Wednesday, October 24, 2007

School visits Virginia

Rappahannock, Virginia: N: 38º 39.689' W: 078º 13.193'
Harrisonburg: N: 38º 25.301' W: 078º 51.047'
Today I had the good fortune of Bob Kolvoord from James Madison University to take me to Washington-Lee High School ( in Arlington to meet Ryan Miller in his Geospatial class and Ron Vickers teaching his Geospatial Technology Programme at Rappahannock County High School in Virginia ( ).
Ryan started his lesson (after the oath of allegiance by the students facing the US flag in the classroom and a moment of silence by the class - done every day in the school via the TV intra-school system – a little different to the start of home group in Australian schools!) showing a news item on the Californian bushfires presently raging on the west coast of the US- described as the perfect storm by the news coverage. After the film Ryan asked the students to develop a list of GIS attributes they could acquire for insurance, environment and fire fighting purposes. I thought this was a great way to link the GIS skills the students were learning into a real life situation.
Ron at Rappahannock showed me the great maps his students have produced in the area of Civil War History, stream heritage criteria and school routes. Again it was evident that the GIS was 'real' in Ron's class because all the student projects were linked into the local community and demonstrated a team problem-solving approach. I also participated in a GPS activity outside the classroom to determine the circumference of the earth. It is becoming evident that GPS is used extensively in these types of GIS courses from a very early stage, so as to engage the students in the technology whilst teaching them some very important spatial concepts.
From Rappahannock Bob and I had a lovely drive through the Virginia countryside with the autumn leafs in their full glory as we traveled to James Madison University. At the University I observed Bob's GIS and the environment course. I found particularly interesting the students presentations on good and bad maps and their project development discussions. For more information on Bob's impressive work in the University and with K-12 schools go to the following sites.
* - James Madison University Geospatial Technology page.
* - a project on fire assessment
* - science and mathematics based use of GIS

Of particular note is Bob's site at This site has some great classroom materials developed for using GIS in the classroom under various topics. Much of Bob's work over the past ten years has been in the area of teacher training and he and Kathryn Keranen have trained over 400 teachers in the techniques of introducing spatial thinking and skills into their K-12 classrooms. If interested in the work of Bob go to

More schools in Virginia tomorrow!

No comments: