Association of American Geographers
About AAG Membership Annual Meeting Projects & Programs Education Publications Calendar Of Events Jobs & Careers

GeoMentor Case Study:

Casey Finedell

City/State of School, School District, or Group: Port Townsend, WA, Port Townsend School District

Grade level of students you or your educator collaborator work/worked with: Jen Manning teaches middle school science. The class in which I have been volunteering is a 7th grade STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).

Subject/topic of class/group you assisted your collaborator with: Introduction to maps - from basic mapping concepts to real world examples. Discussed everything from Lat/Long and Great Circles to map generalization and visualization of demographics through chloropleth maps.

Approximately how many students were engaged in GIS activities through this collaboration: There are about 20 students in this class each week

How did you connect with your collaborator? I was asked to participate in an outreach program rooted in a ConnectED initiative. At a teacher training this summer, many teachers were excited by the possibilities of GIS in the classroom, but were a bit intimidated by the software. One teacher (Jen Manning) latched on to the GIS concepts and how they could enhance her classroom.

Describe your collaboration process. Jen Manning and I immediately started working on what we call the "BioCollector" app. With her 8th grade class, she has been collecting biological indicator information, such as pH levels, in local aquatic environments for about five years. She had the students collecting by hand, but the possibility of collecting on a phone or iPad was very interesting to her. To help with her comfort level with the software, we decided to introduce GIS to her 7th grade class.

Describe the tasks you assisted your collaborator with. For the first five sessions, we had discussions about mapping in general and GIS specifically. We focused these courses around the 5x5 exercise that ESRI put out for k12. ( These exercises were a great way to wade into GIS with this age level students.

After we concluded our 5x5 exercise list, we moved on to creation of our very own story map. We had the students group up into teams and each student was responsible for creation of a single location in a story map. We allowed the students quite a bit of freedom with the topic of these maps, focusing more on the creation as the lesson. We used the Story Map Shortlist template as our webapp. Most students chose to pin places they have been or desire to go, but a few chose topics such as site where the Loch Ness Monster and other borderline mythical/real creatures have been spotted.

This was a learning experience for both the students and the teachers. Some basic computer skills were covered such as saving an image from the internet and consuming it in a Story Map. Teachers learned how to better assess student preparedness for tasks and students pushed their comfort zone with computer skills, internet searching, and mapping.

What available resources, if any, did you use or help your collaborator use to implement GIS in K-12 education? In addition to the 5x5 linked above, we did review some of the materials ESRI put out for GIS day. We did review a few local examples of the Story map that we created. One such real world example of a Story Map is:
We will be bringing GeoInquries in during future sessions. We were made aware of this resource after we were committed to our lesson.

Did you develop any new educational material or GIS activities through your collaboration? We did not document any new educational materials, but we did create this GeoForm for their collection use. We hope that this will project will see students creating many maps with the data collected.

What did you gain from the experience? What do you think your educator collaborator and/or the students gained? This was an incredibly rewarding and reassuring experience. It was refreshing to see how quickly some of these kids stepped up and ran with these concepts. I personally gained a better understanding of student capabilities and, more importantly, my own teaching techniques. I learned how to explain topic from numerous angles to reach students with different learning styles. I also learned that some pop culture topic have fallen out of favor much quicker than I thought. FYI - Pokeman Go is sooooo last year.

If your GeoMentoring engagement activities were documented through a classroom blog, school website, group’s social media post, newspaper or other media, please provide the websites of those posts. No documentation yet. We are looking to document this with a 1 minute recap video and submit to ESRI for outreach in schools.

Any additional comments about your experience? GeoMentors is a wonderful program for connecting professionals with interested students. I feel that every GIS Professional and any interested educators should look into this program and see how a relationship can be built with local educational programs. I am happy to be involved with AAG and my local school system.


Check out more case studies here!

 If you're interested in submitting your GeoMentor experience for a case study, we would appreciate you doing so through this survey. The collected information will only be accessible to and used by AAG and Esri program staff and will not be further distributed or posted online unless you indicate your permission to do so.

Questions? Email