Tag Archives: Earth Systems

The Conservation Training Resource

With special thanks to Jamie Chesser, e-Learning Designer and Developer at The Nature Conservancy for this guest blog.

As I write this, I am reminded that today is the first day of Autumn or the Autumnal Equinox. How truly fast summer came and went! With the kids back to school and summer vacations over, you should have more time now right? Maybe a little more time to learn something new? Check out www.conservationtraining.org. Have you visited before? If not, you should!

ConservationTraining is worth reviewing. Our site provides a plethora of conservation knowledge, from experts around the world to our learner community. All courses are free and available anytime from anywhere, as our mission is to share training with our conservation colleagues across the world. Some courses are even offered in multiple languages.

Numbers can be kind of boring; however, we are really excited about these numbers. ConservationTraining currently has 30,000+ users representing 200 countries. Since 2009, The Nature Conservancy along with several amazing partner organizations, like the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the IUCN, have created 400+ hours of content in more than 15 curriculums.

Our courses touch on a variety of science and technology including GIS, Climate Change – REDD+, and Protected Areas (and more). The Fundamentals of GIS for Conservation course uses ArcGIS and interesting and relevant data examples to paint a beautiful picture of how pertinent GIS is to the field of conservation. The curriculum, originally developed by The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund, is comprised of six (6) courses that focus on the foundational concepts of GIS. The course has several learning components including podcasts, web-based, self-paced trainings, demonstrations, and more to help students gain knowledge on foundational GIS topics. Technology does change, we do our best to stay current with the technology. Our team is currently working on an update for this course – more details will be forthcoming.

Why not give it a look? You really won’t be sorry. Oh, and please know for the caretakers of ConservationTraining, this is just the beginning; there is much more work to be done. Happy learning!

Question or comments, we are happy to chat! Contact Jamie Chesser at ctptraining@tnc.org.

The Conservation Training Resource

The Conservation Training Resource

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Content forward: GeoInquiries and K12 resources for all

In American schools, teaching is increasingly gauged, in part, through student learning.  For better or worse, student learning is commonly evaluated with standardized tests, using state or national curricular standards to define the content.   It should come as no surprise that many educators would be keenly interested in activities and content that directly support the evaluated learning in a classroom.

Over the past two decades, GIS instructional materials for schools have largely focused on either 1.) teaching the learner to use a GIS in the context of a curriculum or 2.) promoting field-based or open-cycle inquiry models of teaching with GIS (such as localized, custom project based learning models). It’s arguable, based on historic adoption patterns, that these two approaches serve Everett Rogers’ Innovators – a small class of highly motivated and well-positioned technology adopters (see Diffusion of Innovation). The great news is that GeoInquiries can engage all teachers and learners and through that engagement, may drive greater interest in GIS, field work, and project based learning.

As a part of the Esri commitment to the White House ConnectED Initiative, the education team sought to develop instructional materials that would strengthen Esri’s offer of ArcGIS Online to every school in the U.S.  This commitment requires approaching the education through a different lens of learning design.

GeoInquiries are short, standards-based inquiry activities for teaching map-based concepts in many different subject areas – all in the most commonly used disciplinary textbooks. Using either a 5-E based inquiry instructional model or the geographic inquiry cycle, GeoInquiries use ArcGIS Online technology to support subject matter content teaching. Lessons include learning objectives, technical “how-to’s”, textbook references, and formative whole-class assessment items – all packed into a single page.

Today, geoinquiry collections are available for:

Later in 2016, we anticipate releasing two new collections. In the meantime, share a geoinquiry with an educator or take a read through one of the latest publications related to geoinquiries:

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Fun with GIS 192: Sustainability and Students

“Sustainability” was not a word I heard in high school. I could comprehend ecosystems; I lived on a small pond, and saw it evolve before I could drive. Looking back, I loved systems, whether the meshing gears of my fishing reel or the feedback cycles in the 3-gallon pond aquarium in my bedroom. In hindsight, Earth Day 1970 marked the dawn of my metamorphosis from biologist to geographer, and a never-ending thirst for patterns and relationships.

On that first Earth Day, Esri was in year one of helping communities plan a better future. That mission continues, but now at all scales. Sustainability is a planetary concern; our future is not fixed; nothing is guaranteed. The interplay of many complex systems works like a herky-jerky conveyor belt; population, food production, biodiversity, climate, water, land use, economics, culture, and history push us … and we push them. We must grasp intestinally how actions have consequences, and how holistic vision can inform action.

Esri’s “Sustainable Development” website shows how individuals, governments, non-profit organizations, and business can collaborate. Our future depends on our capacity to think holistically, about how various elements (or layers of data) appear and conditions shift between here and there. To see the big picture — globally, yes, but even down to a local level — we need to harness technology, as data streams become fractal torrents, and patterns can hide like zebras on the savanna. Interactive geographic analysis clarifies such patterns, adjusting our focus.

Building skills with data takes experience, which means time. Educators can help students start, easily, online, with quick classroom content or extended projects. Any US K12 educator can do this for free, at www.esri.com/connected, with lessons and a free school account. But students need not wait for their teachers to begin learning. Students can explore and learn, unfettered, at esriurl.com/k12gis. Intros, examples, videos, and other guidance await explorers of any age. Students contemplating careers, seeking coding resources, or just concerned about their future world, can launch on their own, for free.

We have begun creeping toward sustainability, but that global conveyor belt makes our net progress uncertain. We need students to arise, look around, view the patterns and relationships, gauge the net movement, and lend fresh vision, passion, and mission to the push toward sustainability. Thinking geographically, using GIS, will help.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 189: Visualize Your Water

“If a little is good, a lot is not always better,” Mom taught me. Nutrient pollution is like that. Just like on land, nutrients help aquatic plants grow. But, across the country, waterways are being enriched beyond the optimal level. This is especially true and especially troublesome in certain areas, like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

Led by US Environmental Protection Agency and US Geological Survey, a host of collaborators have created the “Visualize Your Water” challenge for high school students in the states bordering the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds (DC, DE, IL, IN, MD, MI, MN, NY, OH, PA, VA, WI, WV). The challenge launches on Weds Jan 13, and closes March 1. High school students (working in teams or solo, in class or out of school) can submit an online map-based analysis and visualization of the situation. And there are some pretty cool prizes!

Links lead to background info, water quality data, professional visualizations, and ideas. Submissions go to a Challenge.gov site. ArcGIS Online Organization accounts make a great platform for conducting the analysis and presenting the findings. Any US K12 school can acquire one of these Orgs from Esri, for instructional use, for free, at esri.com/connected. For full info about the challenge, see the Visualize Your Water site

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 188: Carpe Diem

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

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Fun with GIS 187: Ahupuaas and Climate

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

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Fun with GIS 183: Earth Science Week 2015

South Carolina recently suffered a lesson in earth science. El Nino watchers prep for another, and friends of Nepal weep over yet another. Earth science affects us all, like it or not, admit it or not. This year even more than usual, Earth Science Week is an important opportunity for educators.

The 2015 Earth Science Week theme is “Visualizing Earth Systems.” Esri’s Earth Science GeoInquiries help educators show and explore critical content in earth science, with just a computer and internet connection. No downloading, installing, or logging in needed. Whether in a one-computer classroom with projector, or a fully stocked lab, or 1:1 tablet situation, teachers and students can explore key content and discover the power of GIS for visualizing patterns and relationships.

Check out all the Earth Science GeoInquiries, built as part of Esri’s commitment to the ConnectED Initiative. Visualize these earth systems, so students grasp how these powerful forces influence us … and how we influence them.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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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 179: Learn Quickly, Please!

Dear students: Spaceship alert! It is not fair, but our survival depends on your ability to grasp complex situations that are influenced by multiple factors. You cannot possibly know everything, because conditions change, and each day brings new discoveries. We cannot let you wait until all relevant knowledge is in place.

The situations are numerous: population, food, clean water, political stability, personal liberty, group identity, economic development, environmental sustainability … and more. You must grasp complex ideas and how they relate to us: space and time, proximity and scale, cause and effect, systems and feedback, power and competition, values and tradeoffs, science and passion, creativity and inspiration, predictability and variation, permanence and mortality, privacy and sharing, law and justice.

We offer a tool to help: GIS. It lets you combine layers of data, explore here and there, see change over time, integrate different factors, analyze patterns, visualize relationships. If you can move a mouse, imagine what a bird sees, pick out a pattern, group similar things together and represent them, and ask a relevant question, you can learn and help us all.

We need you to start practicing, today, with easy tasks. It can be fun, too, seeing what you know about your neighborhood, and can learn about the larger community. Harder tasks will come soon, so we need you to practice. You can start at Esri’s K12 GIS Org, and your school can start at Esri’s ConnectED page. We depend on you. Learn quickly, please!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Use Field Notes App to Explore the World on your Smartphone

What’s it like on Planet Earth at the spot where you are located right now?  Use the new Field Notes – Earth to find out.  The app, available on iOS and Android, uses the power of three new global maps to help answer important questions about the current and future conditions on Planet Earth.

The three maps in the app include people (world population), life (ecological land units), and oceans (world seafloor geomorphology).  The app is an example of some of the rich content available from the Esri Living Atlas of the World and was built using Esri’s AppStudio for ArcGIS.

To use the app, either choose your current location, or any place on the planet that you are interested in, and start learning.  I used the app last week in Washington DC while I was there for the National Conference on Geography Education, which I thought was the perfect venue for using it.  In that location, the climate is predicted to be much warmer by 2050; it is 1,038 miles to the nearest volcano, but it is only 74 miles to a location that experienced a recent earthquake.  I can find out about the terrain, the nearest available farmland and fresh water, and much more.  The best part:  I can also add a second location to compare and contrast the two locations side-by-side.

Using the Field Notes Earth app

Using the Field Notes Earth app–some screens and information that you will discover.

For another reflection on this app, see the article from Time magazine.

In instruction, you could use this app to spark meaningful conversations about physical geography, cultural geography, environmental science, and much more, with themes including change over time and space, human-environment interactions, and others.   Use it but also get outside and observe using your five senses.  I daresay that this is the type of tool that you could also use in your “elevator pitch” when you are asked in your everyday experience, “What is GIS?” or “Why does geography matter”?

I look forward to your reactions and comments.

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