Skip to main content

Craig MacLachlan: Putting GIS on the map in K-12 schools in Nova Scotia

Congrats to this month’s GIS Ambassador, Craig MacLachlan, from Esri Canada’s Halifax office! Find out how he’s been supporting the use of GIS in K-12 schools in Nova Scotia.

October’s GIS Ambassador is Craig MacLachlan, a professional services manager from Esri Canada’s Halifax office who’s been supporting K-12 consultants and educators for over a year now. As a graduate from the Geographic Sciences – Advanced Diploma from Nova Scotia Community College and his extensive experience on consulting projects, Craig understands geographic information system (GIS) is a tool that can be used to make important decisions, and it can also be used in education to engage students in learning and understanding the world around them. He’s keen on helping the K-12 community in Nova Scotia, and this shows by the work he does throughout the year.

Like many GIS Ambassadors, Craig began his volunteer work by helping a family member. In April 2017, he set up a Collector for ArcGIS activity for his son’s Grade One class at Shannon Park School in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, for a field trip to a wildlife sanctuary. The students collected data to track the route they drove and to record the animals they sighted on their trip. He used this opportunity to infuse spatial learning and to engage the kids in what they were doing.

“I think spatial awareness through GIS tools can have a powerful impact on students as they figure out their place in the world. Building literacy in mapping through immersive technology such as ArcGIS is fun for students and provides a new medium for teachers to engage with students. The possibilities are endless.”

In Nova Scotia, K-12 teachers and students at publicly funded schools can start using  ArcGIS Online for Nova Scotia Schools by signing in with their Nova Scotia Public Education System - GNSPES account. This subscription was set up as part of a provincial wide user agreement during the 2017-2018 school year. 

Craig has been promoting the provincial ArcGIS Online agreement through the facilitation of introductory workshops  with high school classes, at educational conferences and by the request of staff at Nova Scotia Education and Early Childhood Development. Through his work as a GIS Ambassador, Craig hopes that K-12 teachers will be introduced to the benefits of ArcGIS Online and become enthusiastic about using it in their teaching.

Craig worked with a Grade 12 geology class from Parrsboro Regional High School in May 2018. The two-hour workshop focused on ArcGIS Online and story maps in support of the students’ year-end project. The outcome was positive, as the students were excited by the technology and used it to present the findings of their projects.

In August 2018, Craig conducted two ArcGIS Online workshops at the #ITCamp2018 Conference that was attended by teachers, provincial and regional technology mentors, learning support teachers and curriculum coordinators. These professional development sessions led to a couple of upcoming workshops that Craig has planned for later this month.

First up will be the Halifax Regional Centre for Education’s Technology Integration Leadership Team (TILT) that is set up for October 26. TILT helps teachers integrate technology in public schools and in the curriculum to maximize student learning, experience and engagement. The ArcGIS Online workshop is for TILT staff and K-12 teachers. The goal is to give the participants a deeper understanding of ArcGIS Online and how it can be integrated in their teaching.

The second workshop in October will be training teachers from the Nova Scotia Virtual School (NSVS). This school provides online courses to high school students enrolled in public schools in the province. The focus will be introducing these teachers to the power of ArcGIS Online and story maps as learning tools for virtual learners along with providing an overview of the Esri Canada Resource Finder that includes activities, tutorials and lesson plans for teachers to use in the classroom.

Craig created this Noël autour de la monde story map in support of two French Immersion teachers at his son’s school, including Shannon Park for a class module on how different countries celebrate Christmas.

We have received great feedback on Craig’s work from Kris Jones, an ICT Consultant from Education and Early Childhood Development who’s been a champion in helping promote the use of ArcGIS Online in K-12 education in Nova Scotia.

“Since signing a provincial wide user agreement with Esri Canada during the 2017-18 school year, Craig MacLachlan has been working with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) to begin to build capacity in a user base of teachers and students around Nova Scotia.  From an introductory session in Rachel Collin's Geography 12 class in Parrsboro to delivering sessions to teachers during the #ITCamp2018 at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU), teachers in Nova Scotia are becoming excited by the possibilities ArcGIS offers!  Next up for Craig & EECD is to begin integrating ArcGIS into the Nova Scotia Virtual School platform where students around Nova Scotia complete course work online in a virtual environment; it’s a perfect fit for all that ArcGIS has to offer. Thanks to Craig for being a fantastic GIS Ambassador for Education and Early Childhood Development in Nova Scotia.”

Looking ahead, Craig will be making another school visit to his son’s school for GIS Day in November. He will be running a “Map Adventure” with the Grade Two and Grade Three classes. This spatial awareness activity will be a facilitated scavenger hunt using ArcGIS Online. As more students and teachers start using ArcGIS Online in the province, Craig will be working with colleagues at his office to establish a network of professional support for teachers in their region.

Thank you, Craig, for your commitment to the GIS Ambassador program. We are lucky to have someone so dedicated to supporting K-12 educators in Nova Scotia. Please continue your great work, and we look forward to assisting you and hearing about your new connections in the future.

If you are interested in speaking with Craig or if you would like to connect with a GIS Ambassador in your area, contact

Read more stories about our outstanding GIS Ambassadors.

Are you an educator who's new to ArcGIS Online and want an account? The ArcGIS for Schools Bundle offers ArcGIS at no cost to all schools in Canada. Request an account now.

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