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Commemorate Jane Jacobs’ 100th birthday by mapping the “liveability” of your community

Since the weather is getting warmer now, it’s the perfect time to get your class outside to engage in some interesting and fun field work. To commemorate Jane Jacobs’ 100th birthday, get your students to examine the liveability of your local community using Snap2Map – an application (app) that can be used to create an ArcGIS Online map tour story map on the go. Find out what resources are available to help you get started!

As most of us are city dwellers in Canada, we owe a lot to Jane Jacobs for her insight and influence in changing how we think of our urban landscape and what it means to create a “liveable city.”

I have been directly affected by Jane’s wisdom because I live in an area of Toronto that she was instrumental in saving in 1971. She fought to stop the Spadina Expressway that was proposed to run from north of Highway 401 into downtown Toronto through the Cedarvale and Nordheimer ravines and Spadina Road because she believed highways divide a city.

A Jane Jacobs mural at Christie and Davenport. Photo from Occasional Toronto blog.

Jane passed away in 2006 and if she was still alive today, she would have turned 100 years old this month. In celebration of her centennial birthday, plan a field study with your students to find out how “liveable” your community really is.


Jane Jacobs in Washington Square Park, 1963. Photo from Table Magazine.

First consider what makes your community liveable. This can include examining the walkability of the area, the access to public transportation, the presence of bike lanes, sidewalk access, the presence of green space, the types of buildings that are present and the types of land use present in your community. Once you have figured that out, it’s time to get outside and begin exploring.

Using the Snap2Map app, take photos to create the inventory of important elements in your community showcasing its “liveability” and link those photos to locations in a map tour story map that can be viewed and edited in ArcGIS Online using an organizational account.  If you require access to an organization account, make your request at

A map tour story map created by two students from teacher David Ast’s class using Snap2Map that explores urban land use close to Harbord Collegiate Institute in Toronto. This field study was done earlier this month as part of the Liveable Communities unit that’s outlined in the Ontario Grade 9 Geography curriculum covering the characteristics of land use in Canada.

After they have explored their community, ask your students to include a list of recommended changes that would help to improve the liveability of your community based on what they have discovered.

Use the Snap2Map tutorial to learn how you can get started on your own field study with your students.  Find more resources at and check out our ArcGIS Online content in the ArcCanada group.

The Esri Canada K-12 group is always excited to find out how teachers are using Esri technology in their teaching. Please share with us your work and maybe we will highlight you in a blog! Email us at  

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