Monthly Archives: December 2015
A new activity based on ArcGIS Online invites students to analyze real-time weather data. I wrote the activity for university students but upper secondary students with some GIS background could use it as well, particularly if beforehand they work through the How’s the Weather? Geoinquiry.
Using real-time weather feeds from NOAA, the activity asks students to note the relationships between pressure, temperature, wind speed, wind direction, proximity to coasts, latitude, and elevation. Students also create interpolated surfaces from the real time weather station data, classify and symbolize data in a number of ways, and predict upcoming weather at specific locations. ArcGIS Online enables students to quickly and easily analyze spatial data such as this. Weather is an engaging topic, and the activity connects to geography, earth science, and meteorology courses and curricula, and in the process, fosters skills in critical thinking, GIS, spatial analysis, and spatial data.
Global and federal agreements now scream “Let’s get cracking!” Two major accomplishments this week — the Climate Change agreement and the Every Student Succeeds Act — have opened the door and challenged us all to push hard on changing the status quo.
Young people are inheriting a panoply of threats. Their one hope for survival rests with being able to comprehend challenges, identify relevant influences and their genesis, amass/ sift/ analyze complex data, interpret and share sometimes conflicting results, integrate feedback, and act. These skills can be fostered by caring adults, even with youngsters.
GIS lets users interact with data, explore patterns, ask “Why?”, seek relationships, share discoveries, and generate strategies. Whether about foot and vehicle traffic around the school, characteristics of the watershed, changing employment across the nation, or four-dimensional global biodiversity, students can use all their prodigious talents and passions, and develop more. Given permission to dig into situations without prescribed “single approaches and right answers,” they can engage deeply and build the disposition to do so habitually.
Any US K12 school can acquire an ArcGIS Online Organization account for instruction for free to support this. Any educator lacking background or skills can start easily, without risk, in a few minutes, with focused lessons and project-based resources. Teachers whose kids go the farthest the fastest tend not to know GIS software beyond the basics; what these teachers do know is how to introduce something, then get out of the way and let the students show what they can do.
There is at last uncommon opportunity for educators. Seize the day!
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager
How would you explain to fellow educators, to students, parents, or the general public why Geographic Information Systems (GIS) matters in education and in society? One idea is to start with a document entitled “Why Maps Matter“.
While spatial thinking is much more than “maps”, I aimed at a phrase that would attract people to this workshop. I frequently choose similar presentation titles depending on my audience, such as “Mapping Your Educational Research” or “Mapping The Social Studies.”
Themes of this workshop include: Maps foster understanding, tell stories, and enable decision making. I included my favorite maps and map books for a personal touch. Topics include population, land use, urban, economics, health, and natural hazards, with frequent mention of scale, systems thinking, critical thinking, time and space, and place. The workshop is taught through an inquiry-driven, hands-on, problem-based format.
Historic Hawaii had land divisions called ahupuaas. They extended “mauka to makai” — from the mountains to the sea. These roughly matched watersheds on land but extended out into the water also. Families and groups who relied on these ecosystems for their food and other resources took pains to use them sustainably, monitor them carefully, and tend them judiciously.
When giving workshops for teachers and/or students, I often ask a simple question: Which way do rivers flow? Regardless of age, residents of Hawaii are correct far more often than others: “downhill.” In this land where mountains and ocean are always visible, heritage and daily experience connect individuals with what sustains them, and Hawaiians today work hard to retain that holistic view.
This summer, Hawaii was hotter for longer than anyone could recall. A major El Niño event was underway, and in September an enormous pool of especially warm water (5+ degrees F above normal) enveloped the islands for two weeks before moving on. In that span, coral reefs took a devastating blow. The visible result was bleaching, a process in which coral expels its zooxanthellae, and turns snow white. Modest events can be survived, but, for many corals, and some species in particular, this was too much, and a brown mask of death has invaded.
Above: Bleaching visible at Molokini Island, late Sept 2015. Photo by Pauline Fiene. Click photo for excellent blog.
Our waters, land, and air give us life, in a complex system, local to global. With GIS, we can document the infinite layers of our world, analyze the patterns, and highlight the relationships, both plain and hidden, large and small. With ArcGIS Online, even young students can do it, on any device, anytime, anywhere connected. Cataloguing the features of our world and understanding their complex 4-D weave is painstaking work. But when the future gives warning signs about not tending our ahupuaa — our sustaining environment — we bear the responsibility. Only purposeful action informed by holistic learning can save the world.
Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager