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GIS Ambassadors supporting their kids’ learning at home with ArcGIS

Discover how two GIS Ambassadors are supporting their kids’ learning at home with ArcGIS during this COVID-19 lockdown.

With many of us working from home these days, we are in contact with our families much more than we are used to. Some GIS Ambassadors are taking this opportunity to engage their kids in fun activities that teach life skills like map reading and other spatial concepts using ArcGIS.

This post will highlight two GIS Ambassadors who have shared the work they’ve done with their kids during this COVID-19 lockdown.

Documenting a family trip with ArcGIS Story Maps

Mike Gregotski
Team Lead, Technology Adoption
Esri Canada

In February, my colleague and fellow GIS Ambassador, Mike Gregotski took a trip to Disney World with his family. Earlier this month, he and his sons Carter and Nolan documented their Disney experience in an ArcGIS StoryMap.

Mike wanted to make this fun activity something the boys could also learn from. He shared with us their experience and provided their feedback with us.

What were some geographic concepts that your kids learned in creating the Disney story map?

The kids learned about searching for places based on location in the story maps. They also started to understand how zoom levels work. Specifically, they learned about what would make a good zoom level to start each map. We decided that it would make sense to start zoomed out a bit so the viewer could see most of the park. We then zoomed in a few levels to show a larger scale map with more detail for the subsequent points.

“It was fun remembering our vacation with my dad and brother.” – Nolan

Was it their first-time using story maps?

Actually, it wasn’t. In grade two, Carter created a story map about Chile in French, highlighting the culture, food and geography of the country.

For Nolan this was his first time working with a story map, but last year my wife Colleen and I presented a story map to his junior kindergarten class as a geography lesson.

“It was awesome because my brother, father and I got to spend time together learning about geography and the technology.” - Carter

What is planned for the next activity?

Carter is thinking about making a story map of his summer camp - Arrowhead Camp. He likes the Getting to Know Augusta National story map by and thinks he could do a similar large scale story map of his camp.

If you want to check out more of Mike’s tweets about his Disney story map project and keep up with his future projects, follow him @mgregotski.

Collecting park assets with ArcGIS

Larisa Johnstone
Parks Operations Asset Analyst
City of Windsor

Larisa Johnstone is a long time GIS Ambassador, who’s been actively supporting schools in Windsor, Ontario for the last five years. We are happy to share the recent field work her daughters Keira and Megan did in helping to collect park assets for the City of Windsor.

Tell us how your daughters got involved in your asset collection project?

When the City of Windsor sent us all home, I was in the tail end of an asset capture project within our parks. We had a University of Windsor student using ArcGIS Quick Capture to collect data on all our park assets, like benches, playgrounds, life buoys and lights.

He had just finished visiting all our parks when the order to stop work and go home was given. There were a few assets in some of the parks that had not been completely captured, so that responsibility fell on me.

I took this opportunity to show my girls Keira and Megan what I do and how we use GIS in the field. First, I had to finish our parking lot survey. We had to identify all the parking lots within our parks and gather all the data about them. We already knew where they were, but we did not know the number of catch basins or the number of lights or signs, parking spots etc. I designed a Survey123 app to collect the data quickly and took the girls out with me...from park to park.

We also had to collect some missed assets in some parks. Life buoys was a big one. For that I showed them how to use Quick Capture, which lead to a conversation about GPS, xy location, latitude, longitude and satellites!

Keira helping her mom collect information about the park assets in Windsor, Ontario.

What were some geographic concepts that your kids learned in this activity?

The purpose of my daughters collecting data with me was for them to see a different side to how the City of Windsor works. I wanted them to see just how much care the City takes in its parks systems and how the money is spent to keep them beautiful and useful for everyone to enjoy.

However, the biggest lesson learnt that day was about satellites and how they help pinpoint where we are on the planet using coordinates. They got a crash course in latitude and longitude and the Cartesian plane, and how using a GPS unit can help you find your location on the planet. This led to a conversation about how planes and boats and people in cars use it for navigation, not only to locate a point for a life buoy or playground. It was great to field all the questions about the details of how things work. They had loads of questions!

Was it their first time using these ArcGIS tools?

Yes, it was their first time using these GIS tools in the field. Both of the girls have used story maps in the classroom under some direction from myself and teachers. One class used it for mapping the Modern Wonders of the World.

“I thought the day was very interesting and fun, because I learnt about latitude and longitude and I thought it was cool that my mom understood all these things and she was teaching them to me. She has a cool job. It was fun.” – Megan

The girls had to identify all the parking lots within our parks and gather all the data about them.

What is planned for the next activity?

The next activity is still part of my asset collection project with the parks department at the City of Windsor. We will be collecting bench assets.

The girls really love to explore our local woodlots. They have told me that they would like to see a map of all the woodlots and where they have seen animals, like deer, beavers or rabbits. My oldest is really concerned about trees and people cutting them down so she wants to look at how much natural woodlot land is available for the animals. I told her we can use Quick Capture to gather all the woodlot boundaries and then we can take a survey of what we see in them. We have not started this, but I think this would be a great summertime learning experience for them, especially because they are not “in school” at the moment.

Thank you to Mike and Larisa for sharing their stories with us. If you are interested in connecting with a GIS Ambassador for support or just ideas on how to bring spatial concepts into your teaching, sign up to connect with one in your community.

Do you have a story to share with us? We want to hear from parents, students, educators and GIS Ambassadors. Send an email at us at

Looking for resources to try with your kids or students? Check out the following resources:

  • At-home learning during COVID-19 crisis and beyond
    Find out how to access ArcGIS Online so that K-12 learners can continue to ask, analyse and act on their learning from home.
  • Discover ArcGIS Online tutorial
    Learn the basics of ArcGIS Online with this quick tutorial.
  • Getting Started Path for Teachers
    Follow this beginner path to build your confidence with online mapping tools.
  • Six by Six Activity (choose your region)
    Six activities you can do in six minutes each - for ArcGIS Online beginners.
  • Getting to Know the ArcGIS StoryMaps
    Try the new ArcGIS StoryMaps builder experience.

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, educators can request an account for themselves and their students at Parents can request accounts for their children using the same link.  

About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Specialist in the Esri Canada Education and Research group. She has over 15 years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela focuses on producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum-specific resources, and conducting and creating custom workshops for educators. She manages the GIS Ambassador Program and is the Technical Chair for the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition. Angela also writes monthly posts for the Esri Canada Education and Research blog, highlighting K-12 educators and partners, new ArcGIS resources and GIS-related events.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander