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On the Map with Cory Munro

Cory Munro from Saugeen District Senior School is this month’s On the Map educator. We’re excited to highlight his work for this year’s last feature.

Since the early 2000s, Cory has been teaching and using geographic information system (GIS) in his high school geography classes. He started with desktop GIS software, first ArcView and then ArcMap. For the last few years, he has been using ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS apps with a focus on collaborative, real-world and hands-on student activities.

Let’s find out what Cory and his students have been up to recently.

What courses are you currently teaching?

I am teaching grade 9 Issues in Canadian Geography, grade 11 Introduction to Spatial Technologies and grade 12 Spatial Technologies in Action at Saugeen District Secondary School in Port Elgin, Ontario.

How are your students using ArcGIS at your school?

In grade 9, students use ArcGIS Online extensively to work with a variety of data layers and to conduct basic spatial analysis on a variety of topics/issues that we discuss in class. They also collaborate by collecting data using a survey created using ArcGIS Survey123, and they communicate their findings and work using ArcGIS StoryMaps - a great presentation tool.

In grade 11 and 12, students expand on the use of ArcGIS tools. Students conduct more spatial analysis (like walking time and enrich layer analysis) in ArcGIS Online and communicate their findings using story maps and ArcGIS Dashboards. Students learn about different file formats to import data and create their own data with spreadsheets and Survey123. They also use ArcGIS Community Analyst to map locations, perform analysis, and create reports for a specific purpose.

A man wearing sunglasses smiling with his hands in his pant pockets.

Cory is part of a small group of teachers in Ontario who teach senior high school spatial technology courses. His students gain skills like critical, spatial, and analytical thinking that will give them an edge in the classroom and later in higher education and in the workplace.

ArcGIS Activities

In the grade 12 Spatial Technologies in Action class, students have been using ArcGIS to learn how to collect, manage, and interpret data. Students collect data about the school using Survey123 and then highlight key indicators on dashboards, where they present the data in an effective and interactive way. Explore some of the student dashboards that were created this year.

An ArcGIS Dashboard showing data collected using ArcGIS Survey123. The data focuses on student data.

Student dashboard showing data they collected from their classmates.

The grade 12 students also looked at park walkability in their community. They used local park data (Town of Saugeen Shores) to create 30-minute walk times from parks and they enriched their maps with population data in ArcGIS Online. This lesson was inspired by Esri map maker John Nelson’s “How to Draw Walkable Territories Around City Parks in ArcGIS Online.”

Students also worked in groups to generate a report suggesting a new location for a Krispy Kreme Donut franchise. They used Community Analyst to generate drive times from current locations and compared demographic indicators for each. Students presented their findings, and the class voted on the best location based on the information presented.

Tell us about your involvement in the Bruce County Story Map contest

I am happy to say 2023 was the third year for our region’s GIS Day Story Map Contest.

It all started a few years ago when I was approached by a team of local GIS professionals led by Justin Kraemer, a GIS Ambassador from the County of Bruce about advancing the knowledge of GIS technology within the two school boards (Bluewater District School Board and Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board) in our region. We produced the idea of challenging grade 7 and 8 students to use ArcGIS to communicate their ideas and findings based on a series of questions.

Cory standing behind three students holding up GIS Day certificates and smiling.

Cory with students who participated in the GIS Day Story Map Contest in 2022. 

This year, students chose to either research natural disasters in the region or explore the availability of healthy food options in their community. Past topics have included land use and development in the local community and highlighting communities around Grey and Bruce Counties.

A screenshot of a story map slide showing an imagery map of the location Midnay, tornado occurred in 2014.

Winning story map from the 2023 GIS Day Story Map Contest focused on natural disasters in the region.

This contest has provided a framework for showing students and their teachers the power of GIS technology, and it has positively impacted advancing technology skills in the classroom.

To support the contest, I have created a series of tutorial videos for teachers and students to learn basic skills. The goal of creating GIS awareness in the local community has been met with 475 students participating in this year’s contest.

Repurposing the Story Map challenge
I gave the Story Map Contest questions to my senior spatial technology class to complete as an assignment. This gave them experience working with the data and communicating their findings.

The senior students then visited five different grade 7 and 8 classes at our school to provide leadership and mentorship to contest participants. Students were able to answer questions, demonstrate tips and tricks, and guide student discussions about the contest content.

What insight can you share with educators who are new to ArcGIS?
Using spatial technology, like ArcGIS, can yield significant benefits. In recent years, my teaching has shifted from a focus on geographic content to a focus on geographic and mapping skills. Traditional geography skills will always be important, but I always encourage colleagues to step outside of their comfort zones and try using technology. With basic skills and a recognition that none of us are absolute experts, exposing students to technology or ways of thinking has incredible benefits. Learn along with your students, and they will appreciate the effort that you are making. Taking geographic content and adding real-life applications and case studies through data and spatial technology has been an effective way to engage students.

With the recent move to destreaming the grade 9 geography course in Ontario, spatial technology can provide a range of opportunities for students of all abilities. Applications like ArcGIS Online, StoryMaps, Dashboards, and Survey123 can provide differentiated learning opportunities for students. When designing activities for students, try to get them to think about the importance of place. Go beyond activities with obvious outcomes and try to really promote the concepts of geographic thinking (Patterns & Trends, Interrelationships, Geographic Perspectives, and Spatial Significance).

Thank you, Cory for your insight and inspiration. Keep on mapping and sharing your love for spatial technology. You can reach Cory @munrogeography.

New to ArcGIS Online?

If you are a K-12 educator new to ArcGIS Online, you can request an account for yourself and your 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

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