What Makes Your Neighborhood Unique?

What is the purpose for the pole in this picture? Notice that others exist across the street, and indeed, stretch on for blocks in this neighborhood. Yet in your neighborhood, none may exist.

Plow Stake
What else do you notice in the picture? What kind of houses do people live in, and what might the inhabitants be like? What does the vegetation imply about this area’s ecoregion? When were the houses constructed, and how has the area changed over time? The term “neighborhood” implies being near residents who are considered “neighbors.” How large of an area do you consider to be your neighborhood? Does the area that we define as our neighborhoods change as we grow older? Do you believe that a neighborhood’s size depends on our primary mode of transportation? What influence does rural or urban have on neighborhood size? What natural or human-made features influence what you consider to be your neighborhood boundaries?

How could you use GIS to examine your neighborhood? Begin by examining topographic maps and satellite imagery using ArcGIS Online (http://www.arcgis.com). Add demographic data to your map and examine variables such as age, income, and ethnicity, as shown below. Examine lifestyle measures online (http://www.esri.com/data/esri_data/tapestry.html). Compare your neighborhood to others nearby or far away. GIS offers a rich toolkit for neighborhood analysis, and your investigation could continue through the examination of spatial statistics in ArcGIS Desktop.

That pole? It is a plow stake, placed there every autumn so that in this area, which lacks sidewalks or curbs, snowplow drivers will know where the edge of the pavement is. Knowing this, and considering your earlier observations, where do you think this photograph was taken? I will post a comment to this blog entry after I have given you time to guess.


Consider asking your students what makes their own neighborhoods unique, and use GIS to investigate the fascinating stories that their replies will lead to.

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

Joseph Kerski

About Joseph Kerski

Joseph Kerski is a geographer who believes that spatial analysis through digital mapping can transform education and society through better decision-making using the geographic perspective. He serves on the Esri education team and is active in GIS communication and outreach, creates GIS-based curriculum, conducts research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, teaches online and face-to-face courses on spatial thinking and analysis, and fosters partnerships to support GIS in formal and informal education at all levels, internationally. He is the co-author of Spatial Mathematics, The Essentials of the Environment, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, and other books. Follow him on Twitter @josephkerski
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