June 1, 2017, marked the 25th birthday for Esri's program for K12 Schools. That event was overshadowed by the release of ArcView 1.0 for Windows 3. The technology landscape then was infantile: no www, wifi, cell phones, robust computers in all shapes and sizes, galaxies of data, and so on. Esri's software today is vastly different from that of 1992, leveraging all these developments and reaching into almost every industry.
In 1992, I knew of two high schools using GIS. In 2017, students in primary school use GIS to explore the neighborhood, map critter locations, or journal a field trip. Middle school students build their history background, investigate earthquake patterns, or track a figure in literature. High school students generate surveys to crowd-source public experiences, analyze community patterns to solve problems, and take courses online to build skills for internships.
Despite the changes, much is as before. Users grapple with the three questions that topped the chalkboard of my classroom: "What's where? Why is it there? So what?" Some grand patterns and big relationships of our world are now more easily discovered and displayed, but infinitely many more questions rise to take their place. How do we protect our environment, advance the human condition, and build our collective knowledge base, while preserving and protecting what we hold dear?
Esri began our program for schools with one mission: Help students and communities experience why and how to explore the world, by thinking geographically, using GIS, in order to understand the patterns and relationships, make better decisions, and solve problems. You can see it in the eyes and hear it in the questions of even very young minds as they contemplate the many layers of our world … "What… Where… Why…?" Twenty-five years later, Esri remains focused on helping learners of all ages grasp and engage The Science Of Where.