Last week, Minnesota lost a key player in the rise of GIS in K12 education. Scott Freburg retired from the MN Dept of Education. But the state hasn't lost as much as it might seem. Freburg has been a difference-maker, and such folks often stick around, making more waves.
He had his first experiences with remote sensing and GIS in college in the mid-1980s, and started going to conferences and getting to know people. After doing GIS for several organizations, he joined MDE in 2006. In addition to building a strong enterprise GIS, over the years he has helped a number on staff get into using GIS regularly. A quiet and behind-the-scenes guy, he played a key role in getting a state license started for MN just as ArcGIS Online Organizations were becoming available to states.
His "cannonball into the swimming pool" event was in fall of 2013, talking to the MN GIS/LIS group, asking who might be willing to help local teachers by running a simple workshop. The next summer, 25 volunteers ran 40 events across the state, for almost 300 teachers. That wave still ripples today.
At Esri's 2014 T3G educator institute, Freburg temporarily closes the laptop to focus on tablet and smartphone.
In fall of 2015, Freburg's dream took a next big step, launching the Minnesota GIS Educators' Day, a one-day training for educators, during the school week, at the front end of the state GIS/LIS event. Teachers' substitute costs and travel costs are paid by the GIS community, and GIS professionals join the teachers for lunch, hear educators and students and mentors speak, and hear the call again to join forces. The 2015 event was a success, which grew in 2016, and again in 2017, and bigger still in 2018. Through quiet conversations, helping people over the years, sharing good ideas, and showing up, Freburg has fostered in Minnesota's professional GIS community a commitment to the K12 teachers who bring thousands of students into GIS.
Freburg (front right) and teachers at 2015 MN GIS Educator Day
"The GIS/LIS group had a scholarship fund for higher ed folks for years, so it wasn't hard to get agreement on allocating funds for K12 as well," he said. "Four of those scholarship winners in eight years have become teachers. And, y'know, one is the teacher whose kids won Esri's national high school competition both years. So it all comes around. It's gonna keep building." (See also AAG's GeoMentor profile.)
What's in store for Freburg? Maybe a little more baseball and golf, a little less database management. There's a first grandchild soon. But there are also teachers to visit, all over the state. "We'd like to visit all the state parks in Minnesota … and … maybe schedule some trainings around them." Could be even bigger waves ahead.