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December’s GIS Ambassador: Madoka Otani

December’s GIS Ambassador of the month is Madoka Otani, a Geomatics Product Manager from the Information Services Corp in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find out how she’s been involved in GIS Day since 2016.

Madoka Otani is December’s GIS Ambassador of the month! For the last 4 years she’s been supporting a friend who teaches at Jack MacKenzie Elementary School in Regina, Saskatchewan. Recently, this Geomatics Product Manager from the Information Services Corp shared with us her passion for geography and maps.

How did you start your visits to Jack MacKenzie Elementary?

I always wanted to share my love for maps. I convinced one of my friends Bonnie McMurtry, a grade 3 teacher at the Jack MacKenzie School to have me visit her class on a GIS day back in 2016. Four years later, I have been back to the school every GIS day since.

Madoka enjoys supporting Jack MacKenzie Elementary every GIS Day.

What do you typically do with the students on GIS Day?

Back in 2016, we started with only one class. This year Bonnie asked me to present to four classes. That included a total of ninety grade 3 and 4 students. I always start by asking them how they use maps and get them to consider what they would you do if they didn’t have maps. It is amazing how much they know and sometimes it is interesting to discover their remarkable imagination. I also show maps from Esri Map Books to let them know that maps are not just for searching directions. They love seeing themed maps that are related to their life such as maps about food production or seeing a map showing a safe route to a school.

For the activity, students were provided an aerial image of their school and the surrounding area and a sheet of tracing paper.  They were to create their own map by tracing the image and creating a legend. Then, teachers could expand mapping concepts later. The kids enjoyed this activity because they were able to create a map that includes their dream community. This included their favorite stores near their school and their home.

Students working through the GIS Day activity at Jack MacKenzie School.

This is an example of one of a final map created on GIS Day.

Why do you think it’s important to support the use of GIS in K-12 education?

I am a believer in learning the basics of everything. Just like you need to know addition before you can do multiplication. If you do not know how maps are created, you may not fully understand what you can do with mapping applications.

I love sharing my knowledge with students, and it has been great with grade 3 students who are beginning their geography journey. Creating their own maps provide the students opportunity to look around and become aware of their surroundings.

One of my geography professors told me once that I was smart to select geography as my major because it is connected to everything. This is so true, using tools like GIS, allows you to analyze what’s happening with maps, and to investigate solutions in any field such as upgrading underground infrastructure to finding the best location for a new business.

Madoka engaging the students in a fun activity during her GIS Day visit.

Can you give us some background information about yourself and how you first learned about GIS?

I learned about GIS at the University of Regina, using ArcView. My first job was working on a General Purpose Map of Saskatchewan using ArcView, distributing aerial photos and topographic maps with Information Services Corporation (ISC). Now, I am a Product Manager for Geomatics and Surveys with ISC. Our business unit registers survey plans and maintains cadastral data within the province of Saskatchewan. We also work with our customers on online map applications, provide imagery and topographic maps to our customers.

I am bilingual in English and Japanese, and that has given me amazing opportunities such as running the Queen City Japanese School for ten years and sitting on the board for the Regina-Fujioka Student Exchange Program (RFSEP) that provides home-stay exchange for grade 7 and 8 students who reside in Regina. I am also a chair on the Regina and Fujioka Friendship Committee, working with the City of Regina on the Friendship Agreement with the City of Fujioka, Gunma, Japan.

Madoka’s GIS Ambassadorial work with Jack MacKenzie students over the years has been encouraged by her friend Bonnie. “It is always a great opportunity for the students to learn about mapping from an expert. The students enjoyed the activities Madoka provided. Her introduction to directions and the history of navigation led to an interactive map making activity. The students were given an aerial map of our school area and were encouraged to trace it while making a legend. This was a great hands on activity that engaged the students and allowed them to use their imagination as well. We really appreciated having Madoka come out to celebrate GIS day!!”

Last month, Madoka told a teacher friend from Bert Fox High School in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan about ArcGIS Online. Recently, Andre Boutin-Maloney contacted the Esri Canada Education and Research group to get support. In a short time, he’s put together a story map with his students focused on Treaty 4, also known as the Qu'Appelle Treaty that was signed on September 15th, 1874 at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.

 Andre Boutin-Maloney and students’ story map highlighting a tour of the Treaty 4 community of Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.

Madoka, we thank you for your commitment to sharing your love for geography and maps every year on GIS Day and for promoting tools that support student learning. Continue to send Saskatchewan educators are way! We are happy to support their teaching and learning!

Read about other amazing GIS Ambassadors in Canada and sign up to connect with one in your community.

New to ArcGIS Online? Sign up for a free ArcGIS Online account and find resources to get started with ArcGIS Online 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