Home School GIS: Getting Into the Field

Blog Post created by BBaldwin-esristaff Employee on Mar 23, 2020

Like most parents right now, we are trying to juggle work & 'school' with our 2 kids at home for the foreseeable future. I have talked with a number of different people and it's interesting to note the various challenges that we are all facing due to the different ages of our kids. I have a 6 and an almost 4 year old and they don't have any type of 'remote education' or virtual classroom that they are joining on a daily basis. So, it falls on my wife and I to try and build a school day (some kind of structure to the week) for them as best we can. With this... has come a deep dive into our well of creativity.


So - over the course of this blog I'm going to walk you through how I (and you) could use the wealth of resources that Esri offers to get some really cool GIS/spatial/mapping/outdoor time, education into your arsenal. Let me first show you what can be done, before I launch into how you can get something together as well.


Simple Field Survey - Collecting Data Digitally with a 3-year Old


The first thing that I wanted to do, was to build out a simple 'survey' that my kids could use on a nature hike. I wanted them to keep their heads up and enjoy the hike, but also keep their eyes open to 'capture' the things that they found. If your kids are old enough, you could let them build out their own digital maps by adding demographic or physical layers after you get home. There are a ton of different options. Let's get started with collecting some data.


If you aren't familiar with it, I used QuickCapture to create a really simple application for my kids to capture 'Spring Things', like bugs, flowers, mud, etc. The application is designed to be a couple big buttons that you just 'tap' to capture the data (photo, date/time, the user). So with just one tap - you get a lot of great information and it's incredibly easy to use. Apologies for the horrendous 'custom' icons. All told - it took me about 30 min. to make the icons and configure the QuickCapture project.


QuickCapture on my phoneHere is the screenshot of the 'Spring is Here' app. Just need to tap the right picture.


After the application was built out - we took em out to the field! I created an account for both of my kids so that the surveys would capture the 'who' (also to avoid a cataclysmic phone sharing meltdown). This was a great test in survey design as well. When were on the hike, I wished we had an 'other' option for 'Interesting Things' or something that could be a catch-all. They also wanted to get things like 'water' and some other stuff. But, all in all, it worked really well and it was easy for them to use.


Bug or Tree?

Owen getting some mud.


Back in the 'Office' - What Did We Find?


After we got back from the hike - I wanted to build out a way to present our data. Another awesome tool that Esri has is called Operations Dashboard, which is just a drag and drop way to build out a map and present the data in it (with charts and summaries).


Here is the final dashboard that we created (note the sweet spring pastels):


Spring is Here! Dashboard


In general, it was fun to see all of the ground we covered and all of the different things that we saw along the hike. It was also fun to see when and where they got 'fired up'.


In this view, I filtered the dashboard just to see all of the 'tree bud' items (total of 59). It also looks like the majority of them got captured in the span of about 40 ft... I'm not sure if we hit a really vibrant part of the forest... or if both the kids started to enjoy mashing the 'tree bud' icon.


Lots of tree buds?


Final Thoughts


The preparation for this 'lesson plan' took me about an hour and then another 30 minutes to get the map and dashboard built out after the hike. Even for someone that has never touched any of these tools - it could easily take you an evening to get the field survey configured. If you are healthy and at home with your kids, it's a great opportunity to get them outside and get them active, while at the same time starting to introduce them to GIS and maps.


If you have kids that are a bit older than mine, there are even more possibilities available. Have them build their own Covid-19 dashboards - how could the data be presented better? They could capture data around your house or neighborhood, they could conduct surveys, or they could visualize and analyze data. They could be mapping anything!


As part of its 'Esri's school's program' - Esri offers all K-12 schools (as well as home schools) free licenses for educational purposes referred to as the ArcGIS Schools Bundle. Everything that was featured in this blog is possible/doable with said 'bundle'. A great resource for those just getting started can be found on this separate GeoNet post: Getting Started for Educators.


Please share your own projects or the results that you put together! Or, reach out with any questions. I'll be working on some additional projects in the near future and will be sure to post. Stay healthy everyone.


Happy QuickCapture UsersTwo happy QuickCapture users