The lunchroom of Washington High School (St.Paul, MN) buzzed on Saturday with 175 teachers drawn together by a common vision. This annual "GEOFEST" of the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education included veteran teachers from before the dawn of MAGE in 1987 to a few dozen pre-service teachers. Thirty-plus-year vets to energetic young stars guided the swarm through an array of strategies for geographic thinking, by students of all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomies, physical environments, and levels of technology access. From pointedly to subtly, everyone modeled asking questions, acquiring data, exploring it, analyzing it, and acting on it. This is what binds geography educators -- a way of seeing conditions, from global to local, that finds, acknowledges, catalogues, and integrates consideration of the many layers of our world. A number of sessions embedded GIS, from intro on up, as a way of teaching content to a strategy for building students' futures.
But the MAGE event was not the only event of the month for GIS-using educators. Ten days before, Minnesota's GIS/LIS professionals gathered in northern Minnesota and, as part of it, subsidizing for the third time an Educator Day, free to teachers. Over 75 educators came from across the state, for a full day of learning from peers about teaching with GIS, on whatever devices their schools had.
"Teachers teaching teachers" helped launch and power MAGE for decades, and drives the GIS Educators Day. Comparing situations, sharing what works, engaging colleagues in doing geography, practicing thinking, analyzing data, seeking and seeing the patterns and relationships ... these generate opportunities for students, community, and common good. Educators from grade school to grad school and teacher school see the power of GIS through the eyes of peers and the creations of students constructing their own knowledge, scaffolding skills, investigating a project of their own design, on up to crafting entries to Esri's competition for high school and middle school students.
Geo-savvy educators learn from each other, hungrily. The staggering breadth of tools and topics, evolving instructional landscape, and classroom conditions mean these educators must seek and share, tirelessly. Even employers in school systems seek workers with skills in finding, analyzing, and presenting ever more complex data in ever more powerful ways, learners who make good decisions. Educators who engage The Science Of Where in their own insatiable learning are building the critical thinkers and problem solvers we need.