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On the Map with Andrew White

2023’s first On the Map features teacher Andrew White from St. Catharines, Ontario. He plays an important role in the education community and helps bring digital mapping beyond his classroom and school to educators across the Niagara region. Read more about Andrew and his work to inspire and educate through the use of ArcGIS.

Andrew White is this month's On the Map educator. He’s a geography teacher at Eden High School in the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) with over 20 years of teaching experience. In this post, you will find out how he’s using ArcGIS in his classes to teach geography and how he’s supporting teachers at his school and board through professional development opportunities and promoting spatial and digital literacy.

In the 10 years we have known Andrew, we have provided him with technical support, spent time with him at the International Esri User Conference in 2019 and recommended him for the 2021 Prime Minister’s Award for teaching excellence. He’s an outstanding teacher and a great resource for teachers at his school board.

A man smiling with his hands on his hips in front of a glacier lake in Iceland.

Andrew’s a passionate educator who loves to travel. This is Andrew on a recent trip to Iceland.

Let’s learn more about Andrew's work!

What courses are you currently teaching?

Currently, I am teaching the destreamed grade 9 Canadian Geography course and an online grade 12 World Issues course. Next semester, I will be teaching the same courses, as well as the grade 11 Travel and Tourism course.

Tell us about some of the ArcGIS projects that you have done 

Over the last couple of years, we had a lot of new geography teachers cycle through our department at Eden, and this was a common pattern across our board.  In order to bring new teachers up to speed with the fun and dynamic activities we do with ArcGIS, our board decided to make an in-house training service that would instruct new teachers on how to use ArcGIS and to introduce them to some of the activities already in use at the DSBN. 

As part of this initiative, I was tasked with designing an eLearning course for teachers that could be accessed through our school board's Desire to Learn (D2L) web site. This course includes short training videos that cover all the basics of the software, as well as lessons and activities that I use in my own classes from grades 9 to 12. These examples serve as a guide for other teachers to see how ArcGIS can be incorporated into their own lesson plans. In addition to designing the course, I also provided online support for a week during the summer to help teachers get started. The course is available to teachers throughout the year.

Student activities

Enhancing ArcGIS skills within our school has been a priority for me. In grade 9, we introduce basic mapping skills by first having students walk around their local neighbourhood identifying land-use types on a paper map.  Then, we return to class and use ArcGIS Online to create a web map. The students label the land-use types on the web map using an imagery basemap. We then move on to adding existing layers to the web map, which involves analyzing earthquake and volcanic activity data to determine the locations of plate boundaries and identify regions in Canada that are at the highest risk for earthquakes. Every student ends up with a different looking map, but the key takeaway is understanding that earthquakes and volcanoes are most common along plate boundaries, with some exceptions. This activity allows students to explore information from a local, regional and global perspective.

Scavenger Hunt with ArcGIS Survey123

Recently, I have been exploring the great opportunities of using ArcGIS Survey123.  At the beginning of all my courses, I want the students to be familiar with the possibilities of conducting research using Survey123.  I designed a simple scavenger hunt and sent the students out on the school property with the mission to find and record the locations of each destination using Survey123.  The students had lots of fun, and afterwards, they learned how the app could be used to monitor wildlife, plan city neighbourhoods, identify sustainability in their neighbourhood and more.  

Grade 12 World Issues elearning course

As a teacher of the grade 12 World Issues eLearning course, I face the challenge of designing ArcGIS lessons for a diverse group of students who range from experienced users of the software to those who have no previous experience. To address this, I start by introducing students to Story Maps as a platform for delivering lessons that integrate spatial data and concepts. Some of these lessons were created by me, such as ones on the demographic transition model and evaluating the global response to the pandemic, while others are story maps created by the Esri Story Maps team, such as The Uprooted story.

A map showing global birth rates.

The demographic transition model lesson for the grade 12 World Issues course.

Later, I have the students use the software to examine the geopolitical nature of building hydroelectric dams in an arid environment. This is done using the Nile River: Geopolitical Issue of Water Rights activity.  We use a biome layer, hydrographic data and country data to see which countries are most affected by the construction of the Aswan and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dams. The result is the students are often surprised at how quickly they can pick up key skills, such as finding and filtering layers on their own.

A map showing global rivers and biomes.

The Nile River: Geopolitical Issue of Water Rights ArcGIS Online activity.

Why do you think ArcGIS is a valuable tool for teaching and learning? 

After attending the International Esri User Conference, it became evident to me that ArcGIS is an essential tool for students who plan to pursue a career in geography. In fact, even if students don't go on to study geography, there’s a good chance they will work in a field that utilizes GIS technology, like ArcGIS.

I enjoy pointing out to my students that the maps they see on TV, such as those showing pandemic data or conflict zones, use the same technology that we use in class. This helps to illustrate the real-world applications of what they are learning and the potential job opportunities that await them.

I find that incorporating ArcGIS activities into my lessons is a refreshing change from the more traditional methods of learning, as it allows students to apply their knowledge in a more practical setting. When working with ArcGIS, students can explore real data, identify patterns, and create their own maps, which encourages creativity and allows them to learn at their own pace.

In addition, the use of Story Maps provides ample opportunity for students to express themselves and explore the material in a way that is meaningful to them. Overall, these activities provide a valuable and engaging learning experience for my students.  

Feedback from a former student     

I love hearing back from recent graduates of Eden. One such graduate was kind enough to send me an email explaining how important learning ArcGIS in high school was for him.

“Thank you for introducing me to GIS in high school, as it is such a critical skill to have in any environmental field. This semester I took a mandatory course titled "GIS in Forest Management Planning", and thanks to my prior experience, the first two-thirds of the course was a review as opposed to fresh learning. Thank you again for introducing Eden students to one of the most crucial technologies that helped to develop skills needed to work in the environmental field and allowing us to gain an interest and skill set in a niche area.” - Matthew G

What’s next?

I have planned a school trip to Iceland for a group of about 20 students. As a geographer, I was greatly impressed by Iceland during my own visit and believe it will be a fascinating destination for my students. Many of the students traveling are enrolled in my Travel and Tourism course, and I hope the trip will provide them with valuable insights and experiences.

A man standing above a crowd of onlookers at the Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Andrew at the Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption in Iceland.

During the trip, students will use Survey123 to identify and document key natural and man-made features of the country. Upon returning, they will use this information to create a story map detailing the physical geography, culture, and attractions of Iceland.

Single Sign-On at DSBN

DSBN has set up ArcGIS Online single sign-on for teachers and students to access the software easily through their learning management system. This also allows users to access ArcGIS apps like ArcGIS StoryMaps and ArcGIS Survey123, to name a few. Contact us at k12@esri.ca for more info if you want to learn how you can get it set up at your school or board.

Thank you, Andrew for encouraging, piloting and testing access to ArcGIS Online through single sign-on at your board. Your commitment to ensuring equal access to ArcGIS for all across your board has demonstrated your passion and leadership beyond your classroom and school.

Andrew, through your work and dedication, you continually go above and beyond to increase spatial and digital literacy in the Niagara region. Inspiring those near and far. We look forward to continuing our journey together in supporting the use of ArcGIS in K-12 education in Canada.

Connect with Andrew @eden_geo.

New to ArcGIS Online?

If you are new to ArcGIS Online, educators can request an account for themselves and their students at k12.esri.ca/#access.

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
Survey123

Creating ArcGIS Dashboards  

 

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