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Mapping the Future: How GIS Ambassadors Are Enriching K-12 Education

GIS Ambassadors play a crucial role in helping K-12 educators and students understand the importance of mapping and spatial analysis, and its relevance in our daily lives. This blog post will cover some of the work done by these valuable individuals, as well as how you can get involved, whether you are an educator or a professional.

GIS professionals and educators make up our GIS Ambassador roster. They have been busy this year with the goal of introducing geographic information systems (GIS) to the K-12 community in Canada. Some have started by supporting their child’s class, and others have been invited to share their knowledge with a local school. Let's uncover some of the highlights so far this year.


Kate Box, GIS analyst at West Fraser
Kate Box visited a grade 5 French class at her child’s school twice this year. During the first visit, she introduced GIS to the students, and on the second visit last week, they explored ArcGIS Online, including base layers, data addition, and using measuring tools. This was especially engaging as they're currently studying area and perimeter in math. Kate plans to visit them once more before the school year ends for a field exercise.

A stock image of a teacher and student smiling in a computer lab with other students present.

GIS Ambassadors enrich classrooms with their expertise, benefiting both teachers and students. They can also empower students with knowledge of the possibility of new career paths.

Sydney St. Onge, Geomatics Technician at Town of Cochrane, Alberta
Earlier this year, Sydney presented a Story Map to Grade 3 students at an elementary school in Cochrane, Alberta, discussing how the Town of Cochrane utilizes maps and GIS. She covered GPS and the distinction between static/paper maps and interactive web maps. The students explored different web map examples, including their class favourite on volcanoes. Following the presentation, Sydney organized activities for the students. They collected data on their favourite colour and superpower using ArcGIS Field Maps, then analyzed the results in various web apps. Using a large printed aerial photo map of Cochrane, students placed stickers representing map elements, aligning with Grade 3 curriculum topics.

Nova Scotia

Chris Cocek, Technology Integration Leader (TILT) at Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE)
In April, Chris shared posts on his work with elementary school students on social studies and math connections using ArcGIS Online. In his role as a TILT, Chris travels to different schools to promote different tech tools to teachers and students. In Nova Scotia, teachers and students at public schools have access to ArcGIS Online through their GNSPES account.

Images of ArcGIS Online in tweets created by Chris.

Chris promotes educational tech tools like ArcGIS Online to students and teachers in the HRCE.

Jordan Haughn, GIS Consultant at Esri Canada
In April, Jordan, along with another GIS Ambassador, her colleague Craig MacLachlan, met with some educators to show them some ArcGIS Online tutorials to get started on their ArcGIS journey. She has plans to continue supporting these educators in the Halifax area.


Dr. David Joiner, Retired Educator
In February, David facilitated an ArcGIS workshop for Milliken Mills High School in Markham. Esri Canada’s K-12 group provided him with ArcGIS resources for this in-person workshop.

Dr. Bhairavi Shankar, Researcher at Indus Space
Sarah Greenberg, GIS Lead at ONxpress Transportation Partners

In February, Bhairavi and Sarah facilitated a Story Maps workshop for geography and history teachers at the Peel School Board. The workshop presentation and resources were provided by Esri Canada’s K-12 group.

A picture with 3 women smiling.

Dr. Bhairavi Shankar was very excited about getting involved as a GIS Ambassador again this year.

Melissa Kang, GIS Consultant at Esri Canada
In March, Melissa facilitated an ArcGIS workshop for grade 7 students at a school in Kanata, Ontario. She used a custom workshop presentation created by Esri Canada’s K-12 group. She also showed them a story map on the Eclipse in April and Ottawa’s Open Data Portal.

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Helen Smith-McPhail, President of the PEI Social Studies Teachers Association and Grade 9 Teacher at East Wiltshire Intermediate School
In January, the PEI Social Studies Teachers Association hosted a PD event. Helen invited Jean Tong, K-12 Manager from Esri Canada’s Education and Research group to facilitate a virtual ArcGIS Online workshop for K-12 teachers.

A laptop opened to an online meeting with people signed in and cameras on.

Source: Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash.

Upcoming workshops and events


Kate Box
This month, she will be visiting a grade 2 class to give them an introduction to mapping. They will do a hands-on activity to make a map of their school yard. 

British Columbia

Ives Leung, GIS Specialist from City of New Westminster 
Later this month, Ives Leung will be facilitating an ArcGIS workshop for a grade 11/12 teacher at a secondary school in Surrey, BC. The K-12 group prepared a story map presentation for the workshop.


Justin Kraemer, GIS Coordinator, County of Bruce
Melissa Allin, GIS Specialist, City of Brampton

Lindsey Carter, GIS Analyst, City of Brampton

Justin, Melissa and Lindsey will be judges at the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition for secondary school students. In this event, students have 5 hours to answer a real- world question that challenges their ArcGIS skills. In teams of 2, they are tasked with creating maps, analysing data and creating a story map for the final presentation to the judges. 

Two students sitting in front of computers during the Skills ON competition.

Students working hard during the Skills Ontario GIS competition in 2018.

Maia Somers, GIS Technician at Western University
In late May, Maia will be conducting two ArcGIS workshops for teachers in the Thames Valley District School Board. The presentation workshop and resources will be provided by Esri Canada’s K-12 group.

The GIS Ambassador logo.

 GIS Ambassadors can support K-12 educators and students throughout the year.

Get involved!

We hope this post will inspire you to get involved before the end of the school year. We’ve updated our GIS Ambassador Resource Hub to better help you through your journey as a GIS Ambassador. We have updated steps on getting started, resources, and added a survey for you to share what you are doing to support K-12 education.

A screenshot showing steps that guide GIS Ambassadors in their journey.

The GIS Ambassador Resource Hub is a place for ambassadors to get started and continue their journey in supporting K-12 education in their communities.

Ready, Set, Go!!

A screenshot showing icons of GIS Ambassador activities.

We encourage ALL GIS Ambassadors to do at least one of the following activities this school year:

  • Create a map or app with their organization’s data or other data that would be relevant to K-12 education projects and assignments. The resources created can be used at school visits and will be highlighted in the GIS Ambassador Hub.
  • Provide a presentation/workshop (virtually or in-person). This can be connected to GIS Day,  a K-12 teacher/class or another event. We will provide you with resources to use in your outreach.
  • Create a video or story map about what you do with GIS in your work or school and, if applicable, what you have done so far as a GIS Ambassador.
  • Provide support in K-12 education. This can include but is not limited to working with a teacher or class on a project, data support, development of a lesson or tutorial, or judging/helping to develop the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition question.

Need some inspiration?

Watch our GIS Ambassador video series to see how professionals have shared their GIS knowledge with the K-12 education community in Canada.

K-12 educators

Request a GIS Ambassador to support your GIS journey or to introduce your students to careers and the benefits of using ArcGIS. It’s at no cost to you. All K-12 teachers can request a free ArcGIS Online account for themselves and their students.

Thank you!

A heartfelt thank you to all the GIS Ambassadors for their dedication and support in empowering teachers and students across Canada. GIS in education not only enhances the learning journey but also equips students with valuable insights into the critical role of geography in addressing global challenges. Your efforts are shaping the leaders of tomorrow and fostering a deeper understanding of our interconnected world.

Keep on Mapping!

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