Blog-a-thon: GIS Education Community Blog

This blog-a-thon submission is a summary of a series of Geography Awareness Week themed blogs from ESRI’s GIS Education Community Blog. Special thanks to Joseph Kerski, the GIS Education Manager to being so enthusiastic and prolific about Geography Awareness Week! Follow this link to access each of these blog posting in full.

Collecting and Analyzing Field Data within a GIS Environment:
So many map, image, video, and data sources exist along with GIS tools these days that it is tempting to think we can “get by” without doing any fieldwork. Indeed, in these days of educational funding constraints when fieldwork involves high costs, permissions, and effort, these technological resources are extremely welcome and valued as virtual field trip substitutes. But are they truly substitutes?

2011-09-16_73431_nature.JPGWe on the Esri education team work closely with the education community to promote active fieldwork. Our collaboration with National Geographic on the 2011 Geography Awareness Week promotion is just one example. We have collaborated with the American Geosciences Institute on Earth Science Week and with those promoting “No Child Left Inside” initiatives; we make use of the resources from the Place Based Education Initiative, and we promote the use of probes, GPS, and even smartphones to gather primary data to map and analyze within a GIS environment. Watch my video to examine why fieldwork is important. Even if you cannot get away from campus, you can still collect data right on your own school grounds. Dr Herb Broda’s book SchoolYard Enhanced Learning provides excellent ideas on how to do just that.

Explore Your Community: It’s Local to Global to Local…

As you celebrate Geography Awareness Week and its theme, “Geography: The Adventure in Your Community,” take time to recognize the scale associated with the term “community”–from the intimate geographies of your local neighborhood, and your favorite places to explore there, to the Earth and the treasures and issues it holds for the current 7 billion human inhabitants living on it, and the stories we all share.

Esri, through the lens of several of our colleagues, Allen Carroll (former chief cartographer at National Geographic) and others, has created a place on the Web where Map Stories covering the range of geographies are coming to life and light. These geostories seek to relate to important issues of the moment and others that speak to more enduring, and at times, dismaying topics.

esri.pngOne Map Story that communicates the beauty of our human experience and the planet upon which we depend invites you to explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The nearly 1,000 locations around the world are a mix of cultural and natural areas and features of outstanding value and importance to past, present, and future generations.

Examining Changes in Your Local Community with GIS
Just outside of our Esri office in Colorado, a large condominium complex
just broke ground. To the spatial thinker, its construction invites
consideration of scale, change, and geography. On a local scale, the
hilltop site in Broomfield was chosen because of the excellent views its
residents will have of the Colorado Front Range, which were formerly
enjoyed by my colleagues on the north end of our building. Regionally,
construction occurs here as part of population growth fuelled by the
combination of high-tech industries, including GIS, and amenities such
as the nearby universities and the mountains, making Colorado one of the
fastest growing states over the past 30 years. For centuries,
communities changed very little, and indeed, some communities today
undergo very little change. Yet in most communities, changes in
infrastructure, total population, and the makeup of that population are
commonplace. Therefore, this year’s Geography Awareness Week theme of
“The Adventure in Your Community” is quite relevant, and community
changes can be examined spatially by using a Geographic Information
System (GIS).

Geography Awareness: Using your Head, Heart, and Hands:
Geography Awareness week is a good time to think about what it means to
be geographically aware. Conventional wisdom tends to define “knowing
geography” as “knowing where things are.” Obviously this is an
important – but not sufficient – definition of geographic awareness.
When I think about why I love studying and teaching geography and GIS, I
realize that geography and GIS allow my students and me to develop our
geographic heads, geographic hearts, and geographic hands.

When you use your geographic head, you are thinking spatially and
attempting to understand relationships, processes, and concepts that
help you to make geographic sense of the world around you. You are
gaining an understanding of geography beyond where by exploring the whys
of where. Your geographic head helps you to understand and solve
spatial problems and to make spatial decisions. 

Fun with GIS #97: 25 Years of Geography Awareness

In summer 1986, at an institute for geography teachers in Minnesota, I
“found religion.” I met 30 local educators who also loved geography and
wanted to do an ever better job teaching it. In summer 1987, I “found my
voice,” during a teacher institute at National Geographic Society
headquarters in DC. In these two summers, I learned to be proud I was a
geographer, to proclaim its power with stentorian voice, and to help
others become geographic thinkers.


We talked about the abyss of geographic knowledge and thinking, among
students and adults. US Senator Bill Bradley (NJ) came in to talk about
how important it was for everyone to understand why geography matters,
and how we missionaries could help. We learned there would be an
official proclamation for Geography Awareness Week, and met the staffer who had penned the words and helped secure congressional signatures. How exciting!

GIS Education Community Blog
Photo Credits: Esri Education Blog; Your Shot, Joel Metlen

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