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5 Reasons the Skills Ontario GIS event is great for your students

Discover why the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition is a great opportunity for your students and find out the results of the competition this year!

Every spring, high school students from Ontario participate in the Skills Ontario GIS competition. It’s a great opportunity for them to test their ArcGIS skills, and their critical and geographical thinking. 

Three teams competed virtually this year on April 26th. They included the District of  School Board of Niagara (DSBN), York Region District School Board (YRDSB) and Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB). This year’s question focused on growing the tree canopy of the City of Windsor, as the region of Windsor-Essex has the lowest forest coverage in Ontario with less than eight percent.

Congratulations to the winning team from DSBN who were the first to use ArcGIS Pro at this competition and for presenting a well-thought-out project. All the teams impressed the judges with their methodologies, teamwork and final story maps. A great job was done by all the teams.

A story map of the City of Windsor.
Team DSBN’s winning story map.

Thank you to the judges for supporting this competition and giving the students feedback on their work. They included:

  • Larisa Johnstone, GIS Data Analyst, Engineering-Geomatics at the City of Windsor 
    (GIS Ambassador) 
  • Tom Dufour, GISP, Geomatics Technician at the Essex Region Conservation Authority
  • Scott Norman, Senior Geospatial Business Insights Analyst at Toronto Dominion Bank
    (GIS Ambassador)
  • Taylor Cayen, Senior Market Analyst at Canadian Tire

Now that you’ve learned about this year’s competition, we want you to discover 5 reasons why your students should get involved next year!

  1. Answer a relevant question
    Annually, students in teams of two, answer a real-world issue using ArcGIS in about five hours. This year’s focus was on increasing the tree canopy in the City of Windsor. The students presented their findings in a story map that included their project workflow, web maps and final conclusions.
  2. Use current GIS software 
    All K-12 schools in Canada have FREE access to ArcGIS software that is used by professionals globally. This includes ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS extensions, like Spatial Analyst, Network Analyst, Community Analyst, Drone2Map and much more. During the competition, students use ArcGIS to visualize data, create and analyse maps and present their findings in a story map.
  3. Learn from GIS Ambassadors and other GIS professionals
    Judges involved in the Skills Ontario GIS competition include professionals working in different sectors who use GIS in their everyday work. Some are GIS Ambassadors who commit time throughout the year to support the use of GIS in K-12 education. At the end of the competition, each judge will provide written feedback to the teams. These documents are sent to the supervising teachers of each team.
  4. Teamwork
    Students get an opportunity to work with a classmate on a real-world project. In a matter of five hours, they will answer a question using ArcGIS and present it to the judges. Working in a team involves a set of skills that are important, like collaboration, time management, communication, listening, and problem solving. All of these are lifelong skills that will help a student in and out of their school and work environment.
    Two students sitting in front of computers working on their mapping project.
    Through teamwork students gain skills that will last a lifetime.
  5. Valuable experience
    This competition allows students to test their skills, but also discover if this type of work is something they want to do in the future. Being a GIS Analyst may not be for everyone. However, students get to use many skill sets beyond the analytical ones, like presentation, organization and writing skills. This experience can influence the type of work and higher education path these students continue to.

If you are interested in giving your students an opportunity to develop their critical thinking, data analysis and map-making skills, get them involved in 2023! Students can try out some of the past questions to prepare for next year’s competition.

Email us at if you have any questions. Happy Mapping!

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
Explore the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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