ESRI honored the seventh grade GIS class of Jenifer Junior High School, Lewiston, Idaho, at the opening session of its 22nd Annual International User Conference in San Diego on July 8.
Two students, Ian Coleman and Nate Ebel, and their instructor, Steve Branting, spoke to the conference audience of more than 11,000 GIS professionals about their project. The Jenifer GIS Team is part of the Lewis and Clark Rediscovery Project, a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The Lewis and Clark Rediscovery Project commemorates the Lewis and Clark exploration 200 years ago and focuses on a select group of K–12 districts located in the nine states along the Lewis–Clark trail. Students and teachers are blazing new trails using the latest technology to investigate 200 years of changes since the expedition. The Jenifer GIS Team submitted their project to ESRI’s Community Atlas program, which invites schools to study their communities by creating maps and essays and posting them on the Web.
During their talk, the Jenifer students described the nature of their community, Lewiston, Idaho, and displayed maps from their Web-based project. They explained how they explored the historical, cultural, and demographic characteristics of the area using GIS and gave a live demonstration of a cemetery study using ESRI’s ArcView 8 GIS software.
As part of their project, the students studied the Normal Hill Cemetery, which opened in 1888. Working with global positioning system units, they integrated spatial data with historical information about the grave sites. The local cemetery board has acted to implement some of the recommendations the class made based on the study. “This part of the project set them apart from other worthy studies,” said Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI K–12 education solutions manager. “They went beyond a typical exploration into a scientific analysis presented in maps.”
On stage during their demonstration, the students handled the software with ease. “Although they had only used ArcView 8 for the first time days before, they picked up the new technology in seconds,” said John Calkins, an ESRI technician who helped them prepare for the presentation. “Bright kids, with a solid GIS introduction, they understood quickly how this software differed and how to use its improvements.”
ESRI supports the use of GIS in K–12 education, libraries, and other similar organizations to help introduce the concepts and terms associated with GIS to a much larger audience.