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App of the Month: Grow BC

Remote learning has become the norm for many students during COVID-19, and it’s important to provide them with an engaging virtual learning experience. For May’s App of the Month, we take a look at Grow BC, an interactive mapping app developed by British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC). The app helps K-12 students explore the diverse agricultural industry in British Columbia.

Earlier this year, BCAITC revamped their Grow BC site as now, more than ever, having an online presence is important to reach their audience of educators and students. One of the featured resources on the organization’s website is the Interactive Grow BC Map, which contains 63 informative stories on the who, what, when, where and why of BC agriculture and how food is produced and delivered from farm to table.

BCAITC created the app using the storytelling tools in ArcGIS Online, specifically the Map Viewer Classic and Classic Story Map Journal templates.

The Map

BCAITC’s creative use of map symbology makes the map intriguing and fun. As I navigate and click on icons on the map, I am amazed at how many products are grown in BC! Although the map is a simple embed of a Map Viewer using IFrame HTML tags, I can see there was a lot of thought put into designing the user experience – as shown by the addition of customized tools like layer filtering and location searches. These key tools are very useful for educators and students. While BCAITC could have added a lot more tools to the map, they preferred not to overwhelm the reader and intentionally kept the map focused with a few, select tools. It follows the saying, ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.

 Map showing well formatted pop-up

Each point on the map includes a well-formatted popup. You’d be surprised at how many maps I’ve come across with a puzzling table in the popup. (Tip: No one needs to know your OBJECTID.) Each popup in this map contains the name of the item, description, a link taking users further to the story and an image of the commodity cultivated in the area.

The Stories

The link in the pop-up ‘View Story’ directs users to 63 informative agricultural stories that were once materials for the printed encyclopedia of agriculture, which was distributed to school librarians and teachers by mail. With this web map, teachers, students, librarians, home educators, and now, anyone with this link, can access the virtual learning material anywhere and anytime.

The link to each story takes you to a Classic Story Maps Journal, which is by far, one of my favourite classic story map templates. Each story map takes the reader on a journey of how commodities are produced and go through many hands before they are delivered to your grocery store. Accompanying the story are high-definition photos and amazing videos that help enhance the storytelling.

Collection of all the story maps created for each agricultural industry

Compilation of all the story maps

If you take a step back and look at the overall maps with the story maps, the folks at BCAITC used the web map as a table of contents that leads people into the different chapters of agricultural stories. This is a genius way to use web maps to consolidate all their story maps.

Behind the Scenes

This was not an overnight project. Since 2017, the BCAITC team worked closely with Esri Canada’s Education department to develop an efficient workflow, detailed below.

  1. A story map template was agreed upon.
  2. Knowledgeable educators and industry partners were selected to help with each story.
  3. A structure for each story was developed to provide consistency.
  4. Content was then written for the stories.
  5. Photos and videos were attached to each story.
  6. All the commodities and their location were identified.
  7. All the locations were placed on the map viewer and the map was formatted.
  8. Data was reviewed.
  9. The site was tested.
  10. The site was launched.
  11. The site was promoted.

Fruits of Their Labour

Moving their resource to a GIS system helped BCAITC increase the opportunity to reach more users. Because their stories and map are digital, they are able to keep their information updated more quickly with a touch of their fingertips! From an environmental perspective, they’re also reducing their carbon footprint and costs of printing and delivering the books.

The app itself is responsive on mobile, tablet and desktop, so users can access it from any device and enjoy the interactive and immersive stories. Moving forward, BCAITC plans to develop more virtual lesson plans and activities, and I can’t wait to see what other GIS applications they will build!

Want to build your own story map? Explore the Next Generation of Map Making.

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