial context.

The resource includes agricultural data at the county level from the US Census of Agriculture, climate data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Spatial Climate Analysis Service at Oregon State University, and base layers (states, rivers, roads, lakes) from ESRI. The lesson contains 40 questions, but additional investigation can certainly be done, by students of secondary, university, and informal (such as 4-H) programs.

Learners work through the following scenario: The US Department of Agriculture has heard about your extensive skills in GIS and spatial analysis, and has hired you to investigate the patterns of 4 crops as part of its National Crop Assessment Program (NCAP). They would like you to produce a report detailing the results of the following investigation: What are the cultural and physical geographic reasons for the spatial distribution, spatial patterns, and the amount of soybeans, cotton, wheat, and corn grown in the USA?

Learners conduct research on the origin of the four crops, examine the spatial distribution of those crops, and investigate the similarities and differences among them. They discover the most productive counties for each crop, and consider the proximity of major cities and the influence of climate on each. They determine which areas are planted with winter wheat vs. spring wheat, based on the evidence. GIS skills developed include tabular and spatial sorting and queries, selecting and identifying data, and creating thematic maps. Content emphases include national and global considerations of why different crops are grown, and the social and physical reasons for the spatial concentration or diffusion of the cultivation of those crops.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Community Atlas deadline extended to Friday, June 5

ESRI’s Community Atlas program has extended its spring 2009 deadline to Friday, June 5.

ESRI’s U.S. Community Atlas is a project in which teachers and students across the country define the nature of “their community” and post descriptions and maps about it. These presentations are combined on the Web server and can be searched by characteristic and explored for similarities and differences.

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Demographics and Planning: A Case Study

GIS Helps Plan for K-12 Enrollment

GIS Helps Plan for K-12 Enrollment

Over the last 10 years, the Corona-Norco Unified School District (CNUSD) in Riverside County, California, east of Los Angeles, has grown from 21,000 K-12 students to more than 37,300 students. To manage this large growth in student population, new school locations were analyzed and openings occurred for six elementary schools, along with a new intermediate and new high school.

Discover more GIS in education case studies.

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Join Us July 13–17 at the Annual ESRI International User Conference

Join us July 13–17, at the San Diego Convention Center in California for the
2009 ESRI User Conference.

ESRI customers across the globe are invited to attend the world’s largest gathering of GIS professionals.

Learn more now.

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Fun with GIS Using AGX #22: Prepping for Hurricanes

The weather is getting warmer, and June draws nigh, which means we’re closing in on hurricane season in the Caribbean. I wanted to explore a way to see elements develop using ArcGIS Explorer (or “AGX,” ESRI’s free, downloadable, 3-D geo-exploration tool).

I explored the website of our friends at NOAA and was attracted to “nowCOAST”, their GIS Mapping Portal to Real-Time Environmental Observations and NOAA Forecasts. Seeing that it was an ArcIMS site, I decided to do a little exploring.

In AGX, I chose to add an ArcIMS site, keyed in the address, and selected the “nowcoast” item. It took a little time to pop up the next window because nowCOAST has about 300 options. When the “content chooser” window opened, I un-checked the top item to turn everything off, then scrolled all the way down and chose the very last item, “Sea Surface Temperature Analysis (raster).” I accepted AGX’s defaults the rest of the way. Once again, it took time to pop up in AGX’s contents window, but I could hear the computer hum louder and see my network light blinking like mad. After a minute, the layer appeared and I zoomed in to see.

The raster made it hard to see the boundaries, so I added a country layer and set the features as grey with a black border. The data are designed for a 2-D display, so it didn’t form a perfectly clean, uniform display on 3D, but it showed that I will be able to monitor the temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean very easily.

Hurricane season is always a dangerous time, and we cannot yet predict with precision the way the many variables of climate and weather will play out. So it pays to keep an eye out.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Comparing the Regional Spatial Distribution of Two Businesses in ArcGIS Explorer

I have discussed using ArcGIS Explorer to map local and regional businesses. Let’s now compare the spatial pattern of two different businesses as they expand from their core region to become national operations.

Near our ESRI office in Colorado is a Jason’s Deli. After querying each location of Jason’s Deli from the Jason’s website, I created a 2-column spreadsheet, exported it as a tab-delimited text file, and used Import File in ArcGIS Explorer to geocode the locations. I could see that the Jason’s near our office lies on the northern fringe of their current territory.

I read in ArcWatch how Culver’s, a quick-service restaurant chain, uses ESRI’s ArcGIS, ArcGIS Business Analyst, and Business Analyst Online to monitor existing operations and to determine the best potential locations for new sites. The GIS analyst at Culver’s, who has a background in and passion for geography and GIS, sent me a spreadsheet of Culver’s locations, graciously allowing me to map them. ArcGIS Explorer made easy work of geocoding these locations.

Based on the resulting patterns in ArcGIS Explorer, what is your hypothesis about the location of the headquarters of Jason’s versus the headquarters of Culvers? Even though Jason’s and Culver’s are two different types of restaurants, what do you think they have in common in terms of the cities and neighborhoods that they look for when they are ready to expand? Rank the following factors in importance: Cost of land, soil and drainage of land, cost of labor, demographics, adjacent businesses, location of competition, location of existing restaurants in the same chain, traffic, access to the property, and proximity of universities, high schools, stadiums, airports, and other landmarks. Why did you rank these factors the way you did? What other factors might be important to the executives at Jason’s and Culver’s?

Use ArcGIS Explorer to analyze these spatial patterns with the Jason’s and Culver’s data and lesson online in ArcLessons.

All this analysis is making me hungry, so if you’ll excuse me…

- Joseph J. Kerski, Education Manager.

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EdCommunity Case Studies Released

The ESRI GIS Education Community unveiled the Case Studies collection this week. These case studies are rich, real-world stories of GIS in education – across several educational categories. These stories represent best practices of GIS planning, implementation or evaluation in education. To find stories most relevant to your needs, search by keyword or browse by category.

The Case Studies collection will continue to grow in the coming months. If you don’t find something useful, drop in again or contact us with your needs.

Learn more.

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