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Dr. Lynn Moorman: July’s GIS Ambassador

Dr. Lynn Moorman, a professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta is July’s GIS Ambassador of the Month. Read about the wonderful work she has done in Canada to promote the importance of geography and GIS in K-12 education.

July’s GIS Ambassador of the Month is Dr. Lynn Moorman, a professor from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. We are thrilled to highlight the ambassador work and educational contributions of this outstanding educator. Let’s find out how she got started with GIS, what she’s done to support spatial learning in K-12 education.

“I’m a professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary where I teach Physical Geography and Advanced GIS. I have also taught a general education course called Spatial Innovation, where undergraduates from a wide variety of disciplines conduct GIS projects in their own areas of interest and then create story maps to share their work.”

GIS Roots and Experience

Before Lynn was known in the geographic education circle in Canada, she was a student at the University of Calgary studying geography, making maps with pen and ink, and learning GIS using Esri’s first versions of ArcInfo.

She completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) and a Master’s degree in geography at the University of Calgary where she later managed the Masters of GIS program and worked to build awareness of GIS at all levels of education, including running local events at K-12 schools. “I realized educators really needed to understand how GIS would help students to learn content and also needed informed pedagogy strategies to understand how students learn in general, so I undertook an interdisciplinary PhD in Education and Geography, exploring how geographic technologies are used in K-12 inquiry and delving into the learning progressions associated with image interpretation and virtual navigation.”

Prior to starting her PhD at the University of British Columbia, Lynn gained professional GIS experience working at the Centre for Remote Sensing, Intera Technologies and Intermap. In addition, she managed international GIS and remote sensing training programs.

In education, she’s worked with Ontario teachers to develop an Earth Observation curriculum for grade 9 geography to support the launch and data initiatives from the first RADARSAT satellite called RADARSAT-1. This radar satellite system captured large amounts of data about the Earth during the day and at night and in all types of weather and through cloud cover, smoke and haze. Lynn also facilitated professional development for in-service teachers, a learning opportunity for practicing teachers at the University of Calgary and Carleton University.

Lynn’s professional education work was so exemplary that she’s been recognized more than once as a leader in geographic education by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) since 2009. First, as a Canadian Geographic (CG) Education post-secondary representative, when they said she brought a “GIS voice to the table” and then two years later she became a Fellow of the RCGS because of her contribution to scientific knowledge in the field of geography. She was asked to “work with CG Education to develop a national strategy for geographic literacy.”  Currently, she’s a RCGS Governor with a mission to promote and support geographic education in Canada, something she’s been doing for many years.

Last year, Tecterra, a non-profit organization that supports professionals and companies in the Geomatics industry, awarded Lynn the Tecterra Influencer of the Year for her work and commitment as an educator and professional in the field of geospatial technologies.

Promoting Geoliteracy and Supporting Local Schools

Lynn’s main goal as a GIS Ambassador is to promote geoliteracy to K-12 students and teachers. Geoliteracy is “the ability to use geographic understanding and geographic reasoning to make decisions.” – National Geographic

Through her work at the Connect Charter School and at Edgemont School in Calgary, students and teachers have had the opportunity to use GIS as an inquiry tool to explore the world from a spatial perspective, discover connections between phenomena and to make informed decisions.

Lynn was involved in a project earlier this year with teacher Alison Katzko’s grade 5 class at Edgemont School. It was a geoinquiry project focused on the role of wetlands in Calgary, specifically looking at the Edgemont Ravine. The students learned how citizen science, GIS, and remote sensing are tools that can be used to map species, land cover, and explore the history and health of the wetland. 

Students collected water data at the ravine, and they used ArcGIS Online to inquire about wetlands and watersheds in Calgary and Alberta. This helped them answer questions about their community and look at which factors may  impact wetlands in their area. Using web maps, students investigated watershed boundaries near their school, performed analysis to see if there were other schools that were located close to wetlands, so they could potentially collaborate with them to look at – for instance -  how frogs are distributed across the city, and compare collected field data.

“The students have become confident in a range of image interpretation skills and demonstrate expertise in navigation and understanding the layering of maps. Not only were the students able to answer key questions they had about their local wetland, but they were also able to make some meaningful connections to the geography of Canada as they considered the impacts of urbanization on animals in wetlands.” Alison Katzko shared with us the outcome of her students’ experience and her feedback on Lynn’s GIS Ambassador support.

Lynn shared with us her experience working with Alison's class, "The thoughtful uptake of the technology in the classroom while keeping the inquiry question in mind was the goal of the work. The students were excited, actively learning, and connecting and synthesizing information from many sources.” Lynn praised Alison and her students. “Besides teaching and facilitating, Ms. Katzko spent numerous hours learning, both with me and on her own, to ensure the students had a meaningful and rich experience.

At the Calgary Esri Canada User Conference in May, Lynn and four of the students from Edgemont School presented the project to a packed house of GIS professionals. The crowd was blown away by their work. The students and Lynn were thrilled. “We appreciated the chance to present at the conference and hope this brings awareness to the power and value of this type of work in our schools.” 

Lynn with four students from Ms Katzko’s class at the Esri Canada User Conference in Calgary. 

How Healthy is Our Edgemont Wetland? story map displays the findings of Edgemont Wetland project and was presented at the Calgary Esri Canada User Conference.

Lynn has also shared her love of geography with students beyond Canada. In 2017, Lynn made a school visit to St Michael’s Collegiate School, an all-girls school in Australia, where she  worked with four grade 10 geography classes on the use of GIS to explore global health, human development and well-being.    

Future Support

Lynn considers GIS to be a foundational technology that has many applications in our world. As a GIS Ambassador, she will continue to mentor teachers and assist them through tech support. Lynn will also continue to promote the power and relevancy of GIS is in all aspects of society through her hands-on work with students.

In the past, Lynn’s work with K-12 schools focused on her research on how students use and think with GIS. In the fall, her work will focus on supporting inquiry projects that will engage students throughout the year. This will include a grade 5 Arctic inquiry project at the Connect Charter School.

Grade 5 students from the Edgemont School collected water data and then mapped the information in ArcGIS Online to gain a better understanding of the health of the local wetland.

Later this month, Lynn will be on the Task Force for the International Geography Olympiad (iGEO) in Hong Kong. In this annual competition, 16 to 19-year-old students from all over the world are challenged on their geography knowledge. There are three parts to the iGEO: a written test, a multimedia test and fieldwork requiring observation, leading to mapping and geographical analysis.

Lynn, we know that you are so passionate about supporting geographic education, that you sometimes conduct your informal GIS training for teachers at a local coffee shop in your neighbourhood!

We thank you for your dedicated work in support of GIS use in K-12 education and inspiring future geographers! Please keep us posted on your ambassador work and the exciting trips you are making to the Canadian Arctic as an educational consultant to support ice safety mapping in the Inuit communities.

Teachers can connect with a GIS Ambassador in their community and begin or continue their GIS journey! Read other inspiring stories about GIS Ambassadors who are supporting schools in their region. 

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