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Friday, December 14, 2012

Mapping the Holidays

Today I was thinking about sharing a Christmas map resource. I envisioned maps of trees or Santa's track for Christmas Eve. I started with ArcGIS Online and typed in the search word "Christmas." The search result alone gives great ideas on ways to map holiday happenings no matter where you are in the world.

Some ideas from other fine map-mined folks around the world are:
  • Christmas Islands
  • light displays 
  • market maps
  • parade maps
  • tree recycling locations
  • events
  • Santa sightings
  • shopping malls
  • Christmas dinner
  • Christmas list
So go enjoy some great maps from other folks or make your own and share it with us!

Mappy Holidays!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baseball: A Game for Every Subject

I read an article today by Matt Davis that prompted me to update my Baseball Unit.  It's baseball for every subject in this unit...even English class! 

Here are the details of the Out of Bounds Baseball Unit, if you don't want the PDF:

Back Story
Integrating GIS into core content is easy if you take advantage of preexisting content.  This unit was born out of a baseball theme in English Language Arts (ELA) class.  As the four core teachers talked about what we were doing in ELA class, they wanted to get on board.   Over time, we incorporated all four classes at the same time to create a powerful experience for our middle school students.  This is an outline of what each class did as their part of the baseball unit.  The GIS activities were incorporated in ELA, Science and Social Studies classes.  Perhaps you can play out of bounds and integrate!

English Language Arts / Reading
  • “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” song by Jack Norworth
  • “Strong Men Weep” short story by Benedict Cosgrove
  • Excerpts from Wait Till Next Year a novel by Doris Kerns Goodwin
  • “Who’s on First?” play by Abbott and Costello (videos available at YouTube)
  • “Casey at the Bat” poem by Ernest Thayer (videos available at YouTube)
  • “Baseball in April” short story by Gary Soto
  • Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge
·         Ball analysis (measurement, physics, experiment procedures)
·         Baseball statistics and spreadsheet formulas
Social Studies
·         Games and sports in cultures around the world
·         Build a baseball Museum
·         Research baseball topics
·         Play Ball! Spatial Analysis of Baseball (
·         Baseball Radio Station Analysis (
·         Where should you put the next MLB team?
·         Demographic patterns related to baseball

Monday, October 15, 2012

MyCOE Global Connections & Exchange Program

Opportunity for Teachers from my colleagues at AAG:

The AAG is heading up an exciting program,My Community, Our Earth Global Connections and Exchange Program, for U.S. teachers/classrooms to connect with teachers and students from countries abroad.

Participating teachers receive $300 for the classroom when they:

• Sign up for 3 hours of international virtual classroom exchange.
• Guide students to submit a collaborative map project.

MyCOE GCE is connecting high school students in the U.S. with their peers abroad. Through virtual online meetings, high school students throughout the world will develop collaborative, youth-led projects that map sustainable development issues. To learn more, check out the website.

Contact Niem with your questions about the program...

Niem Huynh (黃可柔), Ph.D.
Senior Researcher
Association of American Geographers
1710 Sixteenth St NW
Washington, DC 20009-3198

Friday, October 12, 2012

GIS: Your Spatial "Swiss Army Knife"

Educators need a multi-functional tool that can help teach, repair and assist exploration...a "swiss army knife" kind of educational gadget that can allow students to explore, yet gives teachers the necessary substance in required curriculum and high-stakes testing environments. And, hey... it's just fun (always an appealing characteristic to wrangly middle schoolers)!
I often read articles and papers on learning, standards and other hot education topics.  This article caught my eye today and I was thinking...GIS...a great tool to teach content while engaging students...and did I mention a tool they will most likely use in a future job! 

For those of you who need a little fuel for the GIS fire in your camp, this article along with all the great resources we have in our community will have you making smores in no time!  You're not alone and there are excellent resources to get you started.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Story Maps #2: What's Your Dinner's Story?

I love the idea that we are story telling with maps.  Most people enjoy a great story.  Good stories have a central theme or motif (fancy English teacher word).  With a guiding motif, we can add items to our story that  express emotion, inform and provoke discussion.  In a conversation recently, we were plotting and laughing about food's role in getting people to attend events...even in a virtual event, just the "talk" of food elicited more responses from folks. So let's chase that rabbit...what stories can maps tell centered around food?

It makes sense to start at the beginning of food, agriculturally.  Where is it grown? How is it processed?  What foods are produced most?  What other uses do food plants have...other than filling your belly? The good folks over at Esri Story Maps have created a great story on this topic. "Feeding the World" Where did your breakfast come from? Visit the 20 Minute GIS Portal for that map.

If you want to use ArcGIS desktop then have a look at Survivor Agriculture!  It gives students a chance to imagine an apocalyptic scenario where food is valuable trade as well as necessary sustenance. What an interesting story students can build here!

Perhaps students would like to explore data and build their own maps...create a unique story from their perspective.  Go to and search for "food." You'll find many layers that relate to all aspects of food and agriculture.

I like the idea of telling family stories centered around food.  Even foodies out there can appreciate the location of that perfect meal.  Maybe it's the smell of Grandma's apple cookies or the adventures with a friend around the country that create amazing memories around food!

So don't let a good story pass you by!  What story did you live today?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Story Maps #1: Kids' Interviews

Grandview Hills Elementary Library Online
I just returned from my annual pilgrimage to the Esri Education Users Conference in San Diego, CA.  Aside from the lovely weather, the event is full of creative and insightful educators and professionals sharing the cool stuff they are doing.  Adding to the fun is the usual catching up and networking with colleagues, one in particular is the highlight of today's blog, Dee Porter.  

Dee is a librarian and media specialist in Leander, TX at an elementary school.  She's using ArcGIS online to curate a collection of interviews from students who have traveled to or were born in other countries.  Each point takes you to the student's map and then links you to a recording of their interview.  These charming little travelers are proof that maps can connect kids of any age to their own story. What story is your map telling?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Q & A: Can you use GIS to teach economics?

I was presented this question from a talented colleague who was being challenged by an economics teacher.

Simple answer: yes!

My colleague and I are big fans of GIS and believe that it's a valuable tool in almost any discipline.  I took a few minutes, maybe 5 or 10 minutes to be exact, and created an Economics Starter Map
I opened, clicked map at the top of the page, clicked Add and selected search for layers.  Now, I'm no economics teacher but I did well in that class and know that they would be studying GDP so I did a search for "gdp" and got a list of several layers.  The World Bank has many layers available that also have time sliders that allow you to compare the data over time.  I added those, saved my map, shared my map and now I'm sharing it here with you.  The lesson here is, "Don't be afraid to look for information before you say it's not valuable to what I teach."

Do you have great economics and mapping materials to share?  Comment and share those here!

Happy mapping!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Oh the Places You'll Go: Poems about Places and more

National Poetry Month is just two days away!  So often my students had challenges connecting with iambic verse, haiku rules and lofty language.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Poetry is art and communication all rolled into one.  Get away from the textbook and go to some new places with poetry!

Some cool things to check out if you wanting to help your students connect to poetry.

Try the Poetry Atlas (Poems about Places - Poetry Atlas).

You might like to try some Author studies. An online map is an excellent tool for that.

Perhaps a video would help you get going: 

Where's poetry taking you this April? Share your ideas for great poetry lessons!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Get Spatial at NSTA

If you're at the National Science Teacher's Association Conference (NSTA12), then stop by Booth #1737 to see my friends from Esri, GISetc and more.

They have lesson plans, free software, loaner gps units, cool geogeek swag and more!

Learn how to do GIS online with! So many cool little time!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gulf of Mexico Maps and Data

Recently the New Orleans office of the National Weather Service hosted an Open House event.  We got to see a weather balloon launched (video), meet a famous female astronaut and see the new emergency trailer.  Always a teacher and always on the hunt for curriculum ideas, I was excited when the staff shared their new interactive web portal.  They've converted all the old maps and made room for new data.  According to them, they'll have lots of data in multiple formats for us map nerds to enjoy.

Check out the interactive mapper here:

You might enjoy some other data sources associated with weather, NOAA and NWS.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Q & A: How do I add *.gpx files from my gps unit to an online map?

Charlie Fitzpatrick presented an excellent webinar last night!  One of the things that he demonstrated was adding GPS (*.gpx) files to an online map. An attendee asked me for some detailed instructions, so here you go.  It's REALLY easy to do!

In Esri's Map Viewer:
Drag and Drop
  1. Go to Click Map at the top.
  2. Open your File explorer in windows. 
  3. Drag the *.gpx file from your Windows file explorer to the middle of the map.
  4. Poof!  It will add it to the map and zoom to that location.
Add the File
  1. Go to Click Map at the top.
  2. Click the add button.  Select Add layers from File.
  3. Click choose file.  Navigate to your gpx file. Click ok.
  4. Click import.
  5. It adds the file and zooms to it.
In Esri 's ArcGIS Explorer Online:
  1. Go to
  2. Below the featured map images, select Start ArcGIS Explorer Online.
Drag and drop works the same.
  1. Drag the file from your  Windows  explorer window onto the map.  
  2. A box comes up that asks about importing the file.  Choose what's correct for your data.  
  3. Click okay and it zooms to the file.
Adding with the Add button
  1. Click the Add Content button.
  2. Click the Import tab.
  3. Choose the type of file.
  4. Navigate and select that file. Select it and click ok.
  5. The same import box comes up that did when you do the drag and drop.  Select what's correct for your data.
  6. Click ok and it adds and zooms.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Mapping Black History Month

It's February and many educators will be exploring Black History in celebration of Black History Month,

Perhaps you'd like an alternative to videos and worksheets...have you thought of using maps and stories to get students beyond the text?

I created a lesson plan for mapping students through The Watsons Go to Birmingham.  It contains experiences in math, science, social studies and English language arts.  On my maps portal you can check out map experiences for Plessy v. Ferguson, Their Eyes Were Watching God and more.  Perhaps you're studying Mark Twain and want to look into slavery in that era.

As you celebrate history...use a map!

Monday, February 06, 2012

An English Teacher's Guide to Mapping: the videos

From GISetc...

*NEW* Video Series

We are excited to provide more free resources to help your students succeed.  Our resident English teacher,Barbaree Duke, will be featured this month on our YouTube channel.  She created a series of 4 videos called "An English Teacher's Guide to Mapping" that outlines several ways to implement geospatial technology into traditional classroom content.  In addition, the videos showcase rich content that is perfect for Black History Month, such as The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Langston Hughes, Twain and Slavery, and more.  Starting Monday, February 7th and every Monday in February, look for her informative videos on our channel.  We're sure you'll get some great ideas to use in your classroom setting!

Friday, February 03, 2012

GIS: An Essential Tool for Any Classroom

This week I had the honor of presenting in the 1 Tool at a Time Series sponsored by the ISTE SIGms and SIGilt.  In the short 30 minute session I shared what GIS looks like for the classroom and demonstrated how you can access maps and curriculum quickly.  You no longer need lots of time and expertise to infuse your classroom with geospatial technologies.

If you'd like to check out the recording, go the GIS in Education page at the 1 Tool at a Time Series wiki.  While you're there, you'll find a handout of the links shared.

Also, Katie Christo, the SIGilt chair, put together the links along with some of her own on Pinterest:

And that's not all!  If you're still interested in learning more about how to get started with GIS in Education, join the folks at NCGE for a free webinar this coming Wednesday!  Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager, will be sharing his perspective on where to begin with GIS in Education.

Happy Mapping!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Overwhelming Options for the Classroom

Because I live near New Orleans, many of my house guests want a taste of the French Quarter when they visit.  We stop by the usual spots often and try to accommodate special requests.  On my most recent trek to the quarter with my Missouri visitors, I discovered a little bookstore shown in the photo.  Now...I love reading and books, but this scene was overwhelming to me as you barely could sidestep throughout the tiny establishment.  Books were teetering on stacks and wedged in nooks.  This scene makes an excellent visual metaphor for the overwhelming web 2.0 options for educators.  

In preparing for a webinar I'm presenting in a few weeks, I couldn't help thinking about how many GIS in Education options there are now opposed to 12 years ago when I started using GIS in my classroom.  These thoughts come to mind as you are choosing the best tool for each moment in your classroom, whether they are high or low tech options. Let's be realistic, you can't use them all...nor should you.  

  • What do you want your students to know?
  • Why are you considering a new tool?
  • Are you teaching content?
  • Are you teaching the tool?
  • Why use this tool instead of pencil and paper?
  • Why is this tool better than what I've used in the past?

Like my Dad says, "Use the right tool for the job! Otherwise you're just wasting your time."
Don't be dazzled by the glitz of shiny tools if they won't be helpful to changing your classroom and students...choose wisely!