We are having a very difficult time in Lebanon, but we want to keep hope alive and still have these students work on these GIS projects because it inspires them to keep dreaming. We want them to believe that if the reality around them doesn't provide opportunities or promise something good, they can keep learning, they can pick themselves up, and they can influence change.
Lebanon's Collège Notre Dame du Mont Carmel-Fanar Innovates Curriculum with GIS
Through Esri Lebanon's GIS for Schools awareness program, teachers at the Collège Notre Dame du Mont Carmel-Fanar leverage geographic information system (GIS) technologies to enhance the school curriculum and facilitate community projects for student growth.
Founded in 1963 and serving 1,522 students, the Collège Notre Dame du Mont Carmel-Fanar (NDMC) is a K–12 primary and secondary school in Fanar, Lebanon. The school's mission is to empower students with solid literary, scientific, artistic, and athletic training to cultivate educated citizens who contribute to the common good of society.
In 2014, staff from the school connected with Esri Lebanon to bring GIS technologies to the classroom. GIS would serve both as a tool to deliver curriculum and an opportunity to expose students to the technology, their community, potential career paths, and new skills.
Leveraging GIS has provided students and staff with a multidisciplinary approach to keeping students engaged with the curriculum throughout local and worldwide crises.
"It is a difficult time in Lebanon, but GIS is a one-stop-shop for students to hope and have access to the full globe in one place," said Sister Maddalena Bahia Hanna, the school's principal.
Helping the Community and Offering Students Global Exposure
Each year, students participate in several GIS-based academic projects that emphasize sustainability, heritage, and giving back to the community. These projects also provide opportunities for students to explore potential career paths, gain professional and team building experience, and make connections to the GIS community.
One project connected students with local artisans and craftspeople outside the classroom to expose them to their cultural heritage. In groups, the students visited bladesmiths making butcher knives, ceramists creating pottery, glassblowers, soap makers, and woodworkers. Students created maps for each trade with details about the crafting process and the locations of the shops. The artisans and craftspeople involved in the project presented an exhibition at the school and sold their products, with proceeds benefiting the Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon.
In another example, instructors in Arabic and French languages, chemistry, and geography had students collaborate on a comprehensive interdisciplinary project focusing on the wineries of Lebanon. Students learned about Lebanon's viticulture, the manufacturing process, and local and international trade. Using ArcGIS StoryMaps, students mapped all the wineries of Lebanon and linked their research.
Students gained professional experience creating GIS-based resources for government agencies. For example, students collaborated with staff from Lebanon's Civil Defense Centers to create a center locator. Using ArcGIS Web AppBuilder, the project included understanding the functionality needs of the website and adjusting it based on feedback. In this example, the students also visited one of the civil defense centers and received a full day of emergency response training.
Students had an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of rural Lebanon, archaeological sites, and the tourism industry by creating a resource for the Ministry of Tourism. Using ArcGIS Online, they mapped the historical locations that tourists would want to visit and guesthouses across the country with information about the host, room capacity, and price.
"While the students are learning how to use GIS technology, they are also exposed to people with different backgrounds, learning how to work in a team, and discovering more about themselves," said Sister Maddalena.
Students have also had opportunities to see the technology's wider use globally, including attending the 2018 Esri Middle East and Africa User Conference, which were held in the United Arab Emirates. The conference offered a unique experience for students to present their work and earn recognition by the larger GIS community. Moreover, students could network, learn from others, and seek out potential career paths. The event also provided a chance to meet Esri founder and president Jack Dangermond.
"It was such an amazing experience for the students. They were well noticed and welcomed by the [GIS] community," said geography teacher Laure Harb. "They got to understand and be exposed to how important getting the data and managing the data is and how important data is." Harb added that the conference also helped to expose them to different career paths and decide what they would major in at the university level.
Inspiring Student Creativity and Collaboration
Much of the focus on teaching GIS in the classroom occurs when a student is in the 10th and 11th grades or when the student is about 16 or 17 years old. History, math, science, and geography teachers all integrate GIS in classroom lessons. For example, a history teacher used ArcGIS Online to teach students about Egyptian culture. Students will use ArcGIS StoryMaps to present what they learned about Egyptian topics on GIS Day 2021.
Harb said GIS helps make lesson topics more interactive. "When lessons are interactive and students are not just experiencing one-way communication with a book to read or look at photos but instead are seeing you interact with a map, students understand how things are moving between each other," Harb said.
Sister Maddalena and Harb say that GIS classroom instruction has improved students' critical thinking and analytical skills, inspired their creativity, and enhanced their desire to collaborate. Moreover, the success of GIS in the school's classrooms has prompted language teachers to expand their lessons to apply GIS to their courses as well.
According to Sister Maddalena, the value of Esri's technology has extended well beyond classroom lessons to encouraging students to becoming civically engaged and take valuable humanizing journeys. She hopes that, in the future, students and staff at the school can leverage the technology beyond educational purposes and analyze their data to recommend actionable solutions for challenges in their community.
GIS for Schools Offers Hope to Students
For Sister Maddalena and Harb, GIS has been a fundamental tool for inspiring hope in students.
"We are having a very difficult time in Lebanon, but we want to keep hope alive and still have these students work on these GIS projects because it inspires them to keep dreaming," said Sister Maddalena. "We want them to believe that if the reality around them doesn't provide opportunities or promise something good, they can keep learning, they can pick themselves up, and they can influence change."