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February’s GIS Ambassador: Julie Fisher

Meet Julie Fisher, this month’s GIS Ambassador who’s an Education Program Coordinator at Inside Education in Calgary, Alberta.

Julie Fisher is February’s GIS Ambassador. She’s an Education Program Coordinator at Inside Education in Calgary, Alberta. This charitable non-profit’s mission is to “support teachers and inspire students to better understand the science, technology, and issues related to our environment and natural resources. For over 35 years, Inside Education has been providing educational programs and resources on the topics of forestry, wildlife, energy, water, agriculture, air quality and climate through teacher professional development, classroom programs, field trip programs, youth summits, grants, learning resources and more.  They support natural resource and environmental education across Alberta and Northeastern British Columbia.” – Inside Education

“I’ve been working with Inside Education for just over 2 years now as an Education Program Coordinator, with a focus on agriculture programs.  I have a B Sc. in Agriculture from the University of Alberta and am currently involved in a community greenhouse project in Cochrane, where I live. I love maps, being outside (especially in the winter!), gardening and eating good food!” - Julie

The A+ for Energy Grant is a funding opportunity for K-12 teachers in Alberta. It provides up to $5000 towards energy education projects in schools.  Teachers can subscribe to our newsletter or send an email to info@insideeducation.ca for more information.  Grant applications are now open, and the deadline is May 14th.

Recently, they have introduced ArcGIS Online to teachers and will continue to do so by integrating it in their programs and sharing resources in their teacher professional development (PD) programs. The plan is to focus a portion of their upcoming PD programs on ArcGIS. We are very excited about this.

Earlier this year when we spoke to Julie, she was busy preparing for a PD workshop and we provided her with some technical support. She shared with us her recent work, using ArcGIS in their programming and plans for the future. 

Tell us about the workshop you facilitated last month

My colleagues and I held a professional development workshop for teachers focused on energy education and utilizing various tools to engage students in learning about electricity, Alberta’s energy resources, and energy stewardship. The workshop also served as an introduction to our newly developed Energy Education Tool Kit and it took place virtually on January 29th, 2021.  Over eighty teachers from across Alberta received nearly $400 worth of tools and resources that they can use with their students to provide hands-on learning experiences and expand their understanding of Alberta’s energy sector. They also had the opportunity to engage with experts from Alberta’s energy sector in a panel discussion and Q&A.  100 kits were developed, and the remainder will be distributed to teachers in communities across Alberta throughout the course of the school year. The content explores 8 key topics that shape Alberta’s energy industry, including:

  • Natural Resources for energy
  • Energy distribution
  • Electricity generation
  • Renewable and alternative energy
  • Fossil fuels
  • Energy storage
  • Energy efficiency and conservation
  • Energy stewardship 

Items in the kit include measurement tools such as multimeters, lux meters, renewable energy models (wind turbines, microbial fuel cells).  Teachers were introduced to each of the topics and accompanying tools and activities and were able to play right along as most of their kits had already been delivered to them.  Ideas and resources were shared amongst the group -  the energy and enthusiasm were palpable, even in a virtual space!  ArcGIS makes an appearance in the Energy Stewardship section, where students collect data about characteristics of their school that highlight energy consumption and opportunities for energy conservation.  Results will be displayed on an ArcGIS Dashboard where students can compare their results with other schools.  Teachers were also instructed on accessing ArcGIS Online for themselves and their students!          

Students practicing plant identification with teachers as part of Inside Education's Forest and Wildlife Workshop that took place in the fall of 2020.

Why do you believe ArcGIS is a good tool for teaching and can you share other projects this year that involve the use of ArcGIS?

ArcGIS is an amazing teaching tool for so many reasons! 

  1. Helping students create visual and spatial representations can help them derive meaning from data and make sense of complex information
  2. They can learn more about their community and engage in/develop citizen science initiatives, making connections between place and space
  3. Utilizing GIS software is becoming a more sought-after skill in a variety of professions - giving students the opportunity to utilize ArcGIS Online apps gives them a great leg up in developing this skillset! 

Last year, we had the opportunity as a team to work with Angela Alexander and Jean Tong (Esri Canada, Education and Research K-12 group) to learn the basics of ArcGIS Online and explore ways to integrate it into our programming.  Since then, we’ve utilized ArcGIS in a variety of ways - tracing downstream to illustrate watershed regions, mapping renewable energy projects, and collecting information from teachers to aid with booking programs using ArcGIS Survey123. We’d like to experiment with story maps as a presentation tool and online resource development and expanding citizen science projects. We’re excited to explore further opportunities for integrating ArcGIS in our programs!             

Thank you, Julie, for sharing your work with us and showing teachers that you can integrate GIS into Science learning and teaching. It’s not only for geography and social studies.

Go to Inside Education to learn more and to connect with Julie.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

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