Tag Archives: Projects

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 http://esriurl.com/k12gis.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 178: Mentors Matter

Sarah and Lily Jenkins, two sisters from the quiet Hawaiian island of Molokai, “stole the show” on Monday of the 2015 Esri Conference. At least that was the sentiment of the few dozen people who stopped me during the rest of the conference. “And they’ve inspired me to work with my local school,” most added. Outstanding!

For over 20 years, Esri has encouraged GIS users to work with schools. In 2009, Esri and National Geographic launched a formal GeoMentor program, encouraging mentors to work with educators. (See Maps 3&4.) In 2015, the Association of American Geographers added new structure and energy, making it easier than ever for educators and mentors to find each other, and then document collaborations. And, since 2000, every student group to appear on Esri’s stage has had a mentor.

The best situation is when an insatiable educator and a passionate GIS user collaborate over repeated interactions. A single experience is nice but, like one bite of a meal, inadequate. Good relationships take time, trust, and interaction — honest sharing of goals, information, and chances for both to benefit. Some schools let outside mentors work with students as well as educators; others restrict things to adult interactions only, mentor to educator.

But mentors can — and sometimes must — work outside of school with known kids in the community. That’s what happened with Sarah and Lily. A local conservation mentor “adopted” them when only 8 and 6 years old; they worked on a string of local science-related projects for 9 years … first a little, then a little more, and so on. Several years ago, a STEM education mentor from another island saw their potential and began offering additional opportunities and guidance. Then, as they embarked on their most challenging project to date in fall of 2014, a GIS mentor gave just enough guidance to overcome difficulties. The “March of the Molokai Mangroves” is a powerful analysis of an invasive species with huge impact on a small and fragile island. Sarah and Lily showed brilliance, passion, grit, and grace under fire, presenting to more people than live on their island. Their project earned international acclaim and attention from federal agencies and international scientists … but not at school. Sometimes it works that way.

Mentors can have a huge impact in kids’ lives. It might come thru a teacher, or alongside one, or via a club or youth group, or just by working with a kid you know, independently. Does it matter? Just watch Sarah and Lily, and think about the kids you know. You can make a difference. Mentors matter.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Lakota Wicowoyake Canku owapi: Lakota Language Story Map

My colleague James Rattling Leaf and I created a story map on the Lakota language.   Our reasons for doing so are several.  We have long been interested in and collaborated on projects involving education, maps, and GIS, and wanted to illustrate how the story maps platform can be used to learn and teach about Native Languages, beginning with Lakota. When you access the story map, and step through its contents, you will be able to hear audio of a dozen words that are in both Lakota and English, a photograph of each spoken feature, and what that feature looks like on a satellite image map.  By coupling visual cues with audio, we hope to inspire others living on the Lakota lands, those working with language projects such as Recovering Voices, at the WoLakota Project, at the Language Conservancy, and others, to take these ideas and do even more with the story maps platform.  For example, you could embed these story maps in web pages; you could add video to the maps (as we illustrated with the word “lake”), you could create different types of story maps, and much more.  For learning about language, place, biology, history, geography, and many other themes, integrating audio and video with maps is becoming a powerful and yet easy-to-understand medium.

Second, we are interested in the issue for reasons deeper than our affinity for languages, geography, and GIS.  As noted on Lakhota.org, “Native languages in the United States are in the throes of a prolonged and deadly crisis. For the past 400 years, Native Peoples and their languages have been steadily and undeniably disappearing. Though the historical fate of Native Peoples has been reluctantly acknowledged, less is publicly known about the associated fate of their languages.”  And furthermore, “Lakota is dangerously close to extinction. Recent linguistic surveys and anecdotal evidence reveal that Lakota speakers of all abilities, on and around the reservations of North Dakota and South Dakota, amounted to fewer than 6,000 persons, representing just 14% of the total Lakota population. Today, the average Lakota speaker is near 65 years old.”

Furthermore, geography, place, location, and culture are reflected in the Lakota and other Native languages, making story maps an excellent tool for teaching and learning.  For example, according to Lakhota.org, “Nature is used as the primary source for the metaphor models,” and “Lakota is also very good at emphasizing the finer attributes of travel. A person can be considered to be coming or going to or from specific places in many levels detail. Lakota greetings themselves reflect this tendency, where in English “welcome” is literally Lakota – “Good that you came,” And “goodbye,” is “Travel well.” The language also closely linked the land to the people through geographical names and stories.  [] A word like woímnayankel, expresses notions of awe, humility, and interconnectedness. A Lakota speaker might use this when describing the experience of the northern lights (aurora borealis). The word expresses the humility that a person feels when confronted by the awesomeness of nature while also feeling intimately connected with it.”

How might you use story maps, and the ideas presented through this Lakota language story map, in your own work?

Lakota Wicowoyake Canku owapi:  Lakota Language Story Map

Lakota Wicowoyake Canku owapi: Lakota Language Story Map

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Fun with GIS 160: A Billion

On May 27, the White House announced Esri’s contribution to ConnectED: ArcGIS Online Organization subscriptions for any K12 school in the US. Kids in any US school can make maps and analyze data using powerful, professional, web-based GIS, anytime and anywhere connected, on computer, tablet, or smartphone. Since the announcement, three main messages have reached me. First, “You actually expect this to have any impact?” Second, “Sign me up!” Third, “Really? A billion?”

Absolutely, we expect an impact. From Esri president Jack Dangermond on down, my colleagues at Esri are excited about how kids have already used ArcGIS Online, as seen at the 2013 Esri Conference and schools across the country. When educators and education influencers see how powerful it is for kids doing projects, it has an impact.

Hence the “Sign me up!” message. Schools have already requested, received, and started working with ArcGIS Online Orgs. More important, GIS users and education leaders in every state have said “I’m telling my friends, AND my local schools!” The GIS Certification Institute in particular is encouraging GISPs to be GeoMentors for local schools. Educators can build capacity with ArcGIS Online easily, and students even more so. It is important not to set sights too high too quickly, nor stay too low too long (see model), but good teachers know this.

A word about “projects.” Education Week just published its annual high school graduation analysis, looking at rates across USA. [Note: Chris Swanson, VP of the organization that publishes Education Week, will give the initial keynote at Esri's 2014 Education GIS Conference.] Graduation rates are improving, but a huge issue remains; this year’s theme is “Motivation Matters.” But teachers everywhere report that using GIS helps kids engage more deeply in school, especially in projects. Projects are like “educational Velcro.” Wrestling with complex topics, using varied data, in custom situations which are often deeply personal, students work on innumerable little puzzles — countless little hooks. GIS is STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), and more — communication, collaboration, creativity, and countless topics. When kids use GIS to explore problems, they often show up in the room before school, reappear during lunch, and sometimes must be shooed out the door after the last bell. I’ve seen it in every kind of school, with kids of all backgrounds, including technophobes, kids with various learning challenges, social butterflies, invisibles, and even those expected to have been mired in “senior slump.”

So, we hope every school uses ArcGIS Online. But … “a billion? Really?” When asked, I have replied “You tell me, what’s the dollar value of enticing kids to stay in school? helping them build skills they will carry for a lifetime? helping them see and think geographically and influence their friends and family to do the same? helping them make sound decisions on the basis of a holistic view of a unique and complex situation? supporting the work of millions of kids as they move into countless careers? And then what’s the value of a community that does not get built in a disaster-prone area? or a police force allocating critical resources where they are needed most? or epidemiologists who can recognize transmission patterns sooner and ward off a pandemic? or businesses who understand optimizing routes? or a billion other situations large and small across the land and over the years?”

Esri’s mission is to help people solve problems by understanding complex situations. We face enormous challenges, as communities, as a nation, as a planet, and only education can solve them. We all need to do our part.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Designing and Teaching a GeoTech Club at a School

My colleagues and I on the Esri Education Team sometimes hear from educators, parents, and those in the GIS community who have successfully run geotechnology clubs at their local school.  Over the past few years, I have also had the opportunity to run a GeoTech Club of my own, at a local middle school, and then at a local high school.  Space does not permit me to go into too much detail, and therefore I would welcome a dialogue on this topic below.  However, I wish to share the approach I have taken and what I have learned in the process.

GIS Poster from High School Student

GIS Poster from High School student participating in GeoTech Club

First, an after-school club is an excellent way for students to engage in GIS, remote sensing, GPS, and web mapping.  Second, since it is a club, I encourage you to make the activities fun and engaging.  I hand out cool maps, satellite images, and other mapping related items.  We investigate current events using GIS.  During every class, I bring in real job ads requiring GIS skills in the local area and we discuss career decisions and work environments.  Third, I start the school year with field activities–we gather data about litter, trees and shrubs, social zones, cell phone reception, and infrastructure on the school campus using GPS receivers and smartphones (“We get to use our phones in school?  Cool!”).  We map our field collected data in ArcGIS Online.  Fourth, I ask them what they are interested in examining.  Fifth, choose a variety of topics and scales:  We examine local-to-global issues such as urban sprawl, open space trails, business site selection, population change and characteristics, watersheds, weather, natural hazards, energy, biodiversity, and more.

Sixth:  Soon after the second semester begins, I start instructing less and let the students pursue an independent project of their own choosing.  One student created an ArcGIS Online map with data points and photographs to support the field trip the Earth Science teacher was conducting. Another made a map-based project comparing all of the local lunch spots students in his school.  Another made a map with all of the major league baseball stadiums complete with team logos used as point symbols.

Seventh, since there is so much competition for students’ time after school, I make sure that I not only advertise the club via school newsletters, announcements, and web sites, but I also take advantage of the best way to grow the club:  I encourage the students in the club to tell and bring their friends.

Eighth, ensure that the club is well supported by the school’s teachers and administrators, and build connections between what you are doing in the club to the school’s focus areas.  Career academies are an important part of the high school housing the GeoTech Club I facilitated this past year.  The themes of geotechnology, inquiry, our content areas, and critical thinking skills became an important part of the school’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) academy and, I hope in the future, their Business and Global Studies academy.  The career academies required participating students to focus on certain coursework and skills, and the STEM academy’s pathways on computer technology and “Earth, Energy, and the Environment” were particularly well aligned with the GeoTech Club.  I was thrilled when one of the students from the club decided to focus on GIS for her senior capstone project, an advanced research project that results in a research paper, poster (shown here), and presentation.  I was very impressed by the quality and professionalism during the day in which this student and the other senior capstone participants presented for their peers, parents, and teachers.

If you are already running a GeoTech Club at a school, what activities do you include in it?  If you are not running such a club, I encourage you to look into it, or encourage others to do so.   What I would love to see is for the students to direct the activities of their own club, and ideally, run the club themselves.  Is this happening anywhere?

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Ji Hua Mei You Bian Hua Kuai: Plans Can’t Keep Up with Changes

As we enter a new year, we on the Esri education team look forward to working with you, the global GIS education community, on supporting the use of spatial thinking and geotechnologies to foster deep learning experiences throughout the world.  A Chinese proverb, “Ji Hua Mei You Bian Hua Kuai” or “Ji hua gan bu shan bian hua” seems appropriate to quote as we move forward as a community.  Ji hua refers to plans, bian hua to changes, and mei you means “not”.  The meaning of the proverb is, therefore, “Plans Can’t Keep Up with Changes.”

Many nuances associated with this proverb seem to me to be particularly meaningful with regards to GIS in education.  First and most obvious is that change is a constant part of our lives.  The world of public and private education at all levels is rapidly changing in terms of priorities, learners’ demographics, and available technologies and methods.  Teaching and learning with GIS is also rapidly transforming as GIS becomes viable on mobile devices and web-based maps, apps, and services continue to open doors through which students can enter for learning opportunities in schools and universities and career opportunities once they graduate from those schools and universities.  The open data movement, citizen science, and cloud-based GIS all expanded many-fold last year and will continue to do so.  The recent upgrade to ArcGIS Online, including the viewing and filtering of tables and the ability to create time-enabled feature services, is a perfect example of the expanding array of tools that can be effectively used to teach in and about a wide variety of subjects, students, and settings.

But I believe there are subtler aspects to this proverb that are appropriate to GIS in education as well.  While things may happen that are out of our control, we still need a plan to keep us focused.  We on the Esri education team will continue to develop courses, curriculum, data, and other resources, conduct and foster professional development opportunities and research on GIS in education, and communicate through a variety of face to face and online methods and a variety of stakeholders about the need for spatial thinking and GIS in education.  We do all of these things in partnership with you, the GIS education community.  Adhering to the proverb also means that we need to prepare for and predict upcoming changes as we create our plan, and so we need to keep close watch on and anticipate changes in technologies and education.  Finally, following the proverb also means that our plan needs to include long-term and short-term  goals, and include step-by-step details to deal with the changes that will surely come.   We need to hold fast to our “big dreams” of spatially literate societies, and yet take concrete steps to help us get there.

What plans do you have for GIS in education over the next year?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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On BioBlitz, Fieldwork, and Web-based GIS

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in BioBlitz 2012 at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. BioBlitz is a 10-year partnership between the US National Park Service and National Geographic with three goals: (1) Highlight the diversity of national parks by conducting a taxonomic inventory; (2) public outreach; (3) to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and geography. During one day, I went into the field to collect and categorize macroinvertebrates in a beautiful montane stream (shown here in ArcGIS Online) with 40 students aged 11 to 13.

Collecting macroinvertebrates in stream.

After collecting the data over a period of five hours, the data was identified by the students according to a detailed classification chart.

The data was then input into a web-GIS called FieldScope, created by National Geographic and based on Esri technology, and viewable that same evening by anyone on the web.

It was wonderful to work with our partners at National Geographic and in particular, with students, and four things struck me through this event. First, it is important to get students into the field repeatedly, and at young ages, to provide rich experiences and a love for the outdoors and the environment. During the next day, I met environmental and youth advocate Juan Martinez, who had a powerful experience with an Eco Club in south Los Angeles that changed his life. I was impressed by the high quality and collaborative nature of the students’ work. They were interested not only in getting wet collecting data, but they were just as interested in classifying the data. In fact, they were so immersed that nobody happened to notice a bear about 100 meters away, documented by a photograph that another group showed our group later that day!

Adding citizen science data to FieldScope.

Second, powerful things can happen when students and professional scientists collaborate, as evident here and with such efforts as GeoMentor, GIS Corps, and Project Budburst. BioBlitz brought together hundreds of students, over 100 scientists, and thousands of the general public whose two days of data collection resulted in over 400 bird, fungi, macroinvertebrate, animal, and vascular plant species that had never been documented in this particular national park before. Third, the event reinforced the concepts that Jill Clark and I wrote about in the book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data: As citizen science projects gain in popularity, enabled by powerful, easy-to-use web-GIS and field collection instruments, how can data collected by a wide variety of people be managed and cataloged that is useful and allows people to understand how that data was collected, categorized, and mapped?

What are some meaningful field experiences that you have had?

-Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 124: Problem-Based Learning at Esri International User Conference

At the 2012 Esri International User Conference, 14,000 people thunderously applauded stars of problem-based learning (PBL). At the opening plenary session, four students stepped out on stage and confidently displayed their experience with GIS, gained during just their senior year of high school. Their work was so real, so powerful, and so like what GIS professionals do that the demos were sifted in among those by other users, instead of isolated as a special student group. You can see their presentations, and the teacher’s summary here: Esri 2012 UC Plenary Videos
Choose “Mid-morning”, see “21:40-26:35″, “43:50-47:00″, “61:08-65:30″

Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA is a good school. These are bright and inquisitive students, and the teacher masterfully weaves together relevant content, powerful technology, and incrementally greater challenges. But the model of PBL with GIS used by these and hundreds of students across the Virginia Geospatial Semester program is the real star.

In school after school, teacher after teacher help students build skills in GIS by tackling real-world challenges. They construct maps of things around them, analyze the patterns and relationships they see in daily life, and struggle just like adults to integrate information and derive sensible answers in complex situations for which there is no “cookbook answer.” With a steady diet of such experiences, they build a disposition for challenges. Combined with the technical savvy and creativity of youth, this is serious power. In the hours and days following the WLHS students’ presentations, everyone I met agreed that these students were ready for college and career.

Across the US, employers and politicians (save only for one party in one state) clamor for students to have 21st century skills, including managing and thinking critically about all kinds of information, collaborating, communicating, and working with powerful tools. Lucky kids whose teachers or after-school activity leaders employ PBL with GIS get to practice this even from a young age. These kids will survive and thrive tomorrow, as the thunderous applause at the Esri Conference attests.

Are students in your community preparing for tomorrow by tackling real-world challenges without a cookbook? Can they demonstrate it using technology beyond a Number 2 pencil?

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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From Observations, Curiosity, and the Spatial Perspective to Asking Questions

In my last column, I argued that one’s senses, curiosity, and the spatial perspective are essential for understanding our world and for making the most out of field experiences. In this column I wish to make the case that these three things guide the questions you ask. And the questions that you ask are most important thing about any investigation, and about learning.

I also believe that you must be comfortable with the fact that in our complex world, some of the questions cannot be answered without additional investigation, and that some of the questions indeed may never be fully answered. In our world of instant information and standardized testing, quick and easy answers are difficult for many students—and sometimes, instructors—to accept.

Consider a recent video I made on the beach on the coast of the Caribbean Sea where I asked a series of geographic questions. I considered issues in physical geography including sediment transport along coasts, beach sand, storm surges, and hurricanes, and issues in cultural geography including the pros and cons of developing resorts along coasts. I could partly answer some questions I posed in a few minutes, while others I left open for students and instructors to discuss in class.

The questions you ask determine what data and information you will collect, what devices you require, and what methods you will use. We certainly have more means of collecting data than ever before. I believe that geographers from Eratosthenes to Davis would have been thrilled to have and use the tools we have today. We also have an expanding number of ways to map field-collected data. Some of these ways even allow for something that many of us have longed for years to be able to do—to collaboratively and simultaneously gather data in their real-world coordinates by a group of students while out in the field, and have that data automatically appear on a continuously updating map. These can be done using the Student Data Mapper or from shared Google spreadsheets as developed by my colleague Tom Baker, or via editable feature services using ArcGIS 10.1 and ArcGIS Online as shown in the image below.

Yet unless we are curious, using our senses, asking insightful, thoughtful questions, and using the spatial perspective, the effectiveness of even these tools will be limited. What are some of the means you have used to foster good questions to be grappled with?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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New Book: Tribal GIS: Supporting Native American Decision Making

A new book from Esri Press entitled Tribal GIS: Supporting Native American Decision Making, will be published in June 2012. In it, tribal leaders tell their stories about implementing and using GIS to address their unique challenges as sovereign Nations. The book covers applications in natural resources and the environment, transportation, cultural and historical preservation, economic development, health, public safety, agriculture, and perhaps most interesting to the GIS education community, two chapters on K-12 and higher education. Showing how tribal governments responsible for the stewardship of their land and resources and the health and well-being of their People use enterprise GIS to make decisions, Tribal GIS supports tribes new to GIS and those with GIS experience. It also will be useful for the general GIS community, showing the many scales and disciplines in which GIS can be applied.

It was an honor to work on this book with so many visionary people who are making a positive difference in the lives of people, in their communities and on their lands, and beyond. The book includes dozens of stories written by educators, scientists, administrators, managers, and others, showing the diversity of their backgrounds but also a common vision for the benefits that spatial analysis and GIS bring to their everyday decision making. Editors of the book include Anne Taylor, who coordinates Esri’s Tribal program, David Gadsden, who coordinates Esri’s nonprofit organization program, Joseph Kerski, who serves in Esri’s education program, and Heather Warren, who is the marketing coordinator for the federal government industry at Esri.

The education chapters include stories such as students at the Alamo Navajo School collecting water well location and water quality information for the tribal government, students at Santa Fe Indian School measuring soil erosion and analyzing land use, students at Haskell Indian Nations University researching the geology of Antarctica and developing an accessibility map for their own campus, and much more.

Space does not permit me to say too much here, but the stories speak for themselves. Pick up a copy of the book, read these stories, and share them with your students. How have the spatial perspective and GIS made a positive difference and aided with decision making? How might you be able to use these stories to generate ideas for your own GIS-based projects?

–Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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