Larisa Johnstone: A GIS Ambassador

June 17, 2015 Angela Alexander

GIS users in industry and higher education that are keen on supporting the use of GIS in K-12 are strongly encouraged to become a GIS Ambassador. Read about Larisa Johnstone, a GIS ambassador who has a passion for education and spreading the word about the importance of mapping and GIS.

Larisa Johnstone is a passionate believer in the educational value of geographic information systems (GIS) and maps. As a GIS CAD technician at the City of Windsor, she uses ArcGIS Online and Geocortex to create and update Web applications (apps) for the MappMyCity Web site that provides useful apps to the public. She also creates maps for specific projects requested by the City of Windsor staff and provides analysis and mapping expertise for the City's fire, planning and parks departments.

Larisa’s love for geography and GIS has led her to volunteer her time to her daughter’s elementary class. A few months ago, she spent a few hours teaching the class about the basics of mapping and cardinal directions and also explained how she uses maps at work. Larisa believes the use of GIS and maps is important because it allows children to see the world beyond the limits of their neighbourhood and it encourages them to ask questions about the world in which they live. The session was so well received by both the students and the teacher that other teachers at the school asked how they could get Larisa to come and work with their classes.

Larisa Johnstone, a GIS Ambassador who volunteers her time doing outreach work with students.

In April, Larisa continued her outreach to schools by meeting with a group of elementary teachers from Dr. David Suzuki Public School in Windsor. This “green” school opened in 2010 with the use of energy and environmental technologies and is known for its LEED platinum designation. Larisa’s goal was to get the teachers excited about ArcGIS Online, so she showed school staff how easy and effective it is to use in teaching. She highlighted the different applications of ArcGIS Online beyond geography and provided teachers with some examples of activities they could use in the classroom. After the presentation was over, two of the teachers approached her because they were convinced that her knowledge of GIS and mapping would be invaluable to them and to their students and welcomed her offer to volunteer her time at the school.

Looking ahead to the new school year, Larisa will be busy volunteering at an elementary school and a high school. She will be working with a kindergarten teacher from Dr. David Suzuki Public School on a story map project showcasing all the environmental initiatives and processes the school has implemented. More specifically, she plans to work on a project with a grade 6 teacher who showed interest at the initial meeting. Larisa will also be working with two high school teachers to teach them how to create their own story maps around the theme of sustainable development (locally and globally) that’s tied to the curriculum. She looks forward to sharing the progress of her projects with us and we can’t wait to hear more about them.

Become a GIS Ambassador if you’re a student or professional who recognizes the significance of GIS and has an interest in working with young people. Find free Esri Canada resources to help you with your outreach.

Contact k12@esri.ca if you want to become a GIS Ambassador or if you are interested in getting a GIS Ambassador to come to your classroom in the fall.

About the Author

Angela Alexander

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.

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