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GIS Adventures with Mark Miller

Last December, a call was made to K-12 educators across Canada to share their GIS Adventures with us. The first teacher we will be highlighting in this education series is Mark Miller from David Suzuki Secondary School. Find out how he’s using GIS in his teaching and what his students have done with ArcGIS Online, thus far.

Last December, we asked teachers across Canada to share their GIS adventures with us. In this blog we will highlight the work of  Mark Miller, a geography teacher at David Suzuki Secondary School in Brampton, who’s been using GIS in his teaching for over 10 years. By integrating activities that students can connect to, Mark keeps things exciting and relevant in his geography classroom. His students use GIS to learn about the geography of Canada and global issues around the world.

Mark created story maps to introduce his students to ArcGIS Online and to get them to explore the question “Why do people live near volcanoes?” Students analyzed the connections between volcano locations, population density and agricultural output.

ArcGIS Online is a great way to introduce your students to maps and story maps. Any theme or topic can be explored using this online, collaborative web GIS that allows you to use, create, and share maps, apps, layers, analytics and data.

This semester, using ArcGIS Online, Mark’s grade 9 students were challenged to determine the safest places to live in Canada, based on natural events. Each student created a web map to explore natural events (storms, earthquakes, forest fires and floods) and populated places in Canada. Using the buffer analysis tool, each of the natural events were buffered with a 50 kilometre radius to separate out populated places that are "safe." The results of their analysis were added to a story map that highlights the top three places they would like to live based on Canada’s natural features (landforms, climate and water bodies).

Mark Miller, a passionate teacher from David Suzuki Secondary School in Brampton who integrates GIS into his teaching.

Last year, Mark created an iBook for teachers to use with their students. It was created to encourage teachers to explore the fundamentals of geographic inquiry by following the curriculum expectations outlined for the grade 9 Issues in Canadian Geography course from the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Looking ahead, Mark plans to teach his students how to use Survey123, a simple form-centric data collection GIS app to collect tree data on the school property in the spring. The students will be looking at a variety of factors such as tree height and health.  A project is also planned for the collection of garbage data, which is part of the school’s annual spring cleanup.

ArcGIS Online and Survey123 are used by professionals in many industries, including global health care, environmental management, disaster management and public safety to make informed decisions that can help people at a local, regional or global scale.

By promoting the latest technology used by GIS professionals from across Canada and around the world, Mark is exposing his students to tools that are used in the real world to make decisions and solve problems. In addition, his students can strengthen important skills such as inquiry, collaboration and critical thinking to answer questions about the world around them. These skills will also be useful when they enter the workforce or post-secondary education.

Mark continues to use GIS in his teaching because he believes “mapping is essential to geographic study and computerized mapping software enables higher analysis with ease.” We look forward to hearing more about Mark’s future projects.

We hope Mark’s wonderful GIS adventures inspires other teachers to get started with GIS and to try something new! If you would like to connect with him, please email

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