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GIS Adventures with Craig Brumwell

Craig Brumwell, a teacher in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the second educator we are highlighting in our GIS Adventures series. Find out why he uses GIS in his teaching and learn about some of the projects his students have completed.

Last December, we asked teachers across Canada to share their GIS adventures with us. In this blog, we will highlight the work of Craig Brumwell, a geography teacher at Kitsilano Secondary School in Vancouver, who’s been using GIS in his teaching for over 12 years. In 2004, he started using ArcView 3x desktop software to build and explore maps with his grade 12 geography classes.

Craig Brumwell is a passionate teacher who believes the power of GIS can be used by students to inquire about a real-world problem.

Now, his grade 12 students are using ArcGIS Online to work on team-based geographic inquiry projects. This is an opportunity for the students to learn about some big issues that have a profound effect on people in the world. They have been working on an end of term project where they are required to follow the geographic inquiry process: consult experts, collect data, conduct analysis and present their findings, during an online conference week. Some of the team project topics include the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, health risks of living in urban versus rural settings, deforestation in the Amazon region, homelessness in Vancouver and the spread of communicable diseases between Canada and Africa.

Kitsilano students created this time-enabled web app to show AIDS deaths between 1986 and 2001.

Craig believes “ArcGIS allows students to lead their own inquiry process with tools that are visual, spatial and textual. The immediacy with which they can select, explore and analyze information before applying different variables in an investigation is rare in education. Esri’s ongoing development of mobile collection and presentation apps places this powerful technology literally into the hands of students. The opportunities for enriched, situated learning continue to grow in the process.”

Kitsilano students use this web map to analyze deforestation in the Amazon region.

Last fall, a few students from Craig’s grade 12 Blended Geography class began the year with a family roots project. Students were tasked with documenting the journey of selected family members to their destination in Vancouver. The students conducted interviews with relatives, obtained old photographs, letters and documents, as they retraced their journeys, and analyzed the connection between their personal lives and world events that resulted in their family’s migration to Canada.

Last November, three of his students presented their final projects, each created in a map journal story map, to a group of GIS professionals at the Esri Canada Vancouver User Conference. Their projects contained true testimonies to the uncertainties, struggles and bravery that immigrants and refugees face in leaving their beloved countries and of institutionalized racism in Canadian history. They included stories of surviving the Bosnian War, the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Each of these stories made a strong impression on the 500 attendees.

A Kitsilano student documented her family’s journey from Cambodia to Canada in a story map.

Looking ahead, Craig plans to introduce Snap2Map to his classes in the fall, so they can build story maps out in the field. He may also use Survey123 to set up a collaborative map for his school’s 100th anniversary. It’s a great way to allow alumni to link old photos and digital artifacts to an interactive map.  A Survey123 link or QR code can be shared with others to add their information to the map, and it doesn’t require them to log into ArcGIS Online.

We look forward to supporting and learning more about Craig’s GIS adventures with his students. We hope his story will inspire other teachers to use GIS as a learning tool in their teaching.

If you are a K-12 educator and are new to GIS, you can request an ArcGIS Online account at Find ArcGIS Online tutorials and other resources to get started 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