Students Gain Geographic Ground Following Esri's Billion-Dollar Software Pledge to White House ConnectED Initiative

Redlands, California—At the White House Science Fair today, in conjunction with President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative, Esri announced significant academic progress from its billion-dollar commitment to offer mapping technology to every K-12 school in the United States. Since the program’s launch on May 27, 2014, more than 1,000 schools have grown their geographic programs through Esri’s ConnectED pledge.

Along with its software donation, the world leader in geospatial technology has also recently awarded $140,000 in training grants to teams of educators, and is developing more inquiry-based curriculum for specific subject areas, available as a free download, to help classes and afterschool programs make the most of geography.

“I’m extremely encouraged that there has been such a powerful response to our pledge,” says Jack Dangermond, Esri president. “The sky is the limit in regards to solving problems with geography for the schools that have adopted our ArcGIS Online platform. We are humbled to have a part in supporting STEM education across the country.”

Esri also announced at the White House Science Fair that it will release a free, open crowdsourcing app designed to empower citizen science later this year. A prototype of the app was used to power a live snapshot of the White House event. The app, which collects tweets from around the globe and continually updates them on a map, helps people discover citizen science in their communities and explore existing resources. Individuals and groups from schools that have enrolled in Esri’s ConnectED efforts to establish an ArcGIS Online account will have access to the app.

Following is a sample of the schools that have taken advantage of Esri’s offer and have already created impressive projects that reveal the power of geographic knowledge.

 At Unity School in tiny Unity, NH (pop.1530), eighth-grader Gabriel Chabot borrowed the school’s one GPS, walked around the school grounds to learn how it worked, then took it home to track a four-mile hike around his village this fall. He imported the tracks onto a map (on his own, without teacher instruction) in ArcGIS Online. He is helping the teacher introduce ArcGIS Online to the students in grades 6-8.

 Matthew Cowan is a ninth-grade English language arts teacher in an engineering academy at Yucaipa High School in Yucaipa, CA. He attended Esri’s teacher institute in June 2014, where he acquired an ArcGIS Online account, and now has 400 students participating in online mapmaking. He is teaching his colleagues about GIS, completing the first of three planned professional development events. Students have completed various projects including analyses of thematic maps using Common Core style projects and rubrics. Students are now analyzing "Is Yucaipa a teenage-friendly city?" by gathering data in the field (with smartphones and tablets when possible), analyzing it, comparing it with information about city planning. The goal is to empower students to propose and defend a business or service in the City that addresses a documented need. Matthew has been asked by the district to lead a wider revamp of curriculum by melding GIS and Common Core English language arts.

Donna Tlachac teaches a career technical education Web Publishing & Media Design class at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, CA. She attended Esri’s teacher institute in June 2014 and acquired an ArcGIS Online account. This year, the theme for the school’s service learning is "Our Vista Community." Using their new account, students are learning GIS. Donna has also started teaching GIS to elementary students at the Bobier Elementary After School Education & Safety (ASES) program. She is working on partnering the two groups, bringing together older and younger students in the Vista Community, to map waterways, ranchos, and missions on tablets.

 Students of Bow High School (Bow, NH) math teacher Marcel Duhaime recently won a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition for their mapping app that allows people to mark locations of trash around the town forests. In addition to location, the app lets users collect information about the volume and characteristics of the trash. The data is being shared on a collective map accessed by local community service groups, who clean and mark the site. Students will also do location analyses to make recommendations to town managers.

 Eric Cromwell is the elementary science coordinator for Baltimore County Public Schools, and has been using desktop GIS for a decade. On the heels of the May 27 announcement by the White House, Eric set about changing plans for the district. Now, a suite of activities is under development through which students use ArcGIS Online to see, do, and learn science through a geographic lens. The goal is to help students make Next Generation Science Standards connections about ecosystems and biology, weather and climate, engineering design, geosystems, geology, and chemistry.

 Arkansas is home to the EAST Initiative (problem-based, tech-oriented, service learning class), which has had isolated users of desktop GIS for 15 years. (At the 2014 Esri User Conference, 4th graders from Sonora Elementary in Springdale Arkansas presented their projects on stage to more than 16,000 GIS users from around the world; see Esri’s step into ConnectED launched a whole new effort among EAST schools, and more than 150 of the ArcGIS Online accounts are from Arkansas. EAST programs across the state – from high school to elementary, and urban to rural – have seen students undertake projects with their accounts from Esri’s ConnectED offer.

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