GIS Day: For Kids and Grown Geogeeks

Geography can be applied to everything that can be understood. But the world isn’t being understood quickly enough to keep pace with the sustainability challenges of a growing population. That is why GIS Day, happening this year on November 18, is so crucial.

On and around this day, advocates of geography as a powerful extension of science and governance evangelize the wonders of geospatial technology, showing how GIS is the platform that enables geography to radiate more widely into the world.

There will be hundreds of GIS Day celebrations around the globe this year. Here is a brief sampling of those events.

Bangladesh: GIS for Humanitarian Aid

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Bangladesh will commemorate GIS Day by hosting an event on November 18 at the US Embassy in Dhaka. The organization, which strategically allocates resources by geographically targeting aid investments, has invited partners to exhibit maps at a map gallery and will open the event to university students and kids.

GIS helps USAID geographically monitor overall aid effectiveness and upholds the organization’s open data and transparency goals. As such, GIS is an integral tool for helping USAID make evidence-based decisions. That is why Deena Wahid, program development specialist at USAID Bangladesh, will enlighten her audience about the value GIS presents to humanitarian aid.

“Unfortunately, there’s a relative scarcity of geospatial data, data quality, and awareness about the strength of GIS to serve humanitarian aid organizations,” said Wahid. “More awareness through GIS Day—especially targeting youth—will improve this situation. Our main purpose for this event is to spread the message about the power of GIS by sharing our GIS activities, maps, devices, and software.”

In addition to demonstrating how GIS improves the lives of Bangladesh’s citizens, USAID will provide stalls for GIS vendors and have a GIS Corner with interactive games.

United Kingdom: An Ashcloud Apocalypse

Interactive games are a key component of GIS Day because they accelerate people’s—especially kids’—understanding of a concept. Ask a child to map the effects of a large-scale explosion, such as one from a fictional mega-volcano, and you’ve got that kid’s attention.

Raphael Heath, head of geography for The Royal High School Bath in the United Kingdom, will exploit this fascination with world destruction by hosting a global mapping exercise that will run throughout Geography Awareness Week (November 15–21) with support from Esri UK. Dubbed Ashcloud Apocalypse, the exercise—which is expected to engage thousands of participants all over the world—is based on the idea that there are mega-volcanoes scattered around the globe and that people living in different areas are prone to different risks, depending on geography. Students will contribute data that shows the risks to their communities, and that information will be used to create a large-scale hazard risk map for any fictional eruptions—the goal being to teach students how to use GIS for disaster risk analysis.

“It will also provide a range of opportunities to examine data patterns for a range of social and economic data,” said Esri UK education consultant Jason Sawle. “Last year’s event attracted more than 11,000 students. We’re anticipating even higher numbers this year.”

Get involved in Ashcloud Apocalypse.

United States: Tours and Learning Labs

There will be no shortage of interactive games for youths around the United States, though a vast number of these GIS Day events aim to edify grown-ups. Many events in the United States are being organized by universities, government offices, and public safety agencies and include learning labs for the hard-core learners.

The State of Indiana already prepped the area for GIS Day by hosting the 2015 Indiana GIS Day Conference on September 22. GIS users from a number of departments demonstrated how the state uses geography to distribute services and open data portals to share vital information. Attendees also got a tour of the State of Indiana’s Emergency Operations Center, where Esri software has been integrated into daily operations.

To keep the GIS awareness momentum going, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, will showcase its geography department’s GIS courses and forthcoming drone program a week prior to GIS Day, on November 13.

Get Involved

Across the United States and around the world, GIS Day events will be held in a vast array of thought-provoking settings. Although it is primarily designed to steer youths into the vocation of geographic science, GIS Day also does its fair share of educating armchair epistemologists about what makes the world tick.

Learn more about GIS Day.