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Winter 2009/2010
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Thousands of Sites Worldwide Celebrate GIS Day 2009

North Bay GIS User Group, Santa Rosa, California

GIS Day logo"Do More with Less" was the theme for the North Bay GIS User Group's event in Santa Rosa, California. "In the current economic times, we all need to do more with less," states Kevin Lacefield, GIS programmer analyst with the County of Sonoma. "The goal for our GIS Day event was to show area businesses and decision makers how GIS can help them do that." The event was open to the public and featured presentations, demonstrations, a map gallery, and a student map contest. Also included were facilitated panel discussions on the economic benefits of GIS for business leaders, how to get educated in the field of GIS, and government uses of GIS.

McKinley Elementary School, Santa Barbara, California

"It was one of the best experiences I've ever had." That sentiment, expressed by Patricia Carbajales, geographer, GIS Projects with the University of California, Santa Barbara, probably sums up how many GIS Day event hosts feel now that their celebrations are complete and they've had time to reflect on the outcome of their events.

GIS Day 2009 was celebrated at more than 1,000 sites around the world. It is rewarding and inspiring to read how event hosts celebrated the day and took advantage of the opportunity to share their knowledge and passion for GIS with others. Following are a few examples.

For her GIS Day event, Carbajales held an interactive seminar with fourth and fifth graders at McKinley Elementary School in Santa Barbara to introduce them to GIS. Using her laptop and with the help of a volunteer, they played the Treasure Hunt game available on the GIS Day Web site as a group exercise. Carbajales says, "The students' response and enthusiasm were what made it so special to me. The event was such a success that I am planning to repeat it this coming fall."

Asmara, Eritrea

Asmara, Eritrea, GIS Day event.

The Education Sector Development Program–Project Management Unit in Asmara, Eritrea, held a conference for its GIS Day event. The purpose was to show how GIS is important for the nation as a whole and for education as a planning tool. Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa with an estimated population of 4 million. Conference organizers wanted to demonstrate how GIS helps officials in the Ministry of Education determine the country's enrollment ratio through analysis of resource allocation, distribution of materials, and deployment of teachers. They also wanted to show how GIS plays an important role in site selection and rehabilitation of schools.

New Mexico State University

The New Mexico State University (NMSU) Geography Department hosted what is the first known GIS Day event held primarily in a virtual world. Using Linden Lab's Second Life, an immersive 3D virtual environment, students met in NMSU's Island learning community to share projects and posters demonstrating their GIS class activities with attendees in both the real and virtual worlds. Students were available throughout the day to describe their projects and help educate those not familiar with GIS about the technology. The event was mainly designed for university educators interested in the use of Second Life as a venue for teaching GIS but was open to everyone.

University of Missouri's Department of Geography

Focusing on mapping at the University of Missouri.

Dr. Shannon White of the University of Missouri's Department of Geography hosted a three-day camp for sixth through ninth graders focused on mapping and geospatial technology tools that assist in geographic analysis. Students participated in many hands-on and outdoor activities related to geography and mapping, including making their own compasses, creating personalized life maps (where they had been and where they wanted to go), exploring aerial and satellite images, and importing their own GPS data into GIS software to create their own maps. In addition, campers used GPS units to locate a geocache on campus and collect waypoints while orienteering at Rockbridge Memorial State Park. Kathryn DiFoxfire, a member of the Rockbridge interpretive staff, led the campers and geography chaperones through orienteering exercises and cave mapping and exploration in Connors Cave. Other partners in the camp included USGS, which provided take-home resources and maps, and Esri, which provided free GIS software for each of the campers.

The Overseas School of Colombo, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka

The Overseas School of Colombo in Battaramulla, Sri Lanka, is a small school of about 400 K–12 students. It is in a unique position in that many of the students' parents work in nongovernmental organizations and relief/development organizations, including UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme, World Food Programme, and World Health Organization, and use GIS to do their work better. To celebrate GIS Day, Ian Lockwood, the environmental systems and geography teacher, asked a few of these "in-house experts" to give his students in grades 10, 11, and 12 presentations on the use of GIS in development and humanitarian work. A representative from the International Water Management Institute gave the keynote address, and the celebration included a map gallery for students, teachers, and parents to observe and appreciate.

Arkansas' Pulaski Area Geographic Information System

For its GIS Day celebration, the Pulaski Area Geographic Information System chose the theme "Developing Central Arkansas Using GIS." The event showcased how GIS technology has advanced economic development in the region and state. Key participants included Arkansas state senator Shane Broadway and Entergy Arkansas. Broadway gave a presentation entitled "The Importance of GIS for Economic Development" in which he discussed the impact GIS had on a recent project in Saline County. The Entergy Arkansas Department of Economic Development shared how GIS technology aided in creating the Arkansas Site Selection Center (, which tracks demographic information for a Web mapping application showing available buildings and sites to locate new business. The event also included a demonstration by the Arkansas Geocachers Association; poster and map displays; and demonstrations, including one given by area high school students on "How Students Utilize Online GIS Resources."

Mark Your Calendar

GIS Day 2010 will be held Wednesday, November 17. It's never too early to start planning. For inspiration, visit to read how other organizations and individuals celebrated in 2009.

Stay connected to GIS Day throughout the year:

  • Become a fan of the GIS Day page on Facebook.
  • Post a question or idea on the GIS Day Discussion Forum on the Esri Support Center (

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