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

GeoMentor Case Study: 

Deborah Huber, GISP; Katharine Chaney, GISP; Brian Dresen, LS

City/State of School, School District, or Group: Chesapeake, VA

Grade level of students you or your educator collaborator work/worked with : High School Juniors and Seniors

Subject/topic of class/group you assisted your collaborator with: GIS Immersion

Approximately how many students were engaged in GIS activities through this collaboration: 11 students from Grassfield

How did you connect with your collaborator? The initial partnership with Grassfield STEM Academy was introduced through an employee whose son attended the school. We have continued to partner with the Grassfield STEM academy each summer.

Describe your collaboration process. There is an initial information night for the students where they can meet with representatives from different firms/companies. The students are then allowed to sign up for the company they are interested in. I meet with the Department Heads to see how much time they can commit to mentoring the students each summer. Then, I let Amie Beahm/Grassfield know how many students we can accept each summer.

Describe the tasks you assisted your collaborator with.
Clark Nexsen is a Multi-Disciplinary firm – Architecture, Civil Engineering, GIS, Transportation, Bridges, Wireless and Interiors. Each summer, Grassfield high school students enrolled in the STEM program are invited to our corporate office for a week of immersion. The STEM students meet for several hours with each department, to learn about how professionals in these fields do work their day-to-day projects. This summer, we had three groups come thru the program.
The GIS Department had the students for a three-hour span. We divided our GIS information into five sections:

1. Basic Overview - What is GIS?, How many industries GIS supports, How GIS can be used to analyze data to solve problems, and How we use GIS at Clark Nexsen. Also, the components of GIS, a BASIC explanation of Map Projections, and images of GPS equipment. We then provide them with links to local colleges with Geospatial classes and programs with links to useful geospatial websites.

2. Build a Map: Finding and importing data, adding collected GPS points, adding building footprints, adding base maps, changing Symbology, and adding labels, etc.

3. GIS related Apps that are fun to use. We show how we use the what3words free app during our field work - mostly for fun and adventure/social activities in our off hours, but also to assist us in foreign countries where there is a language barrier. We demonstrate using it for marking parking garages in New York City, locating a co-worker on a beach among hundreds of people, and navigating Japanese train stations.

4. Equipment Overview: Our surveyor demonstrates some of the equipment we use in the field – Leica Disto Laser Range finders for measuring building footprints (we let the students measure the room), the Trimble GPS units (more about this later) and the ToughPads with DraftSite (a lite CAD program) and ArcGIS Desktop loaded.

5. Scavenger Hunt: We took the students to a park across the street. Half were given what3words locations to navigate and the other half use Trimble Geo7X units with external antennas (with guidance). They then located the spot they are assigned – when they found it, they received a packet of Clark Nexsen swag. It is a good way to demonstrate the precision of professional GPS equipment versus a smartphone app.

Our overarching goals were to engage the students, open their awareness to GIS, and show how they are already interacting with GIS without even realizing it (navigational apps). Some of the students were unsure of the exact degree they wish to pursue, so we showed how a course or two in GIS could support most of the industries included in the STEM program. Once in college, we offer them to return to us for their internships during the summer months. Once graduated from college, some of our interns have returned to start their careers with us.

What available resources, if any, did you use or help your collaborator use to implement GIS in K-12 education? None that I am aware of, but we could provide the weblink to the FREE K-12 program through ESRI. We DID provide the ESRI links to the students in the follow-up email we sent after the event.

Did you develop any new educational material or GIS activities through your collaboration? Yes, a Geo-Locational Scavenger Hunt. See details in #5 above.

What did you gain from the experience? What do you think your educator collaborator and/or the students gained? Our GIS department gained a new perspective of how little the high school demographic is aware of GIS as a stand-alone technology field of study, how the Science of Where is at the forefront of so many industries, and how GIS plays a role in their daily lives.

We are hoping they gained a general understanding of GIS and how it can walk lock-step with the STEM industries they are interested in pursuing. Once we met the kids, we opened the option to provide their email address so we could provide follow-up information on the colleges offering GIS programs and a sheet of helpful weblinks to Geospatial websites. 

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.