I was presented this question from a talented colleague who was being challenged by an economics teacher.
Simple answer: yes!
My colleague and I are big fans of GIS and believe that it’s a valuable tool in almost any discipline. I took a few minutes, maybe 5 or 10 minutes to be exact, and created an Economics Starter Map. http://bit.ly/JKRSaR
I opened arcgis.com, clicked map at the top of the page, clicked Add and selected search for layers. Now, I’m no economics teacher but I did well in that class and know that they would be studying GDP so I did a search for “gdp” and got a list of several layers. The World Bank has many layers available that also have time sliders that allow you to compare the data over time. I added those, saved my map, shared my map and now I’m sharing it here with you. The lesson here is, “Don’t be afraid to look for information before you say it’s not valuable to what I teach.”
Do you have great economics and mapping materials to share? Comment and share those here!
Happy GIS DAY!
Geography is never discipline-specific! Even a theme like “fresh water” should not be narrowed just to the science community. Embrace the cross-curricular ties that exist within your curriculum. You don’t have to teach something new, just teach what you already do in a different way. This type of integration has great powers to teach your students to think, a skill we often expect rather than teach. Before you decide I’m crazy and reaching for my magic wand, let’s explore the possibilities. Let’s analyze how studying water can connect with all four core curricular areas. I have a real-world…already tried it…works great with real kids… example!
Here’s what happened…I was teaching 7th grade English on a middle school team of four teachers. One afternoon we’re discussing upcoming classroom content. As the math teacher starts sharing about her water project, the science teacher chimes in, “Hey, I could move things around and do pH studies then. We can test their home water and compare with school water.” Not to be left out, the social studies teacher and I start thinking too. In short fashion, we created a team-wide water unit. The results were fantastic. Our students could see the connections across the curriculum, and it prompted them to think about similar connections in the future. This collaboration led to many other collaborative projects among the four subjects. The proof was in the test scores at the end of the year!
Math: statistics of home water use
Students collected data in their homes for a week on water usage. Then they used spreadsheet software to organize and calculate statistics. Then the data was merged with the science data to be analyzed in GIS software.
Students collected samples of water around the school and from their homes. They analyzed the water samples and drew conclusions. Then the data was merged with the math data to be analyzed in GIS software (more on this below).
English: water art and literature
I had a collection of old calendar art. I pulled every picture that had water in the art. Students had to answer a series of questions about the art. Keeping within the confines of my school’s literature texts, students read “The Wreck of the Hesperus” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “Hurricanes” by Patricia Lauber. Then students had to relate the text to the art. Which piece of art best illuminates these selections? Explain.
What if you don’t have water literature in your curriculum or available art? If you don’t have art on hand, utilize a resource like the Smithsonian. Their art collection online is extensive! (http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search) Just search by keyword “water.”
This lesson gives context to Walden Pond along with other English Language Arts topics: (lessons in arclessons). It’s part of a great educational resource by GIS leader Esri, the Education Community at Esri: http://edcommunity.esri.com.
Articles on water related to literature:
Social Studies: how water affects communities around the globe
Geography and GIS: visualizing our water resources
Students took the collected data from math and science class and merged it with census and zip-code data. Then they performed analysis to determine where the best water was. What factors might influence water quality? You could perform similar activities with some pre-crafted lesson plans at the National Center for Rural STEM Education Outreach-Geospatial Technology (http://www.isat.jmu.edu/stem/curriculum.html) – drinking water, aquifers and watersheds are just a few of the 14 lesson collection. Whether you use a Mac or PC, AEJEE, My World GIS or ArcGIS 9, you can use these activities! Another good online resource is National Atlas MapMaker (http://www.nationalatlas.gov). Quick and easy internet mapping on any data that they keep at the National Atlas.
Remember to teach cross-curricular topics to your students with geography! Use technology whenever it’s possible…it’s a language today’s teenagers understand well. Students who are connected to their content in a purposeful way are more successful. Help them discover that their world is connected in many ways.
Come and get ’em! Books are in the store!
Reading, Writing & Thinking Around the Globe: Geospatial Technologies for the English Language Arts Classroom and Beyond by Barbaree Duke
20 Minute GIS for Young Explorers by Barbaree Duke, Anita Palmer & Roger Palmer
Cross-curricular collaboration is a powerful tool as well. Students see connections to their studies and see teamwork modeled for them among the teachers. Middle school students say, “You mean you talk to Mrs. Smith…about school stuff!?!” Collaborative work is a part of our professional world. It makes sense to show our students some best practices. Not to mention, as my mother always said, “It’s nice to share with others.” While my students in English class were working on a writing assignment that was part research, part creative on Indian culture, my team Social Studies Teacher wanted to show the impact of the Ganges River, one of the most polluted rivers. How important is water in this region?
A quick zoom over to India and a look at the world topo maps, students can explain why this river is significant, not only for its religious importance. What other water sources are available to this region? If you were creating cities, where would you place them based on the landscape? Now, change the base map to streets and compare where the real cities are. How well did you place cities? Could some cities’ water resources be strained? Why?
Once we examine these items in Sketch-A-Map, we have opened our students’ curious minds to “why”! Now we can make an easy transition to GIS analysis to examine world population and trends in cities to offer proof for our hypotheses. Not only do my students know where India, the Ganges River and major cities are located, but they also have some grounded knowledge of their significance…information that they are less-likely to forget when assessed. Give students the connections they need to imprint content and increase their analytical skills!
Fresh from the ESRI EdUC 2009 and ready to face another year…here are the latest files updated to my website. Downloads for Georeferencing the Curriculum and the Earth, Wind and Fire presentation (sans disco music) are available along with other good resources for integrating GIS in your classroom. http://www.barbareeduke.com/downloads/downloads.htm and http://www.barbareeduke.com/resources/resources.htm