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Collect and present data on a topic around your school with ArcGIS

Discover how a teacher from Quebec has used ArcGIS to engage his students in a data collection activity to explore a common topic around the world.

Using ArcGIS, teachers are equipped with a set of tools that they can use to engage their students in learning and developing new skills, like inquiry, critical and spatial thinking. For example, one teacher in Quebec used ArcGIS to get his grade 5 students to collect data around their school on a topic that is common across the world – discarded masks found in public spaces.

We recently caught up with Louis, and he shared his latest project with us.

Louis Laroche is an elementary school teacher in Montreal, Quebec. He was introduced to ArcGIS a few years ago by us - the K-12 staff at Esri Canada’s Education and Research group. He was set up with a school subscription that he used for mini projects with his students. Since 2019, the province of Quebec has licensed ArcGIS for both the English and French schools. As a result, all students and teachers in Quebec at publicly funded schools have access to Quebec ArcGIS Online subscriptions – one for English and one for French.

A man smiling, wearing glasses.

Louis wanted to give his students the experience of collecting real data on a topic that
was present in their school area and around the world.

Tell us about your project and the ArcGIS tools you used.

The project’s goal was to document discarded masks found on the ground in public spaces around my school using ArcGIS Survey123, ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS StoryMaps.

I created a survey using Survey123 to collect data on the following:

  • day and time
  • the type of mask
  • if there was a garbage bin insight from the place where the mask was found
  • a short description of the location where the mask was found (in the street, on the sidewalk, in the park, etc.)

The survey used the phone’s geolocation capacities and prompted the user to take a picture of the found mask.

With this data, I created a map in ArcGIS Online and then presented the activity results in an ArcGIS StoryMap that was later shared with my students and their parents.

An image of a pile of cloth masks in the background with a survey in the foreground.

The survey used to collect data on discarded masks found in public spaces.

What were the learning goals for this project?

My goal was for the students to participate in an actual data collection activity to see potential patterns emerging from the data. Even if our sample was limited, we could observe some phenomena in a pretty convincing manner. For example, we noticed that most of the discarded masks were the disposable type, a few were found in the park near our school, and the majority were found close to our school.

A group of kids collecting data on a mask location.

Louis put together a story map to present the findings of the student activity of collecting data on discarded masks around their school.

A discarded mask found on the ground.

This type of mask was typically found during this data collection activity.

What was the feedback from the students?

The students enjoyed the activity. They showed excitement and dedication in documenting and picking up the discarded masks and other trash found in our school community.

What are your plans/ideas for a future project/activity using ArcGIS in the fall?

Next year, I will be teaching 6th grade. Most of the students that took part in this project will also be in my class next year. I’m searching for an idea to document another topic that is present close to our school. I’m thinking possibly something connected to automobile traffic and cycling.

Thank you to Louis for sharing your project with us. We look forward to hearing about your work in the fall.

If you or any teacher you know are doing cool GIS projects with their students, contact us at We are always looking for great stories to share with the education community.

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, request an account to get started and discover free resources to begin your journey.

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