Building a GIS Workshop for High School Students

Geographic information systems (GIS) are an increasingly relevant tool being used in a variety of workforces. While education on GIS is well developed at the collegiate level and in workforce training programs, it is underutilized in K-12 settings. Research indicates that learning GIS can improve spatial and critical thinking skills in students, key elements for excelling in a variety of careers. Best practices indicate that teaching GIS through projects in a cross disciplinary setting (i.e., including math, science, and writing elements to projects), students may retain even more information about the subject matters and develop a greater interest in STEM and GIS related fields. Incorporating projects that are salient to student life such as themes of sustainability may increase student interest as well. Instructor fluency in GIS and mapping was found to be key to successful GIS education as well. When developing a GIS workshop, the authors recommend incorporating interdisciplinary projects that are salient to student interest, and pair it with a teacher educator workshop that highlights the benefits of using GIS in an educational setting. With the limited time of a single day workshop, focusing on gaining buy-in and explaining feasibility will be key to any successful workshop.