The ArcGIS Online Competition for US HS+MS Students challenges students in grades 4-12 to engage deeply with a local topic of individual interest, research it, and present findings in a StoryMap. At the launch of the 2019-2020 event, we dared to expect more states, more entries, and more profound work than ever. Students hit a big speedbump in March 2020 when Coronavirus interrupted school. Still, it was just late enough in the year that many students were well underway, and enough persisted to craft some very impressive Story Maps.
Tumult continues into the 2020-2021 year, but students already have to be more independent learners than ever. The competition permits only solo or single partner work (see https://esriurl.com/agoschoolcomp), so students with even moderate technology access and skills but driven by a question can have a field day, exploring options, tinkering with data, building crucial skills and understanding.
Esri encourages teachers to seize this chance to expose students to ArcGIS Online and start them on a long-term journey of their own design. This is ideal for those keen on physical, natural, and social sciences, but any student can pursue a local matter of interest. Addressing classroom content using ArcGIS Online (such as with GeoInquiries) in repeated experiences over months is a solid strategy for teachers to build curiosity and foster student skills in investigation, analysis, and presentation. Opportunity for a monetary prize or even a travel award should pale in comparison with building essential lifelong attitudes, skills, and knowledge.
But states hold a key for participation: states need a formal leadership team working with Esri to conduct the competition. This is the one challenge students alone can't beat, because it depends on a few GIS-savvy adults committing in advance to a little extra work on behalf of an unknown number of participants … from none to platoons. But just a few GeoMentors and education leaders willing to collaborate can launch a network exposing great opportunity to students (see https://esriurl.com/agoschoolcompinfo).
Today more than ever, we need students to build and demonstrate the ability to learn independently, tackle unfamiliar challenges, and see projects to completion. Esri's ArcGIS Online Competition for US High School and Middle School Students offers a perfect opportunity in the 2020-2021 school year.