Last week, two of our teachers received the Award of Excellence from ESRI Canada, in recognition of their work integrating Geographic Information Systems (GIS) into our school’s academic programmes. Kirsten Davel and Cheryl Murtland believe GIS, which allows users to attach data to a series of locations, provides an excellent opportunity for students to interact with information in a new way.
“GIS is a tool – like an atlas or a globe – that can deliver a learning experience to students in a meaningful way,” says Head of Geography Mrs. Davel.
Senior School students have used the software to study geography, geology and history. The AP Human Geography students have used it to examine global issues and the Grade 12 students have implemented it to study earthquakes and glaciations. In last year’s experiential pilot programme, the Grade 10 students spent a week collecting data from Mount Tolmie Park, a threatened Garry Oak ecosystem, identifying plants as invasive or native, and doing an environmental analysis of the action needed to protect the habitat.
“Our students model real-life problems,” says Mrs. Davel. “There are applications in everything.”
For example, a doctor dealing with an E. coli epidemic in a rural area could use the technology to track down the wells that were carrying contaminated water, by mapping out where patients were coming from and testing the wells around them. Or, an entrepreneur could use the system to find the best location for a new business, analyzing traffic patterns, population clusters and the location of rivals.
“Urban planning, international development, natural resource management – all use GIS,” says Mrs. Murtland. “The possibilities are endless,” says Mrs. Davel.
While GIS is expanding within the Senior School, it is also expanding into Junior School. Our Grade 4 students had their first GIS experience this week, when they visited the Senior School campus to go geocaching with their Grade 9 guides.