HOT TOPIC: Geographic Information Systems
Volume 1, Issue 19 - March 30, 2005

"Teachers have been using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to augment their classroom instruction for the last half-decade. GIS combines maps and databases to create graphical representations that allow you to manipulate data in different ways. It consists of

• Computer hardware
• GIS software such as ArcView and ArcExplorer
• Image, spatial and tabular data about the surface area you are investigating

As described by the USGS, “students using GIS in the curriculum are studying phenomena from the local to global scale. The use of GIS fosters a connection with the community through the acquisition of data and maps and through fieldwork. With GIS, students can examine the Earth in a new way, through three-dimensional analysis of a watershed, or by examining the Pacific “Ring of Fire” using a map projection that shows all of the Pacific Ocean in one view.” Other examples include:

• Rhode Island students study the economic impact of rivers in their communities. Other students map and analyze tree species on their school property.
• North Dakota, high school students help state parks use GIS to study and manage their resources. Middle school students map alternative sites for a local landfill.
• In science courses, students use USGS earthquake information on the Internet in a lesson on plate tectonics.
• World Geography students examine the climate, vegetation, population, natural hazards, landforms, and political geography of Africa.
• Students in Los Angeles map and analyze the ethnic makeup of neighborhoods in their city over time.
• Vermont middle school students use GIS technology, science journals, and photographs to determine the origin and ecological relationship of a local pond to the community.
• Students use GIS with Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to collect coordinates and chemical constituents of local streams.

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