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City introduces nature reserve GIS project for schools

South Africa, 4 May 2007: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a hot new topic in the Geography curriculum for Grades 10 to 12. The City of Cape Town and partner organisations are developing a GIS project for high schools based in urban nature reserves called YOUTH, URBAN NATURE and GIS. This project is part of the City’s successful Youth Environmental School (YES) programme.

This YOUTH, URBAN NATURE & GIS project is being showcased at the annual GIS Week for learners, educators and general public which will be hosted by GISSA-Western Cape and the Western Cape Education Department from 8 to 11 May 2007 at the University of the Western Cape. At this event, teachers and learners will be able to interact with the City’s Nature Reserve Environmental Education Officers.

The environmental education centres at Rondevlei and Tygerberg Nature Reserves are preparing to support GIS-based fieldwork. As part of the project, senior learners will be able to experience how nature conservators use GIS technology to monitor and care for nature. They will learn about GIS, not just in their textbooks and school computer labs, but through practical fieldwork.

Learners will use hand-held GPS (Global Positioning Systems) units to locate monitoring sites and record co-ordinates; monitor plants, animals and the environment and record observations in a database; and construct GIS layers, and display findings and digital photographs using GIS technology.

The Western Cape Education Department has chosen six schools to take part in the pilot project this year. In 2008 the reserves will make GIS-based fieldwork part of their senior high school programme.