Monthly Archives: September 2015

Fun with GIS 182: T3G2016

Teaching is thrilling, exasperating, energizing, and exhausting, frequently in the same hour, but for those truly called to the craft, it is constantly captivating. Helping other educators grow their skills is even more … of everything. Now, imagine coupling this with GIS, a tool with the power to harness, reveal, integrate, explain, model, and even mesmerize, using the limitless and exploding data about the world, from macro to micro … a tool for understanding the world and solving problems.

Esri’s educator institute, “Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS,” is a chance to build skills in three distinct legs of a stool, all at once … in using GIS, teaching with technology, and providing professional development. But T3G relies on all three legs, and so is only for those hungry to help other educators use GIS. It is an event for both classroom practitioners and education influencers alike, from grade school to grad school, from one-room schools to district or state offices, from university deans to wizards of informal settings who enchant across many ages at once.

The 8th annual T3G is now receiving applications. T3G2016 seeks 100 passionate educators and influencers anxious to change the world, through education, with GIS. The event is Sunday July 17 – Fri July 22, 2016. Applications are available now, and due by Nov 9, 2015.

Be part of a growing community (see Map#5). Build your skills to make a difference, in lives, communities, and the planet. Check out the movies, take the prerequisite course, and read the application doc, even if you are not sure – these are all good steps for becoming a true artisan — a GIS-using educator.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Mapping Weather Balloon Data in 2D and 3D

The Cherry Creek School District in Colorado has been using GIS in the curriculum and in administration for many years now.  When the STEM coordinators of the district told me recently that their students were launching weather balloons and recording atmospheric data from them, I jumped at the opportunity to show them how easy and powerful it is to map the data in ArcGIS Online.  The data from just one of the many balloons they had launched was stored in a standard spreadsheet and contained latitude and longitude coordinates, and therefore was a snap to map in ArcGIS Online.  This particular balloon, launched on 1 May 2015, flew over 56 miles (100 km) in 3 hours and 6 minutes, reaching a maximum altitude of 30.7 km, recording a minimum temperature of -59.3 C and achieving a maximum speed of 114 km/hour. I mapped the balloon based on its height on a satellite image base, which you can examine in ArcGIS Online by clicking on the map below.

2D map of weather balloon mapped by speed in ArcGIS Online

2D map of weather balloon mapped by speed in ArcGIS Online.

Since balloons fly in 3D space, a natural next step was to map the data as a 3D scene.  I used ArcGIS Pro to extrude selected attributes, such as height, and published the scene to ArcGIS Online, shown in two views and symbologies, below:

3D map of weather balloon mapped by height in ArcGIS Online

3D scene of weather balloon at its launch point mapped in ArcGIS Online.

The track of this particular balloon followed the typical west-to-east prevailing winds, but as it neared the tropopause, it encountered stronger winds from the southeast, that not only blew it in the opposite direction, but also blew it higher in the atmosphere.

3D map of weather balloon mapped by height in ArcGIS Online, looking southeast.

3D scene of weather balloon mapped by height in ArcGIS Online, looking southeast.

What excites me not only is the ability of these tools to map the data that the students are collecting, but the power that they offer in terms of helping students understand the relationships among all of these variables.  The variables in this case included altitude, speed, heading, and temperature, but other data that the students have collected include atmospheric quality characteristics.  GIS provides a fundamental component of the district’s STEM goals, perspectives, content knowledge, and skills.  Another thing about this project that excites me is that — Grade 5 students are the ones engaged in this project–yes, 11 years olds, collecting and analyzing data!

Think about the kinds of data that you and your students work with.  It may not be weather balloon data, but it occurs over space and time.  How could you use ArcGIS Online and the 3D scene viewer to map and understand your data?

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Fun with GIS 181: Enviro Justice

EJSCREEN is a sobering look at environmental justice. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released this tool using the ArcGIS Online platform. EJSCREEN lets users compare some demographic and environmental characteristics with nationally standardized data. This means economically advantaged or disadvantaged areas can see their environmental situation relative to those of other places, near and far.

It is important to read the EPA’s description of data sources, uses, and limitations. Any nationally consistent data source has issues because of the tradeoffs made for the sake of consistency and spread. But this would be a powerful tool in the hands of students for learning about conditions and relationships, and a very interesting way for students to learn key concepts in math, science, and social science.

EJSCREEN employs an ArcGIS app and therefore works on any device connected to the internet: computers, laptops, tablets, and even (with careful scrolling) smartphones. Any device, anytime, anywhere connected, about the entire USA.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Why GIS in Education Matters: 1 Page Document

I have recently updated a document entitled “Why GIS in Education Matters” and have placed it online.  It represents my attempt to provide the most compelling and important reasons to teach and learn with Geographic Information Systems in a concise document that takes up no more than both sides of a single page.  While we have discussed other documents, messages, lessons, and videos in this blog over the years that are tailored to specific educational levels, needs, and content areas, this document contains the “essentials” that I have found resonate with the widest group of educators.  These essentials include critical thinking, career pathways, spatial thinking, the whys of where, asking good questions, sustainability and green technology, and mapping changes over space and time.

I am interested in your reactions to this document:  What is missing from this document? What is useful about this document?  In what settings could you use this in your own work with fellow faculty, with faculty from other disciplines, with administrators, with parents, and with students?  What do you include in your own documents with similar goals?

Why GIS in Education Matters

Why GIS in Education Matters, brief document outlining the value that teaching and learning with GIS brings to education.

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New Book: Geospatial Technologies and Geography Education in a Changing World: Geospatial Practices and Lessons Learned

New Book: Geospatial Technologies and Geography Education in a Changing World: Geospatial Practices and Lessons Learned

Editors:  Osvaldo Muniz Solari, Ali Demirci, Joop van der Schee

This book is an initiative presented by the Commission on Geographical Education of the International Geographical Union. It focuses particularly on what has been learned from geospatial projects and research from the past decades of implementing geospatial technologies (GST) in formal and informal education. The objective of this publication is to inform an international audience of teachers, professionals, scholars, and policymakers about the state of the art and prospects of geospatial practices (GPs) as organized activities that use GST and lessons learned in relation to geographical education. GST make up an advanced body of knowledge developed by practitioners of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing (RS), global positioning systems, (GPS), and digital cartography (DC).

GST have long been applied in many different sectors; however, their first use in higher education began in the early 1980s and then diffused to secondary schools during the 1990s. Starting with GIS and RS, it evolved into a much broader context, as GST expanded to include GPS and DC with new communication technologies and Internet applications. GST have been used around the world as a combination of tools and special techniques to make research, teaching, and learning more effective.

Contributors include  Joop van der Schee, Sarah Bednarz, Niem Tu Huynh, Thomas Jekel, Lara Bryant, Karl Donert, Tom Baker, Joseph Kerski, Reed Perkins, Jung Eun Hong, Bob Sharpe, Injeong Jo, Marsha Alibrandi, and several others.

Springer link with Table of Contents:

Hard cover version:

Kindle version:

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Forests to Faucets: Teaching and Learning about Natural Resource Interconnections through GIS

One of the chief advantages that GIS has always had as an instructional and research tool is its ability to help people understand interconnections between issues, phenomena, and data.  A set of interconnections that are important to people’s everyday lives around the planet is those between the existence of surface drinking water sources, watersheds, development, the extent of forests, and threats to forests from insects, disease, and wildfires.

Forests are a critical part in keeping water clean and pollution-free. Forest are “living filters” that provide clean water by intercepting and absorbing sediment, excess nutrients, and pollutants.  Trees also help store water and release it slowly over time, enhancing water quantity.   Most of the world’s population lives downstream from forested watersheds, and 40% of the world’s 100 largest cities rely on runoff from protected areas.

The US Forest Service (USFS) project “Forests to Faucets” provides information that can identify areas of interest for protecting surface drinking water quality. The spatial datasets produced by the project can be incorporated into broad-scale planning and decision support tools, and sets the groundwork for identifying watersheds where a payment for watershed services (PWS) scheme may be an option for financing forest conservation and management on private unprotected forest lands. And the data can also be used in teaching and learning in geography, environmental studies, biology, mathematics, hydrology, and other disciplines, as we have written in the past here and here about teaching water topics using GIS.

Many of the layers from the Forests to Faucets program have been loaded into this web map, including watersheds, the importance of surface drinking water, and forest importance, insect, disease, wildlife, and development threats to forests important to surface drinking water.  One of the things I’ve always loved about mapping is that the results often run counter to our preconceived notions.  On the map below, I had been expecting to see evidence of fire threats to surface drinking water in California, but not in the southern Appalachian region.  Think of the discussions that just this single web map can foster:  What factors influence whether water is obtained chiefly from surface resources or from groundwater?  What are the influences on forest health?  What can be done to protect water quality?  And GIS allows for the examination of other data layers and the use of spatial analysis techniques.

We always encourage students to be critical consumers of data.  This data was created by the US Forest Service group responsible for publishing, cataloging, and managing the USFS’ authoritative enterprise content on ArcGIS Online. Does that mean the data is perfect?  No, but the content includes only that which has been vetted and approved through a national governance process and by GIS and science professional staff.

Wildland Fire Threat to forests important to surface drinking water

Wildland Fire Threat to forests important to surface drinking water.

For further investigation, see the other map layers published by this group, including wilderness areas, specific insect threats, and my favorite, the trends in burn severity back to 1984.  For additional background, see the Forest Service’s resources and the The Nature Conservancy’s resources.

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GeoInquiries: K-12 instructional materials for Earth science, US History, and more

GeoInquiries are short, standards-based inquiry activities for teaching map concepts that are found in the most commonly used textbooks in the United States.  GeoInquiries use ArcGIS Online to teach subject matter content and requires a classroom with a computer (or device) and a projector.  Any teacher can use a GeoInquiry, regardless of their prior experience with GIS.

This spring Esri released the Earth Science collection of geoinquiries – a set of 15 activities that span the curricular calendar in middle school science.  From topographic maps and plate tectonics in the fall to weather and climate in the spring, these activities should offer something to K12 Earth science teacher (or physical geography teacher) at any time.

The U.S. History GeoInquiry collection is being released now – with one or two new “beta” activities available weekly.  Throughout the fall, we will be releasing more of these activities, with the full collection available around mid October.  GeoInquiries available now and suitable for teaching with include:

Later this fall, we’ll begin releasing our third GeoInquiry collection!  As early samples of this collection become available, we’ll post updates to this education blog.

Don’t forget for elementary classrooms, we offer Thinking Spatially Using GIS and for the middle school geography classroom, we offer Mapping Our World.  Both of these collections are designed for 1:1 settings (1 student to 1 computer/device).   As with GeoInquiries these collections are free and use ArcGIS Online.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date with new  K12 curriculum news, be sure to register at the Esri ConnectED instructional materials page!

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Fun with GIS 180: Esri K12 GIS Org

School’s open! Just in time, Esri’s ArcGIS Online Organization for K12 GIS has grown stronger. The front carousel sports easy access to intro documents, lessons, maps and apps, and videos. (Scroll right for specialty items.) Contents are curated and organized to help learners of all kinds find most quickly the resources of greatest value. This includes easy-to-use instructional materials and access to an ArcGIS Online Org for any US K12 school, as part of Esri’s commitment to the ConnectED Initiative. Use the shortlink

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Students Pursue GIS Opportunities at Colton High School

Students enrolled in the Colton-Redlands-Yucaipa ROP (CRYROP) GIS classes at Colton High School participated in the Esri “Going Places with Spatial Analysis” Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from March 4 – April 15, 2015.  It was a great experience and over 65% of the students earned their certificate.  Students viewed MOOC introductory videos and completed quizzes as a class, discussing the questions and debating possible answers before democratically selecting an answer. As the instructor, I provided guidance and avenues of thought, but no answers. Case studies were completed on an individual basis, although students were encouraged to collaborate with each other as part of the process. Providing students the space to help each other, allowed me the opportunity to observe and assess my students’ ability to explain a concept or technical process. It was amazing to witness what students accomplished when given this opportunity.

Jose was the first in his class to finish the MOOC. He printed out his certificate and showed his mother, but she did not believe it was real. At his request, I called his mother and let her know that it was not only real, but that he was also the first to finish. In fact, he finished one day before I did!

Students in the CRYROP GIS classes also participated in the Second Annual GIS Day event held on the Colton High School campus. Presentations were so impressive that some students were asked to present at the Colton Community Cabinet meeting hosted by the school district, and the December Inland Empire GIS User event hosted on the ESRI main site in Redlands.

CRYROP first offered the GIS program at Colton High School in the fall of 2008. Thanks to the fantastic support from the Esri Education department, the program was provided the resources necessary to get the program off the ground and running.

It is now the start of a new school year and I am looking forward to working with a new group of bright and inquisitive students. I am also looking forward to hosting the Third Annual GIS day at Colton High School where the students will undoubtedly showcase more amazing projects.

Students begin the MOOC

Students listening to lecture.

Students taking spatial analysis MOOC.

Bruce Ingram - Instructor.

Bruce Ingram, CRYROP GIS Instructor,  Colton High School, Colton, California.

Editor’s Note:  We on the Esri education team are often asked, “Can high school students really do GIS?”  I hope that Mr. Ingram’s story here lays any doubts to rest.  Yes, students at all ages can think deeply and critically about issues using GIS and use it to engage in real-world problem-solving.  A key factor in their success is an innovative educator such as Mr. Ingram who allows them to “fly.”  –Joseph Kerski.

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Elementary school geography and science with ArcGIS Online

This summer, Esri quietly released a refreshed edition of “Thinking Spatially Using GIS” (for ArcGIS Online)”.  This collection of instructional materials for the elementary geography and science classroom is completely free, requires no login, and no installation of software.  The activities are for a one student to one computer/device (1:1) learning environment.  Activities, designed to be teacher-friendly, provide a student worksheet and assessment. The activities are for 4th and 5th grade, but may serve younger or older learners based on reading level.

Thinking Spatially Using GIS:

Module 1, Lesson 1: Magellan crosses the Atlantic Ocean
Module 1, Lesson 2: Magellan crosses the Pacific Ocean
Module 2, Lesson 1: Mapping a zoo
Module 2, Lesson 2: Touring a zoo
Module 2, Lesson 3: Animals Around the World
Module 3, Lesson 1: Early settlement patterns of the United States
Module 3, Lesson 2: Patterns of a growing population
Module 4, Lesson 1: Finding Tornado Alley
Module 4, Lesson 2: Analyzing historical tornadoes

Learn more about “Thinking Spatially Using GIS”  (with ArcGIS Online) at

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