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On the Map with Melissa McCoy

August’s On the Map features Melissa McCoy, a teacher from Ottawa, Ontario. Find out what her favourite Esri Canada resources are and how she uses ArcGIS in teaching grade 9 French immersion geography.

This month we are highlighting Melissa McCoy from Ottawa, Ontario. The grade 9 French Immersion geography teacher has been using ArcGIS the last 2 years to provide her students with relevant technology to keep them engaged in their learning.

Let’s learn more about Melissa’s ArcGIS journey, so far. 

A woman standing with a view of green fields behind her.

I have used ArcGIS for the past couple of years, but I definitely still have a lot to learn! I am always eager to find new ways students can use ArcGIS as it is so helpful for inquiry-based learning and for further developing spatial skills. I enjoy working alongside students to find new ways we can use this technology together in our classroom!

Tell us how and why you decided to use ArcGIS in teaching geography
I have been mostly teaching grade 9 geography for the past 5 years and have been incorporating ArcGIS into this course for many units and assignments. ArcGIS has really helped students develop their spatial skills and have a better understanding of the concepts we are learning.

I recently created an assignment using ArcGIS to look at Canada’s landform regions, Canada’s tourism industry related to skiing and snowboarding, and also major earthquakes that have happened in Canada. Students were able to add different layers to this web map and analyse the interrelationships between Canada’s natural processes and Canada’s tourism industry. 

My students also use Esri Canada’s ready to use ArcGIS resources. They include Exploring Landforms in Canada, and Canada's Atlantic Ocean and Fisheries. One of my favourite resources is the Do I Live in a Complete Community? where the students map out their community.

I also have students learn how to create ArcGIS Story Maps. They love using this tool as it allows them to be creative and demonstrate their learning in a new way. They can add in the maps they’ve created and really highlight important ideas using new skills. I’ve had many students continue using story maps for other assignments which demonstrates how effective the tool is.

A web map showing a highlighted green area with a caption of changing a parking lot into green space.

Lesson: Do I live in a Complete Community? The purpose of this lesson is to get you thinking about how your community has been designed with the environment in mind. As you think about it, consider how sustainable the surroundings are for the citizens who live there.

What were some geographic/spatial thinking concepts that your students learned in the Canada’s tourism industry activity?
By using ArcGIS to explore Canada’s tourism industry, students are able to look at the spatial importance of where the industry is located in Canada. They analysed different patterns and trends as well as interrelationships between the physical landscape and the economy. Using this information, they thought about different geographic perspectives and came up with their own ideas on different issues in Canada.

I’ve also enjoyed using so many of the lesson plans created by Esri Canada as they all allow students to analyse different issues using the geographic thinking skills we use in the course and develop their spatial thinking concepts simultaneously.

What is planned for the next project/activity? 
I hope to continue to learn new tools to incorporate in my teaching. I would like to use ArcGIS Survey123 to get the students working on a collaborative project where they can collect and analyse data.

In the fall, I will be teaching a university course at a faculty of Education. My plan is to give the teachers candidates an opportunity to explore the teaching tools available to them, including ArcGIS! As I believe, it is an essential tool to use in any geography classroom (and many other subject areas as well) I want to showcase some of the ways I have used it in my lesson plans and how beneficial it is for student learning. I hope they will be able to use it with their future students, as well.

Thank you, Melissa for sharing your ArcGIS use! We look forward to learning more about your work in the fall.

New to ArcGIS Online?

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, educators can request an account for themselves and their students at

Check out the following beginner resources to get started with ArcGIS Online:

For Educators - Let’s get started with ArcGIS Online
Explore the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For Students – Enroute with ArcGIS Online

Using ArcGIS Online and want to learn more?

Discover Story Maps
Creating ArcGIS Dashboards 

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



About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Specialist in the Esri Canada Education and Research group. She has over 15 years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela focuses on producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum-specific resources, and conducting and creating custom workshops for educators. She manages the GIS Ambassador Program and is the Technical Chair for the annual Skills Ontario GIS competition. Angela also writes monthly posts for the Esri Canada Education and Research blog, highlighting K-12 educators and partners, new ArcGIS resources and GIS-related events.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander