Tag Archives: STEM

Advancing STEM Education with GIS ebook Released

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is a multidisciplinary approach to improving education, the work force, and national competitiveness. President Barack Obama noted that “Strengthening STEM education is vital to preparing our students to compete in the twenty-first century economy, and we need to recruit and train math and science teachers to support our nation’s students.” (White House Press Release, September 27, 2010).

Geographic information system (GIS) technology can engage several critical elements in STEM curriculum and instruction. GIS tools and techniques lead to understanding cross-disciplinary phenomena and solving problems rooted in academic and real world concepts. People use GIS to make maps, analyze data, and decide on best solutions. From a curricular perspective, GIS allows us to study climate change, design cities, inventory geologic samples, plan ecological growth models, catalog contents of an archaeological site, and countless other activities. GIS and related geospatial technologies of global positioning systems (GPS) and remote sensing can be used to simultaneously engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math.

To support the ever growing interest in GIS and STEM from teachers, researchers, and administrators, Esri has released a new (free) ebook addressing the multi-faceted supports GIS offers STEM classrooms. Dr. Tom Baker begins the ebook by addressing the core question, “How does GIS enhance STEM learning?” The ebook is filled with rich case studies of STEM in formal and informal environments. The power of STEM collaborations and partnerships and ties to career and workforce development is also a central theme of the volume. The ebook outlines three beneficial tracks for student learning in STEM by integrating GIS technology:

  • Improved declarative knowledge
  • Improved procedural knowledge (critical thinking, problem solving, spatial reasoning, etc)
  • Career skills development

The new ebook Advancing STEM Education with GIS is available now for download in PDF here
(right-click to “Save as”), perfect for mobile devices and tablets.

Contributors include:

  • Steve Obenhaus, Olathe North High School
  • Penny Carpenter, Byron Martin Advanced Technology Center, Lubbock Independent School District
  • Matthew North, Washington and Jefferson College
  • Kerry Lagueux, Heather Deschenes, and Maria Elena Derrien
  • Jim Baumann, Esri
  • Nicole Minni, University of Delaware
  • Susan Harp, Esri
  • Daniel C. Edelson, National Geographic Society
  • Karen Dvornich, University of Washington and Dan Hannafious, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group
  • Hans Bodenhamer, Bigfork High School
  • Joseph Kerski, Esri
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Fun with GIS 208: Competitions 2016 and 2017

In spring of 2017, Esri is hosting a network of US state competitions for grades 4-12. Successful pilot events occurred in 2016 in Minnesota (MN) and Arkansas (AR). “Students had a lot of fun with it and liked the freedom of making any type of map they wanted,” said MN teacher Kyle Tredinnick. A high school student said “This project was one of the most rewarding things I have done. It makes me respect the amount of work people put into their maps and information because I have now gone through the same process.” MN event co-leader Scott Freburg said “One teacher commented ‘Students who were doing poorly in most of their classes were absolutely loving this competition and thriving.’”

Competitions spark extra creativity and individuality, and students everywhere love that. MN students chose topics of personal interest ranging from commonplace to exotic: demographics, food, crime, pollution, health care, urban art, even Bigfoot sightings. The open-ended design yielded products ranging from more pictorial to more analytical.

MN’s professional GIS community jumped in quickly, offering to judge, and providing special T-shirts to all entrants and their teachers. The competition was highlighted at the state’s annual conference for GIS professionals; interested teachers were supported to attend a day of training, and contest awardees spoke to the more than 300 conference attendees at lunch. The state geography teachers’ conference also provided special recognition to winners.

(Top: MN co-leader Jim Hanson and some winners.
Bottom: Teachers and competition winners at GIS conference.)

Esri’s 2017 event has school, state, and national tiers. GIS professionals can help their state participate and serve as mentors or judges. Ultimately, one high school and one middle school winner will present at the 2017 Esri Conference. See the announcement for details.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 207: Competition!

In spring of 2016, Minnesota announced an ArcGIS Online competition for high school and middle school students across the state. From initial discussion to completion was barely three months, but they had over 200 entries from 25 schools across the state. Hearing Minnesota’s initial announcement, Arkansas created a twin event. On the strength of these successes, it’s time to take the idea up a notch.


Esri invites all U.S. states to conduct a state-based ArcGIS Online competition in 2017.
For each state formally participating, students can submit to their school an ArcGIS Online presentation, web app, or story map about something inside the state borders. Schools can submit up to five projects to the state. Esri will provide each state ten prizes of $100, to go to five high school and five middle school projects. These ten awardees per state will get national recognition, with one each high school and middle school entry advancing to a top level competition. The best high school and middle school projects will earn trips to the 2017 Esri Education Conference in San Diego, CA.

ArcGIS Online maps and apps help users of any age discover/ explore/ display data, show analyses, and present interpretations. Project-based learning experiences such as these help students build the essential problem-solving skills and in-depth background content knowledge needed for college, career, and civic life.

GIS professionals abound across the country (Map#4 above)! They can help educators present ideas and strategies, establish an Organization account, and help students grasp the deeper learning available with GIS. Keep an eye out for opportunities to connect these valuable community resources to learners. Check out the competition!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS 206: Community Round Mile

Want to do a simple crowdsourcing activity? Want to engage students in an exploration of areas around school, across the state, or spanning the country, using both demographic and landscape data? Want to make it an activity based on your students’ choices? Want to use the analysis powers in an ArcGIS Online Organization? Try the “Community Round Mile.”

By dropping a point, creating a circle of a certain distance around it, and enriching that buffer with particular data, you can get some fascinating “apples to apples” comparisons. But it takes a little planning to do more than once. The Community Round Mile activity is a three-part process that walks you through creating some simple data, sharing that data, and then expanding.

This final part relies on Survey123, which just acquired some exciting new powers. Try this to “crowdsource data” among your classes. Enterprising states might even coordinate a state-specific effort emphasizing data of special interest. Check out the Community Round Mile!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Teaching Students about the Societal Aspects of Technology using GIS

A recent article in eSchoolNews by Dianne Pappafotopoulos, school district instructional technology specialist, posed the question, “What should we teach students about the future of technology?”  She reflects about the ways that humans are increasingly relying on programmable devices and robots for their everyday lives, and in a sense “becoming” technology or at least a part of it.  Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an important enabler of these technological changes as the “where” question becomes ever more important.  GIS has undergone a series of massive paradigm shifts in its 50 year existence, and with the advent of Web GIS, the rate of change not only is increasing, but is attracting applications for nearly every aspect of society, from health to business to engineering and beyond.

Beyond the technical innovations that technology brings to our world and the workforce skills to our students, teaching about technology offers many societal and life lessons.  I think that the points Ms. Pappafotopoulos raises in the article about critical thinking, safety, privacy, ethics, and copyright connect well to what I believe we should be incorporating into our GIS instruction.  In fact, many of these topics are central to the themes in the Spatial Reserves blog that Jill Clark and I have been writing for nearly 5 years, along with the book we wrote on the same subject for Esri Press.  It is also a topic that we frequently write about in this GIS education blog.

Geospatial data are often personal, because they reflect the locations where individuals live, work, and travel. Collecting spatial data and creating and analyzing maps requires students to ask questions such as:  Where did these map layers come from?  Who created the data, and can I trust it?  How does the scale of my analysis and the parameters I use for the buffer or intersect tools affect the results of my analysis?  Do I have permission to use this photograph in my story map?  Should I share the location of where I live or where I took my morning fitness run with the world on a map?  Will I compromise the privacy of individuals who participate in my crowdsource map?

The recommendations for educators in the article have natural connections to GIS.  The creation of required courses that focus on these issues, inviting guest speakers (who could be from the GIS community via the Geomentors program), and project-based learning activities (such as SpatiaLABS, the Learn GIS library, and GeoInquiries) are excellent starting points.

Teaching with GIS is an important component in teaching about technology and its implications.

Teaching with GIS is an important part of teaching about technology and its implications.
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Fun with GIS204: Troubleshooting

Life online involves hiccups, from momentary to long-term. “My students are suddenly having intermittent ArcGIS Online issues,” a teacher recently told me. “Maps that some people made and saved are suddenly inaccessible. Their screens are just blank, but mine is not.”

Many educators have hit issues in online mapping. Identifying and addressing these involves multiple strategies. Troubleshooting is a critical thinking skill, with value far beyond simple comfort with any particular technology. I have posted on GeoNet a Troubleshooting document that educators may want to download and keep handy for when things go awry.


Frame from movie submitted by student as documentation.

The teacher and students above (11th graders from Roosevelt High School MSTMA in Los Angeles) had uncovered a bug in ArcGIS Online. Their unusual workflow led to dead ends in many maps when someone deleted a particular shared resource. Thanks to good documentation including a phone-shot video, technicians could isolate, replicate, and solve the problem. The next software release will not have this particular issue.

Most hiccup are not bugs. Troubleshooting is both science and art. Carefully iterating variables helps, but perception and situational awareness matter too. Educators and students alike need to practice troubleshooting, to solve what they can and be better prepared for the unexpected, whether it appears on a web page, walks in a door, or falls from the sky. This is what employers seek today — someone who can identify a problem, isolate it, clarify it, and come up with situationally appropriate strategies for coping.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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New book released – STEM and GIS in Higher Education


The new e-book from Esri, STEM and GIS in Higher Education compiles 19 university case studies describing innovative ways faculty are incorporating GIS to advance STEM related activities in higher education. As a successor to the 2012 Advancing Stem Education with GIS this book explores how faculty, staff, and students are successfully using GIS to analyze and better understand data in their specific STEM fields. As a sequel, this book is designed to foster the expansion of spatial analysis throughout the sciences and engineering. The content highlights successful experiences that describe innovative approaches to the collection, analysis, and display of spatial data and the unique benefits of applying GIS methods.  The nineteen chapters are assembled into three sections.

Section 1: Campus Support for Spreading GIS into STEM Disciplines

Demonstrate how major universities have established technical and academic infrastructure to support the use of GIS across campuses. These institutions represent models of “Spatial Universities” that have committed to the establishment of infrastructure to foster multidisciplinary spatially oriented learning and research. The examples provide a glimpse of how these organizations are serving as catalysts to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration. Specific examples demonstrate new approaches to data sharing through enhanced library functions, highlight new ways to utilize cloud based servers for realistic technical training, and preview cutting edge geodesign applications. They also illustrate ways to incorporate GIS to support campus facilities and foster interaction with local communities.

Section 2: Teaching and Learning about Spatial Analysis

Provide examples of ways that GIS and spatial analysis can serve as the focal point of courses in STEM disciplines. These examples should be useful to faculty in STEM disciplines who desire to incorporate innovative new activities for their students. The case studies demon-strate how GIS can be used to expand the technical abilities of stu-dents, helping to improve their understanding of real world problems while generating products that foster communication skills. It is significant that these experiences strongly suggest that the new breed of GIS software, such as ArcGIS Online and Esri Story Map app, will provide a fast track to curriculum deployment.

Section 3: GIS Applications in STEM disciplines

Describe research projects conducted by faculty and students in sci-ence and engineering that incorporate spatial analysis. These examples are designed to clearly demonstrate the value of GIS oriented research methods to traditional scientific investigations.

The contributions to this book were selected from submissions in response to a widely distributed call for chapters. These chapters cover activities at a wide range of institutions that include a cross section of Carnegie One private research universities, major state universities, smaller engineering colleges, and state supported regional campuses. The authors include biologists, engineers, physicians, environmental scientists, chemists, and psychologists. These lighthouse authors empower their students to discover, create, analyze, and display spatial data within the constraints of traditional university settings.

Explore the story map and no-cost e-book at http://www.esriurl.com/STEMGIS

If you are interested in contributing your university’s STEM and GIS program to the map, see the geoform at http://arcg.is/2cWoYvj .

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Fun with GIS 202: Roots & Shoots

Jane Goodall. The name conjures images of science, documentaries, jungles, crowded auditoriums, and visions for a better world. Jane’s work and passion have captured minds and hearts across the globe. For 25 years, young people have engaged in community projects through her “Roots & Shoots” organization, learning that they can make a difference, at home and across the globe.

Roots & Shoots makes it easy to start, with a 4-step formula: Get engaged, make a map, take action, and celebrate. This year, Roots & Shoots added ArcGIS Online to the mapping alternatives, so now projects can combine digital mapping, collaboration, and analysis. Is it powerful? See the video featuring teachers and students of the Math, Science, & Technology Magnet Academy of Roosevelt High School (Los Angeles, CA). See also the youth leader blog on the Jane Goodall Institute page; leaders from across USA visited Esri and learned about adding ArcGIS Online in their work and outreach.

Projects are not just the most powerful way for people to learn GIS. They are also the best way for people to see that they can make a difference in the world, no matter their age. Roots & Shoots projects epitomize “service” — something done for the benefit of another. Roots and shoots help plants spread out and grow, and Roots & Shoots projects can allow young people to shape their world and their future.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri education manager

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Start your engines! Analyzing car race data in ArcGIS Online

Analyzing car race data in ArcGIS Online

Analyzing car race data in ArcGIS Online!

One of my colleagues at Esri has a hobby that is quite exciting – she races cars.  Timing is everything.  During her first race at “nationals”, she won by 9 thousands (.009) of a second!  But besides timing, a wide variety of other data are collected during each race.  These data can be mapped in ArcGIS Online and used in education to foster spatial thinking in geography, physics, mathematics, and other disciplines.  For her recent race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, where she was driving a Mitsubishi Evolution Lancer, I created a web map based on the data she generously provided.   Use the map with the following guiding questions, or make up your questions.   Investigate the data while fostering spatial thinking using this engaging topic!  Be sure to show your students this video of the first time my colleague drove this type of car and a more recent video here (but be sure to hold on while watching!).

Here is the race car!  A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

Here is the race car! A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

Each racing event uses a custom course, which is marked off with pylon cones.  What do you notice about the spatial pattern of this course?  How many sharp curves did it include?  Go to the bookmark “Best Scale”.  Use the measure tool and measure the distance that the car drove between the start and finish line using the “Track of Race Car” layer as your guide when measuring.  Compare that distance against the straight line distance between the two locations.

Turn on the other map layers and open their tables to investigate the following questions:

Examine the Speed MPH layer.  What was the speed achieved around the first curve?  Where did the vehicle achieve its maximum speed?  What is the relationship of speed to the curvature of the track?  What was the speed across the finish line?

Turn on the acceleration layer.  What is the lateral acceleration around the first curve?  What was the range of acceleration around the race course?  What is the relationship of acceleration to speed?  Examine the oil pressure PSI layer.  What is the relationship of the oil pressure to speed?  Why?

Each of the data points was resampled for a reading every 0.12 seconds. For additional math and physics integration, measure the distance between two adjacent data points in feet or meters, determine how long it took my colleague to cover that distance, and calculate speed in kph or mph based on your measurements.

Change the style of one of your map layers to ‘gear.’  What gear was the driver in most of the time?  Why do you suppose this was the case?

Examine the steering wheel angle layer.  The Steering_P is given in angles from 0 (due north) with positive numbers to the right (+90=sharp right turn) and negative numbers to the left (-270=sharp left turn).  What is the relationship of the steering wheel direction to the curves?  From the steering wheel position, can you determine where the quick left-and-right motions occurred, indicating where a slalom was set up and requiring the driver to go back and forth around cones?  Run statistics on the attribute Steering_P and you will see the range, and that the average (just over the value of 1) is just about “straight ahead”.  In other words, all of the curves average out!  Try using one of the rotational symbols in ArcGIS Online to visualize the direction of the steering wheel more effectively.

What other variables and tools could you use to analyze the data using ArcGIS Online?  Try investigating the g-force (vector), braking velocity, and lateral force.  Try some of the analysis tools in ArcGIS Online to determine hot spots of understeer angle or other variables.  Have fun and think spatially!

Car Race Data Mapped in ArcGIS Online

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Fun with GIS 201: Instructional Guide for the ArcGIS Book

The ArcGIS Book offers “10 Big Ideas” about mapping, in hardcopy, free downloadable PDF, and free online in multiple languages. Equal parts coffee table book, text book, and workbook, some educators began teaching with it immediately after its release at Esri’s 2015 User Conference. It worked well having students reading on one screen (even a phone) and mapping on another.

The Instructional Guide for The ArcGIS Book now makes it even easier for educators to leverage the original. The Instructional Guide works like an outrigger, matching the concepts and technology of each section, speeding solid comprehension thru carefully designed activities. Linked movies launch chapters with an easy hook. Step-by-step guidance thru a bank of scenarios ushers even novices steadily into the power and flexibility of online mapping, via generic tools in browsers, browser-based apps, and mobile apps. End-of-chapter tasks summarize the fundamental ideas and skills. Many activities can be done without logging in, but many valuable ones require the powers of an ArcGIS Online organization account, and the Guide shows how educators in different situations can acquire such an account.

Coupled with the original volume, the Instructional Guide for The ArcGIS Book is a terrific resource for educators who want to see and employ true GIS power with online tools. And, especially for educators in Career/Technology Education (CTE) programs, or anyone who wants to see STEM in GIS, this demonstrates powerfully how online GIS can be engaged in day-to-day scenarios relevant to many different industries.

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Schools Program Manager

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