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On the Map with Adam Laforest

This month’s On the Map features Adam Laforest, a French Immersion teacher from Nanaimo, British Columbia. Find out how he’s used ArcGIS Online for his Social Studies and Geography classes.  

October’s On the Map highlights the work of Adam Laforest. He’s a high school French Immersion teacher who started using ArcGIS Online 5 years ago to introduce geographic information systems (GIS) to his students.  

This post will highlight some of the activities he has integrated into his Social Studies and Geography classes. 

A man standing at the top of a mountain.

Adam teaches Social Studies and Geography in French in Nanaimo, BC.

Grade 9 Social Studies

Grade 9 Social Studies in British Columbia combine many topics including physical geography and World War I history. ArcGIS Online can be used to explore these subjects locally and globally through digital mapping.

Physical Geography

Last spring, Adam’s students walked through a local park to document examples of erosion present in the area using their smartphones. Back in the classroom, they created web maps that included Map Notes to mark areas of erosion they saw during their walk. In the pop-ups, a description and photo were added.

Using a real-world issue, students gained hands-on experience identifying erosion, as well as using ArcGIS Online to map their work.

A map showing points where erosion is present close to Nanaimo, BC.

The learning outcome from this activity was to identify transformational processes in their region, as well as learning about basic digital mapping skills. The image shows "racines exposés", exposed tree roots in French.

World War I

In Social Studies, the students also learn about World War I (WWI) and Canada’s contributions. In this unit, Adam’s students created web maps highlighting the major WWI battles. This illustrated the geographic extent the war had on the world.  In addition, students researched the countries involved in the war and added points to countries that sent soldiers to fight.

Using ArcGIS Online, students were able to connect with an historic event that occurred over a hundred years ago.

A web map showing location of World War I battles in Europe. Highlighted is the location of the Bataille de Verdun - the Battle of Verdun in French.

Using ArcGIS Online to document WWI is powerful, as you can visualize the geographic extent of the war.
The pop-up shows information about the Bataille de Verdun - the Battle of Verdun in French.

Human Geography, grade 12

To explore the grade 12 course’s ”Big Idea” of how human activities alter landscapes in various ways, Adam’s students walked to an area close to their school to document invasive plant species and their density in a local wetland. Then they created web maps that marked where the invasive plants were located and included pictures in the map pop-ups. 

Student Feedback

So far, Adam has received positive feedback from his students on the mapping activities and plans to continue using ArcGIS Online for future activities and projects.

 “I was super excited to work on ArcGIS Online at home, and I never do work at home. The number of things I can do is amazing.” David

“I was a bit concerned about doing online work because I am not very techie. However, the tools and systems are easy to understand and use. The program is more interesting and better than other ones I have used.” Eva

What’s Next?

ArcGIS StoryMaps is in Adam’s future as he believes it’s a great tool for students to present their findings and show proof of their overall learning.

Thank you, Adam. We look forward to seeing the upcoming content from your students.

We want to hear from educators

Let us know what you are up to, and you might be highlighted in an upcoming On the Map post. Email us at

New to ArcGIS Online?

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

Explore the Esri Canada K-12 Resource Finder to find other resources for your class.

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