Girl Power Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

About one year ago, I received funding from National Geographic Society to teach females of color geographic information systems.  Females of color are disproportionately represented in the world of geography and other STEM subjects.  Girls growing up in the Midwest are especially at risk for not entering science, technology, engineering, and math, because of the misconception that they are not prepared well enough.  Actually, it’s a vicious cycle, because educational systems decide who will be successful, academically, and who will not be.  That is my observation, and actually, as a female of color, I experienced it in my own schooling.

“Girl Power” GIS

The class had met twice in March, 2018 with spring break on the 13.  The final two classes will met on March 20 and 27.

Initially 18 females registered, but six did not show on the first night, and 13 continued.  Of the 13 students, three were male, though we targeted females, we did not want to turn away any who was interested.  Of the 13 students, they represented origins from Philippines, India, El Salvador, Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Vietnam, Laos, and the U.S., which addressed targeting “females of color”.  While the bulk of our students were in high school, we had one who was in 8th grade (a very bright child!), and three who   were in their 30s, which addressed our focusing on “an inter-generational student body).

We had four instructors.  Especially exciting was that that we found two females who have chosen careers in which GIS is a majority of their daily allocation of duties. One of our faculty was from India and another was from Philippines, so they were able to bring a global perspective to the classroom, which was very exciting.

Class One:

We began with a pre-test to gauge student knowledge.  One knew that it had to do with maps (the 8th grader), and the remainder mentioned not knowing anything about GIS.  (Or so they thought!)

  • Our first evening focused on common and every day uses of GIS. To illustrate the point, the instructor demonstrated how Pokémon Go! engaged GIS to help players find their “awards”.  He went on to show the uses of GIS in geocaching, placement of park benches and trees in a community.
  • The instructor challenged the students to find any discipline in which GIS count NOT work, and discussion ensued.
  • Finally, the instructor showed how he’d created an Easter Egg Hunt for the City of Garden City, which linked children to the parks and to the technology.
  • Homework: “Draw a map of your bedroom”. One is included as part of this document.

Class Two:

  • Our second evening class began with each student showing her/his map of her or his bedroom. Some were drawn by hand while others used “shapes” in a word document. (one is attached to this report).
  • This was to help them know that they already have the ability to create a map using information (data) they have in their minds!
  • Our instructor focused on city planning through illustration and discussion. She introduced a city planning game called, Urban Plan by QWERD.  The students went into teams to work on and understand the details in planning a city.  After a half hour of city planning, each group showed its city, which included crime rates, infrastructure short comes, movement of people, and other cultural aspects of city design.
  • Homework: The students participated in a demonstration of “Sim City” before being excused with the charge to build a city on her or his own.
  • At the end of class, students had to name one thing learned in class that evening. Here are some of the comments:
    • “I learned the word, ‘demographics’”.
    • “Making maps is not that easy, because there are many steps and statistics.”
    • “About zoning and urban planning”
    • “I learned to plan ahead when planning a city”
    • “I’m not sure I learned it, but starting a city is really hard! I want to learn how can a city stand and how can it keep functional?”
    • I learned about zoning, city planning and a local, interactive GIS map called, “Explore My Community”, which was created by our teacher!”
    • “I learned that I like planning and ‘building’ a city.”
    • “There are many different zones, some being very specific depending on what they are, such as being downtown or in a neighborhood.”
    • “I learned new words, which adds to my vocabulary.”
    • “There is a lot of detail in making a map.”
    • “I learned that GIS is a geographic information system that allows us to present data on maps and these data can be: parcels, roads, postal codes and other.”

These daily “post-tests” are saved in their written form.  Next, you may read the class process and hear from the students on their own learning paths/processes.

Class One:

We began with a pre-test to gauge student knowledge.  One knew that it had to do with maps (the 8th grader), and the remainder mentioned not knowing anything about GIS.  (Or so they thought!)

  • Our first evening focused on common and every day uses of GIS. To illustrate the point, the instructor demonstrated how Pokémon Go! engaged GIS to help players find their “awards”.  He went on to show the uses of GIS in geocaching, placement of park benches and trees in a community.
  • The instructor challenged the students to find any discipline in which GIS count NOT work, and discussion ensued.
  • Finally, the instructor showed how he’d created an Easter Egg Hunt for the City of Garden City, which linked children to the parks and to the technology.
  • Homework: “Draw a map of your bedroom”. One is included as part of this document.

Class Two:

  • Our second evening class began with each student showing her/his map of her or his bedroom. Some were drawn by hand while others used “shapes” in a word document. (one is attached to this report).
  • This was to help them know that they already have the ability to create a map using information (data) they have in their minds!
  • Our instructor focused on city planning through illustration and discussion. She introduced a city planning game called, Urban Plan by QWERD.  The students went into teams to work on and understand the details in planning a city.  After a half hour of city planning, each group showed its city, which included crime rates, infrastructure short comes, movement of people, and other cultural aspects of city design.
  • Homework: The students participated in a demonstration of “Sim City” before being excused with the charge to build a city on her or his own.
  • At the end of class, students had to name one thing learned in class that evening. Here are some of the comments:
    • “I learned the word, ‘demographics’”.
    • “Making maps is not that easy, because there are many steps and statistics.”
    • “About zoning and urban planning”
    • “I learned to plan ahead when planning a city”
    • “I’m not sure I learned it, but starting a city is really hard! I want to learn how can a city stand and how can it keep functional?”
    • I learned about zoning, city planning and a local, interactive GIS map called, “Explore My Community”, which was created by our teacher!”
    • “I learned that I like planning and ‘building’ a city.”
    • “There are many different zones, some being very specific depending on what they are, such as being downtown or in a neighborhood.”
    • “I learned new words, which adds to my vocabulary.”
    • “There is a lot of detail in making a map.”
    • “I learned that GIS is a geographic information system that allows us to present data on maps and these data can be: parcels, roads, postal codes and other.”

These daily “post-tests” are saved in their written form.

It does not end here.  My own university, where I work, funded me to offer classes to a second cohort.  Some time in September, 2018, we will offer a mini course to teachers as a professional development in-service.  Stay tuned.

 

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