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Using Mapping to Solve Community Problems
By Deborah Dillon and Shea Lemar
City of Phoenix, Arizona



    The City of Phoenix, Arizona, in partnership with AT&T Corporation and Esri, has created a program that involves youth in community problem solving. The program supplies educators with a learning curriculum and ArcView GIS training. Students explore their perceptions about the community, form hypotheses, conduct research projects based on these hypotheses, and develop strategies to change their community. They present their findings to government and community leaders. GIS is an integral part of these students' research.
    AuThenTiCITY was developed by the City of Phoenix Youth and Education Office with assistance from the City of Phoenix Information Technology Department (ITD) and Esri and with corporate support from AT&T. AuThenTiCITY is an effort to actively involve youth in the place they call home. The AuThenTiCITY curriculum integrates service learning with mapping skills. Service learning combines the concepts of community service with learning and reflection. Students serve their community and reflect on their service. Advocacy is an integral part of service learning.

AuThenTiCITY Curriculum
    Students develop a greater awareness of community through doing community research and taking action on their findings. They examine their community from their own perspective and explore the perceptions of their classmates and community leaders. After examining these perceptions, the students form some hypotheses about their community. They conduct research to test these hypotheses and define solutions. Finally, students implement their solutions. In addition to using traditional technologies, such as wall maps, AuThenTiCITY provides training in GIS through structured ArcView GIS lessons. ArcView GIS and an AuThenTiCITY CD-ROM containing selected GIS data layers of Phoenix provided by ITD allows students to ask and answer geographic questions by creating and analyzing computer maps.

Community Discovery
    The AuThenTiCITY curriculum is divided into 16 lessons. The introductory lessons focus on community awareness. Students develop a mental map of their neighborhood or community. They share images of their community with classmates. Classmates then work together to create and define the boundaries of their community. They investigate how the community has changed through time and learn about current issues by interviewing community members. Students identify community issues that need further exploration.

Community Research
    Next students work on the skills needed to conduct community research. This phase includes developing a hypothesis based on the issues that were identified in previous lessons. Students learn how to construct questionnaires and data collection forms, gather data, build a database, and input data.
    Students practice the basics of ArcView GIS by using City of Phoenix data layers. Three lessons in the AuThenTiCITY curriculum are based on the book Getting to Know ArcView GIS published by Esri Press. These lessons teach students how to select themes, create a project, import data, and geocode information. Students do address matching and other GIS activities using data from their community. After students have learned ArcView GIS, their own research data is used in ArcView GIS. With the maps that are created using the data gathered, issues are analyzed from a geographic perspective. Using geography allows students to analyze data through a variety of perspectives.

Community Action
    Community action is the last phase of the AuThenTiCITY curriculum. This module allows students to step back from their research and analysis and take action on their findings. They review their hypothesis and findings. They define the problems they have analyzed and work with the community to make positive changes.

AuThenTiCITY Training
    AuThenTiCITY, a City-wide project available to any of the 30 school districts and the 350 schools in Phoenix, was initiated by the City's Youth and Education Office. Participants received a curriculum, a CD-ROM with selected Phoenix data layers, ArcVoyager software, training, and continued follow-up assistance. A generous grant from AT&T pays for three days of training to educators. This training focuses on developing ArcView GIS skills and understanding the available data. Because the data for the course is provided by ITD, participants must sign a licensing agreement that specifies the noncommercial use of the City data. Participants can complete a customized project during training. Teachers can repeat the training as many times as they want and are allowed to bring as many as three students with them.
    The Youth and Education Office supplies follow up telephone and on site technical assistance on ArcView GIS. ArcView GIS user group meetings are held monthly, and former participants receive periodic updates from the Youth and Education Programs Office.

The Evolution of AuThenTiCITY
    AuThenTiCITY is the result of cooperation between the City and the educators of Phoenix. Four factors made the development of AuThenTiCITY possible: the commitment of the City to youth, the development of an Enterprise GIS system by the City, corporate sponsorship by AT&T, and support from Esri. AuThenTiCITY would not have been possible without support from these entities. The continued success of AuThenTiCITY rests on the strong foundation provided by the City's Youth and Education and GIS programs. The development of both these programs was important in building AuThenTiCITY.

Support for City Youth
    In 1989 the City of Phoenix established an Education Office. This office works as a liaison to schools in the City of Phoenix and identifies the administrative districts, such as council districts, in which each school is located. The City of Phoenix's support of public education recognizes that it is not enough to teach the basic skills.
    The City is committed to involving youth in community problem solving and the business of government. The City distributes a booklet Phoenix Is Your City that introduces basic concepts of local government to students. The City's youth can also comment on the City's budget through participation in the Budget Forum for Youth program. The Youth Town Hall provides them with an opportunity to make policy recommendations to the mayor and City council. The Youth and Education Commission lets the City's young people work side by side with members of the corporate community. When the Youth and Education Program decided to develop programs incorporating GIS, they started working with the City's GIS division.

GIS Development
    The City of Phoenix's GIS began in 1991 with the passage of a bond funding GIS data conversion and the creation of both maintenance and automated mapping applications. Due to the vast size of Phoenix (473 square miles), it took six years to convert the street, parcel, water, sewer, zoning, and political data layers. During the data conversion phase, generalized applications for viewing and analyzing data were built. Initially, most of the City's GIS users worked in departments that maintained data.
    By 1997, the City's GIS program began expanding to other departments in City government. Data layers for villages, landfills, and neighborhood associations were created for specific City departments. A variety of GIS desktop applications tailored to the interests and needs of different departments were developed. A data sales program was set up so that people outside of the City could use these data layers, and metadata was collected so customers and GIS analysts would have documentation on this data.

The Program's Genesis
    AuThenTiCITY has been an evolutionary curriculum. The program was a natural outgrowth of the development of GIS by the City of Phoenix. The program has helped the City by funding the creation of new data layers, demonstrating the rewards of using GIS, and increasing the public's awareness of GIS. The ITD has aided AuThenTiCITY with its commitment to GIS education and data access for citizens and by sharing its experience in working with the public. However, even with strong support from the City's Youth and Education and GIS programs, the AuThenTiCITY curriculum could not have been created without the help of Esri and AT&T.
    AT&T, an enormous supporter of AuThenTiCITY, funded construction of a computer center at a local school. The center is used for student activities at the school in addition to AuThenTiCITY program training. AT&T's funding also helps supply the materials used in training. In recognition of the crucial role AT&T's support played in developing the program, AuThenTiCITY evolved as the natural name for the project. AT&T showed great patience during the development of AuThenTiCITY and had a larger vision of the program even before project developers.
    Esri was contacted during the early stages of the program's development. Esri is committed to assisting educators in developing a model curriculum for teaching ArcView GIS in schools. Through the Esri Schools and Libraries program, AuThenTiCITY received assistance with both curriculum and software needs.

Mutually Beneficial Program
    The AuThenTiCITY program began at a time when the City's GIS was mature. The City has a central GIS division that supports enterprise GIS. The GIS database was built, data was distributed throughout the City, and different departments cooperated in using GIS. The ITD's partnership with the AuThenTiCITY program has benefited both groups. ITD supplies data and technical support for the program, and AuThenTiCITY helps develop informed citizens who support GIS and the City of Phoenix. Both the City and its citizens will reap the benefits of the AuThenTiCITY program.

For more information, contact
Deborah Dillon
Education Program Director
E-mail: ddillon@ci.phoenix.az.us

City of Phoenix
200 W. Washington St., 12th Floor
Phoenix, Arizona 85003

 


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