Friday, October 26, 2007

Geospatial technology classes in Virginia

Colonial Heights, Virginia: N: 37º 47.846' W: 077º 54.660'
Dr Bob Kolvoord continued his visitations of geospatial schools in Virginia today and I was fortunate to tag along to see the progress of the programme. Bob and Kathy are working with 13 High Schools across Virginia who have volunteered to be part of the programme supported by the James Madison University in co-operation with local education authorities and participating schools. The schools are visited at least once a fortnight by Bob or Kathryn to mentor and support the participating teachers and students. This is an amazing effort considering the schools are spread over an enormous area and traveling time is considerable. The students range from 16-17 years and by doing the programme have the opportunity to enrol in the James Madison University specially developed school based GIS course called ‘Geospatial tools and techniques’.
We started the day visiting Jay Ruffa at Hopewell High School. Jay has a very innovative GIS programme underway where his students have done some high level project work such as developing an emergency plan for the city planning department and geocoding the seats in the school theatre and the school bus routes for school use. A very useful GIS technique Jay was teaching his students for comparing layers was using the ‘Swipe’ tool in ArcGIS. This is a great way for students to see similarities and differences between layers in a fun and simple way. To access the tool go to the ‘View’ toolbar → ‘Toolbars’ → ‘Effect’→ drag ‘Effects’ on to the map and begin swiping between layers. There is so much to learn with GIS, we tend to only skim the top of the iceberg but when a tool is demonstrated it makes one wonder what else we can find out about!
At Colonial Heights High School we met with Bill Ryan who had a very focussed and capable class who were doing the template project on a chlorine spill in an effort to develop a personalised adaptation of the evacuation techniques for emergency services in the community. Bills students were also working on maps of planning zones for the local community. Again, everything very community orientated and accountable.
The final school for the day was Western Albemarle High School in Crozet. The teacher Paul Rittenhouse had the students out in the field using the high tech Trimble Recom GPS units. This was an amazing effort considerable it has rained heavily all day and the students were soaked. Despite the conditions the students were willing to get wet and do the work outside. An amazingly motivated and happy group of GIS students really enjoying their work. Paul showed us the project his students undertook last year in mapping impervious surfaces, comparing the raster and digitising techniques.
Several points about what I observed at all the schools today:
* All the geospatial schools must present their projects to a community meeting at the end of the course. This certainly makes the students accountable for their work.
* At all the schools visited the students work had been printed on plotters and laminated to make their work look highly professional.
* The teachers I have met using GIS are predominately Earth Science teachers. I am yet to meet a geography teacher as we know them in Australia.

A very busy day with over 6oo kilometers covered. A huge effort by Bob and Kathryn and to think they visit these schools every fortnight!

1 comment:

Elissa, Mick and Niall said...


Great to follow your trip on the blog, I'll make sure I get in and read it more often!! I'm sure your mind is going all over the place with the ideas and inspiration you're clearly getting - have a great last few legs!