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GIS in the classroom: Carson Lau a student with the GIS-edge

As GIS educators, we value the work teachers are doing with their students across Canada. It’s rewarding when students understand the importance of what they learn and figure out how they can use it in different subjects. Find out how a student in Toronto has used ArcGIS for Desktop to learn about Canada’s physical geography while also grasping the importance of GIS in the real world.

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by Mark Hoel, an instructor I was lucky to have at Ryerson University, about highlighting one of his outstanding grade 10 students. Currently, as a computer science and geography teacher at the prestigious Upper Canada College in Toronto, he continues to engage and challenge students while keeping the classroom activities fun. That’s why I’m not surprised that he has many high performing students in his classes.

Carson Lau is one of those students who’s created some beautiful maps using ArcGIS for Desktop and has gained an education advantage because he has come to understand the value of GIS to interpret real world problems. He shared his experiences with me this year.

Outstanding student Carson Lau presenting his beautiful work of map art created for an assignment on the Scarborough Bluffs.

 “I am currently in grade 10 enrolled in the geotechnologies course at Upper Canada College. Along with learning the physical geography of the world, this is my first time learning how to use the ArcGIS for Desktop 10.3 as a tool to analyze and interpret digital geographic data found on websites like Natural Earth Data and Toronto Open Data.

“Throughout the course, we used ArcGIS for Desktop for many projects such as analyzing sea level rise and how it will affect New Jersey's coastline and studying the volcanic and earthquake hazards in Japan. The project I’m proudest of and enjoyed the most is studying the Scarborough Bluffs shoreline and the danger of coastal erosion. I applied my knowledge of using the analysis tools in ArcGIS for Desktop such as "buffers" and "selecting by location" to analyze which low density residential homes are at risk of falling off the bluff due to erosion and mass movement. In the end, I used address data and dangerous areas data (collected as waypoints on a GPS during our class field trip to the Scarborough Bluffs) to list 114 residential homes that are within 150 metres from hazardous areas.

Dangerous areas near the Scarborough shoreline map poster created by Carson Lau.

By using ArcGIS for Desktop, we got firsthand experience analyzing and collecting data ourselves for information we need on our projects; rather than using other resources on the Internet. Learning how to use ArcGIS for Desktop is definitely beneficial for me because it will provide me with the option to use this tool as a resource for research papers and projects in the future for geography or other courses that require us to analyze geographic or demographic data.

Geography has always been one of my favourite subjects at school! As this course links the use of technology and artistic creativity with geography, it allows me to excel in many areas, especially creating maps using ArcGIS for Desktop. I plan on taking geography at a higher-level for my last two years at the school, and will most likely pursue geological engineering for my post-secondary education.”

Thank you Carson for contributing your experiences to this blog post, and I wish you all the best in your GIS endeavours!

I commend Mark for his continued work to inspire his students and make his classes fun and engaging. Mark will present “Teaching GIS Theory and Practice Using ArcMap and Minecraft” at the Esri Education GIS Conference in San Diego later this month. I highly recommend that you attend his presentation if you‘re heading down to the conference.

Read more GIS in the Classroom stories and contact us if you know of a student or teacher you think should be highlighted.

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