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On the Map with Scott Alexander

April’s On the Map features Victoria, British Columbia high school teacher Scott Alexander. Discover how his students are using ArcGIS to “tell stories “ about their local watershed.

This month’s On the Map highlights Scott Alexander, a teacher and Social Studies Chair from the Greater Victoria School District in British Columbia. Let’s learn more about his ArcGIS experience and how his students have been using ArcGIS StoryMaps for a local watershed project.

What grades/courses do you teach?  

This year, I am teaching grade 12 geography and First Peoples 11/12 course. I am also responsible for helping grade 12 students prepare for life after high school through the Work Experience 11/12 and Scholarship Prep 12 courses.

How long have you been teaching with ArcGIS? 

This is my first year using ArcGIS.  I’ve seen it used in K-12 teaching resources and in national media. After attending a virtual K-12 learning session through a Canadian Geographic Education Summer Conference in 2021, I was very excited about launching this learning tool with my students. 

A man with glasses smiling.

Scott was very excited about integrating ArcGIS StoryMaps into a class project. 

Tell us about a recent project/activity that your students did using ArcGIS

My students used ArcGIS StoryMaps to highlight a local watershed. The purpose of the project was to look at the importance, structure and function of the Bowker Creek that is located behind our school. This creek is used as a teaching tool for several areas of the curriculum.

The driving question for this project was for each student to choose an aspect of our local watershed and tell a story that they wanted to share with our larger community.  

The students enjoyed the project and I received wonderful feedback from them. 

Sarah: “I enjoyed the creative freedom that the Story Map format provided me. The different features helped me create a detailed and personal story. It was quick and easy to learn and brought my research to life.”

A story map image of the creek.

Sarah’s story map highlighted areas of surface runoff and the ways Bowker Creek can be polluted by community activity. Image from story map: City of Victoria.

Cole:  “I really liked how you can combine text, images, mapping and video into one place that helped me tell a very clear story about Bowker Creek, especially how to improve the green spaces in the riparian areas.”

An aerial map from ArcGIS Online showing green space near Cole’s school.

Cole’s story map integrated many maps, including this one showing the green space in the area.

Why do you think using ArcGIS in your teaching/student learning is important?  

Giving students the tools to best asses geographic learning principals should be at the top of our practice in this field of education.  Knowing that we can look up facts so quickly, we are now tasked with teaching students how to assess, interpret, and how to “tell stories.”  Using ArcGIS to gain a new skill set, and to use software that is an industry standard is exactly the project I want my students to be engaged with.

What advice would you give to teachers/educators who want to start using ArcGIS in their teaching and for student learning?

The support material provided on the Esri Canada K-12 Education site is fantastic.  It is clearly laid out, there are excellent examples, and the accessibility to technical support is timely and helpful.  

My advice to educators trying their first project, is to create the opportunity to learn alongside your students (as I did) and start with a small project. Take a project that you know works well with your curriculum and integrate ArcGIS into it. That is what I did with the Bowker Creek Watershed project. The students used to create infographics, but now they use ArcGIS StoryMaps to highlight their findings.  

What is next with ArcGIS?

I want my students to use ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Dashboards for the final geography 12 assignment. This project will profile the geographic features unique to our community. It will be the final assessment for the class and will bring together the core elements of the curriculum.

Thank you, Scott for sharing your project with us. We hope it will inspire others to jump into ArcGIS like you did!

New to ArcGIS Online?

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, educators can request an account for themselves and their students at k12.esri.ca/#access.

Check out the following beginner resources to get started with ArcGIS Online:

For Educators - Let’s get started with ArcGIS Online
Explore the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For Students – Enroute with ArcGIS Online

Using ArcGIS Online and want to learn more?

Discover Story Maps
Survey123
Creating ArcGIS Dashboards 

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander