GeoMentor Case Study:
Western Illinois University Student Society of Geography
Names: Jonathan A., Alexis A., Adam F., Renee B., Omar C., Ryan K., Edgar R.
City/State of School, School District, or Group: Macomb, Illinois
Grade level of students you or your educator collaborator work/worked with: 9th – 12th
Subject/topic of class/group you assisted your collaborator with: Geography
Approximately how many students were engaged in GIS activities through this collaboration: Approximately 60
How did you connect with your collaborator? The Student Society of Geography is the campus club for anyone interested in the diverse field of geography. Over the summer, the club president learned about the GeoMentors program through Twitter and absolutely loved the idea of reaching out to students and faculty, conveying the importance of GIS in today's technological and quantitative world. It was also a way of drawing students to the club, providing them some experience with GIS which they could use as a resume builder. The club president reached out to a local teacher and he agreed to work with the club. That is where we are today.
Describe your collaboration process. We contacted the teacher at the beginning of the semester in September. We were in contact with him almost every week through email, and also met with him in person to discuss his class objectives and how we could meet those objectives through the Geomentor Program. Since this was our first time doing the program, and since the students had no or little experience with GIS we decided a simple module would be best to just introduce GIS Online and GIS basics to the students. We also felt that because they are high school students and that some would be moving on to higher education, to relate GIS to their future plans and show them the many things/projects GIS can be implemented with (some work we have done through GIS Center).
Describe the tasks you assisted your collaborator with. We spent the day, geomentoring four geography classes at the high school, with students ranging from freshman to seniors. We completed one of the basic modules provided on the programs website and we showed examples of what can be done using GIS. We also engaged them to relate GIS with their future plans, especially the senior students, providing examples of how GIS can be used in what they want to study after high school.
What available resources, if any, did you use or help your collaborator use to implement GIS in K-12 education? We used the Mapping Our World for ArcGIS Online resources provided by ESRI. The first module was named Geographic Inquiry; the lesson was named The Basics. We felt this was best to introduce the students to GIS and ArcGIS Online, providing them the necessary steps in adding and manipulating map layers, changing symbology, and answering geographic questions by visually interpreting the map. We also provided examples of work that the geomentors had completed in collaboration with the GIS center at WIU. This included showing the maps and discussing what features we were able to add to the map (attributes, popups, etc) that provided the user with necessary information when interpreting the map.
Did you develop any new educational material or GIS activities through your collaboration? The maps we showed to the students are available through ArcGIS Online at the WIU GIS Center ArcGIS Online page.
What did you gain from the experience? What do you think your educator collaborator and/or the students gained? This was our first time reaching out to the local school and it was a great experience. We are working close with the Geography teacher at the high school, and plan on continuing the program next semester. We had good feedback and participation from the students and they really enjoyed the different things that ArcGIS Online provided them. The educator gained valuable experience in working with ArcGIS online which he can use with his students outside of the program. The students learned the importance of GIS, that many employers look for experience in GIS and how important it is to have experience in GIS when searching for jobs. As WIU students it was a great way to engage with the local schools and provide a good image for the club, as well as get experience using ArcGIS Online.
Any additional comments about your experience? In a way the program is allowing something for the club to look forward to every semester, which draws in more and more students and helps in keep the club continuing. We currently have ten members that range from freshman undergraduate to graduate students, and are majoring in geography, emergency management, and meteorology.
Again, I speak for the club and thank the AAG and ESRI for providing this great program. We plan on continuing the program for semesters to come. We also received a grant from the Illinois Geographic Alliance, which provided us funding for a GPS unit to use with the Geomentor program, to collect data which can be imported to ArcGIS online. We planned on getting the students involved in data acquisition, which is a very important part of geographic inquiry process.
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