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On the Map with William Nuhn

This month’s On the Map features William Nuhn a long time ArcGIS champion. Find out how his students are learning about the world using spatial technology.

February’s On the Map spotlights high school teacher William (Bill) Nuhn from Northeastern Ontario. Bill engages his students by integrating ArcGIS in a fun, relevant and interesting way. Let’s find out more about the activities and projects he’s done with his students this year and what’s coming up for them.

A man smiling while sitting in a computer lab.

“Using ArcGIS is an absolute must in the classroom. Students are learning software that is an industry-standard and applicable to a wide array of occupations ranging from the retail to agriculture sectors. Students are able to see the strength of ArcGIS when making maps, creating their own data, and solving problems.” - Bill Nuhn

As a teacher from a small school, Bill has taught many subjects, but his main focus is geography and science. This year he’s teaching a variety of geography courses from grades 9-12.

ArcGIS Champion

Bill has been an ArcGIS user since 2007!  

He’s been using ArcGIS Online for the last 8 years for teaching and student learning. Before that, he used ArcGIS Desktop to cover curriculum in geography. Currently, he’s using Desktop to print out school projects and local maps of interest.

ArcGIS Online projects

Earlier this school year, students in grades 10-12 participated in a physical geography GPS data collection field study at Esker Lakes Provincial Park – home to Munroe Esker, Canada's second longest Esker.

The project learning goals included:

  • Students had to identify the physical features in the provincial park according to the Esker Lakes Provincial Park Management Plan.
  • Students had to collect GPS waypoints and photographs of the physical features
  • Students had to examine the human impact on the park. This included identifying how visitor impact is managed within a provincial park (for example sticking to trails, no gas-powered motors).

Using ArcGIS Online, the students created web maps that highlighted the data they collected using the GPS units (add gpx file) and the photos they captured. They also explored other layers that were important to the area, like climate.

Students walking along a path, taking pictures and collecting data with GPS units.

Students collecting data for Esker Lakes Provincial Park project. “Having access to all of the layers in ArcGIS Online is really cool. The many different ways to display and help interpret the data are interesting. The program and apps are useful and handy to have.” – Alex, grade 9 student

A web map displaying locations collected by GPS units.

Student map displaying location of GPS waypoints collected at the Esker Lakes Provincial Park.

Current and upcoming projects

Provincial Park Creation

An annual project Bill’s grade 9 students are tasked with is to create a new provincial park in Ontario. They are given a set of criteria to work through using ArcGIS Online to the location of this new park. The students go out to collect data using GPS units. They must consider the physical features (lakes, elevation, canoe/boating routes), land ownership (crown vs private), unique animal and plant species, geology, climate, nearby populated places, and amenities.

Students use ArcGIS Scene Viewer to access the  Elevation Profile Tool from the analysis tools.  This part was added, as Bill feels it is important for the students to consider the slope when identifying the new park because it is connected to the physical geography of the region. In addition, slope is a cross-curricular concept they learn in grade 9 math, as well.

In a typical year, the students would pitch their park proposal to a local Ministry of Natural Resources forester. Perhaps this year they will do this virtually.

Site selection project

Every year, grade 9 students are given a site selection project where they decide the best location for something. They are encouraged to come up with their own ideas for the project, including the criteria. Past projects have ranged in scope from the best location to open a fishing lodge to proposing an expansion location for an NBA team. A key component of this project is for students is to understand how to perform analysis using ArcGIS Online.

For example, students who have focused on an NBA expansion question first needed to create their own data in Microsoft Excel with the necessary information. Then they added the excel data (csv file) to ArcGIS Online and analyzed the data. Students in the past have created buffers, analyzed population density and used the intersect analysis tool to decide on a location of their new NBA team.

Once they have created their web map and analyzed the data, they will create a story map to highlight the findings of their project.

Career Path Series Lessons

Recently, Bill discovered Esri Canada’s Careers in GIS lessons and tried them out. He was very excited to have these at his fingertips, and he plans to use the GIS for Wildlife Conservation lesson with his grade 9 class.

He believes “the more students become familiar with the analysis tools, the better off they will be in selecting and subsequently performing the proper type of analysis for each unique situation they face.”

Screenshots of ways GIS is used in different sectors, including retail, wildlife conservation, municipalities, crime analysis and health.Discover lessons for K-12 students that focus on how GIS in used in different sectors in Canada.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Bill! Keep up the great work! This post will inspire other educators to get started.

We want to hear what you are doing with ArcGIS

Share your work with us by adding the information to the Let’s Get Spatial Canada survey and it will be reflected in the dashboard. You might be selected to be spotlighted in an upcoming blog post.

An image of a dashboard representing activities done by teachers and gis ambassadors in Canada. This includes a map, the survey and a bar chart.

New to ArcGIS Online?

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, educators can request an account for themselves and their students at

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

For Educators - Let’s get started with ArcGIS Online
For Students – Enroute with ArcGIS Online

Using ArcGIS Online and want to learn more?

Discover Story Maps
Creating ArcGIS Dashboards 

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

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