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GRACE Introduction

Posted by carl.bragg Nov 29, 2016

My name is Carl Bragg. I currently teach agriscience and science at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, MI. I am a member of the GRACE project cohort #5.


Convert .kml files to .gpx

Posted by alew Jun 25, 2016

Here's a slick little tool that converts .kml to .gpx and visa versa.
My cyclometer app creates .kml files for all my trips and travels. ArcGIS online will allow me to drag and drop .gpx files. I imagine other apps do the same. This cloud-based tools converts files quickly and flawlessly.


A nice Story Map from students at
Calvin College in Michigan about the Plaster Creek watershed.

This is my last posting about my experience running the G.I.S. Gang morning club at my school.   We have been meeting since mid-September, and it is time to disband the club and let the most dedicated GIS-ers continue on their own.  I have taken the kids about as far as I can with my limited* GIS knowledge. 


To recap, I had my 13 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders work individually through the “Let’s Get This Chow Mein on the Road” ESRI training lesson during the last two weeks.  It went very well, and except for some misunderstanding of directions, the students were able to build their delivery route maps and access the ESRI lesson at the same time.  To make things simpler and for me to have more control, the students, as always, used my ArcGIS account to login to ArcGIS and to save their maps.  This morning, however, things were different.  After letting the kids know that next Tuesday would be our meeting (met with disappointment, BTW), I handed out these instructions: 


Dear Students,

It’s time to move forward in G.I.S. on your own.  The people who successfully start and then complete the next steps (and also show an interest and passion in continuing their G.I.S. education) will be eligible for an ESRI license afterward.

  1. Go to
  2. Scroll down to the blue area, and click on ArcGIS Online.
  3. Read the top portion of the page.
  4. Begin the lesson by clicking on "Explore a Map" near the bottom.
  6. Complete all five parts of the volcano lesson and show your final result to Mrs. Lemke at some point.
  7. Go back to
  8. Under the city graphic, select "Explore all lessons."
  9. Pick a new lesson (your choice!) using your free trial license and complete the entire module.
  10. Show your final result to Mrs. Lemke at some point.
  11. At this point, we will discuss how you can apply for your own non-trial ESRI license so that you can continue making and analyzing maps.

I will be ending the G.I.S. Gang next week.  It's time to cut you loose!


Ten of the students immediately got to work on setting up an ESRI trail account/website.  The other three worked on the Everfi “Ignition” program.
Even though they are only 11-14 years old, the majority of the kids seem eager to continue learning more about G.I.S. on their own.  And if they stay in contact with me after 8th grade graduation from St. Francis, perhaps a few of the students will become interns!  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I’m excited for the kids to fly on their own now.  (And I’ll be starting an American Sign Language club in the Tuesday morning slot . . . something complete different and frankly, with less preparation required!)


*To remedy my knowledge deficit, I am currently enrolled in Gianluca Sperone’s GEL 5600 class at Wayne State:  “Special Topics in Geology:  Applied Geologic mapping.”  It’s quite interesting, and I get to use my GRACE license and the 10.3 Desktop application as well.  How cool is that??!!  Ciao.

Knowing  that kids love anything to do with catastrophic events, I tried another Investigator Lesson during Weeks 7 & 8:  "Mud is Thicker Than Water."  My G.I.S.Gangers looked forward to finding landslide and flood areas in Boulder County, Colorado.  They were also initially excited to see what effect these events might have on the different populated areas in the region.  Since being the facilitator (I demonstrate. You do.) worked well previously, I tried running the students through the "Mud" lesson in the same way. 


It didn't work as well this time.  The lesson, although well-written, was extremely detailed, with little to show on the map after many changes; and about half of the members got behind or lost.  We all tried to help each other keep up, but as teachers know . . . it's difficult to keep the interest of rest of the class while trying to solve the computer problems of a few!  It appeared that the kids who were able to keep up started getting pretty bored waiting for the others to catch up.  I do think this had a lot to do with the combined age levels in my club.  The sixth graders needed more help, while the 8th graders (with the exception of my lone special needs 13-year old) seemed to fly at a faster rate.  By the end of the session, we were so bogged down (pun intended, I guess!) that I decided to swear off Esri lessons till after the New Year.  The kids had had their fill of making minute details to maps and running analyses.  We kind of lost the forest for the trees.


The next week was great fun!  Thanks to the GRACE email with the Christmas G.I.S. maps, we had a wonderful time the Tuesday before Christmas vacation listening to carols from around the world and getting to know global holiday customs and the various Kris Kringles.  I was so VERY VERY THANKFUL to receive the GRACE email just in the Nick (get it??) of time!!  We also explored the Norad Santa Tracker site, which has lots of stuff to play around with.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for the kids!), they discovered the "Games" link on the Norad site, and the rest of our club meeting was spent playing Christmas computer games.  Nevertheless, the whole period was meant to be a "choose your own adventure" kind of session, so that was just fine.  It was relaxing, besides.


It is now 2016, and tomorrow morning, we are going to meet for the first time since December.  I am refreshed and ready to try another Investigator lesson! I just spent a couple of hours creating the "Wok and Roll" map as part of the 'Let's Get the Chow Mein on the Road" lesson.  It has a lot going for it: 1) the content is more relevant (cars and eating!), 2) the lesson just seems easier overall, and 3) the changes are more macro and less micro.  In other words, it's easier to see a difference after running analyses and changing map notes.  What I'm most excited about is that I'm going to start having the students work at their own pace.  They will be reading the lesson text and also creating/modifying maps without me directing the process.  This will solve many problems and possibly create new ones, but most of the kids are ready for this jump!  I'm going to encourage the students to work together, but they really don't like to give up their computer time! Perhaps they can just be advisors to each other.  We'll see!  Until next time ......





I searched the web for the infographic handed out at our Dec. 5th Workshop at MiVU (see below) and found an innovative app that helps science

teachers find activities aligned with the NGSS.  Click to use this simple app.


sketchy infographic.gif


Subway Maps Revamped

Posted by edelemeester Dec 5, 2015

This link relates to the change in the way subway maps are being made more useful.


Bostonians Vote On New Subway Map : NPR


An interesting point - what people are "used to" and think they like (so vote for) doesn't always correlate to the map that is most useful when trying to get around on the subway!

It's not a good idea to wait this long to record a blog, because my 54-year old brain gets more incontinent as time passes!  Nevertheless, I'll see what I can remember -- hopefully, certain thoughts will help stimulate the memory of others!


Our 4th meeting had one roadblock after another.  First of all, since I rode my bike to school, I forgot to bring my school keys.  This meant that a) I couldn't get in the building at 6 AM and had to stand outside the front door until people started arriving later on, and b) I couldn't get into the computer lab.  (The librarian and I have the only keys, and she was absent that day!)   So after taking a few deep breaths, I decided to utilize the 4 desktop computers in my own classroom and the 4 desktops in my partner's classroom.  However, my GRACE link wasn't listed under the "favorites" tab on these computers, and there wasn't enough time to get everything started from scratch and also download the GRACE lesson, so  I decided to just use the "Age Pyramid" website with the 14 kids.  (8 computers?  14 kids who'd rather not are computers?   They were just going to have to deal with it!)  So I separated the students by grade levels.  I had the 7th & 8th graders partner up and go to one room, and I had the 6th graders partner up and use the other room.  This turned out to be a wise move, because as I listened in on the conversations about the Pyramid data and the reasons behind why each graph looked like it did, the discussions were very different.  The older kids had deep thoughts and interesting ideas about the graphs, but the 6th graders just liked changing countries so they could experience the "Wow!" factor.  Both reactions were valid, of course, but I didn't expect such a difference in attack.


Prior to week 5, I enrolled each student in the Everfi online computer simulation company (  Everfi offers a fun critical thinking program called "Hockey Scholars" (all free!) that uses hockey skills as a way to teach STEM concepts; and I use this with my 6th graders.  Everfi also hosts a cyber-safety and computer basics program called "Ignition" that has a good anti-cyber-bullying segment, so I had the students work independently on that for the whole 5th club period.  No one was able to finish, so we'll revisit this soon.


Last week, I was itching to get going on ESRI stuff, and since I felt the kids were ready to move beyond the Explorer lessons, , we worked through the "No Dumping - Drains to Oceans" investigator lesson.  I made the choice to give directions orally instead of having the students read the packets, and I am really, really glad I did this.  For one thing, not all the kids are great readers.  Also, having me be serve as both the "guide on the side" and the "sage on the stage"  moved the lesson along REALLY FAST.  The focus in "No Dumping" was learning how to run different analyses on an ESRI map, and the kids had no trouble at all.  (It took me a lot longer to understand the lesson, and I spent 2 hours the night before working through the lesson line by line.  I am so far behind my club kids when it comes to computer skills!)  Also, as mentioned earlier, I am not the classroom teacher for most of these students, so the thematic content of the investigator lesson will take second place to learning ARC-GIS skills for our little "G.I.S. Gang"."  (That being said, the ESRI lessons are very engaging and well-planned; and it feels great when we can make academic connections along with the process stuff!)


Now, what to do tomorrow  morning?..............

"It's just a club. It's just a club."


I keep telling myself that, but I feel like I have to prepare lessons as though the G.I.S. Gang were my class.  It's really hard to get out of teacher mode!  The night before our second meeting, I spent 2-3 hours going through the 5 X 5 and many of the Explorer lessons.  Some things worked/opened for me.  Some things didn't.   It had been so long since I used them that I was getting frustrated, and I didn't have my GRACE class notes with me at the time.


Eventually I had to sit back and figure out why I was on edge.  It dawned on me that as much as I love them, the 6th-8th graders in my group don't need scripted lessons!  They pick things up very easily and without much introduction.  (To the point where I have to have them turn off their monitors to get their attention for two whole minutes!)  So I took a deep breath, relaxed, and decided to create my own lesson instead of trying to make the Explorer lessons "force-fit" the club.


I had the kids bookmark the "100 Most Famous Landmarks Around the World" site (  Then I gave a 90-second review  showing how to mark a point in ArcGIS, add a photo from Google Images, write a title and description, and format the appearance.  (They had trouble sitting through the review because I had briefly  introduced the idea the week before during the last 5 minutes of class!  Like I said . . . these computer geeks, and I mean that affectionately, catch on fast!) I then asked them to find interesting landmarks around the world and plot them on a map.  They did a great job with this.  The only glitch was that students who downloaded pictures with BING couldn't get a photo . . . only a tiny X in a box.  The students would remind each other to use Google images, which always worked.


Yesterday, at our third meeting, I had them explore Google Earth Pro.  They had a ball discovering everything they could during the period.  Every now and then, I would point something out (like the space feature or the day/night feature), but for the most part, the students were driven by their own interests and curiosity.  That will be it for Google Earth and the G.I.S. Gang.  I really want them to work with ArcGIS in future club meetings.


So, what does the future hold?  I think we'll do Age Pyramids (extremely popular last year with my guinea pig 6th graders) and tapestry segmentation in the next one or two weeks. (I am still wary of the latter, since I don't want to encourage prejudice based on socioeconomic data.)  I'll probably have them explore a few story boards and analyze some cool maps.  And then we will begin trying out some of the investigator lessons.  I have to decide whether to have the kids work with the scripts or whether to go over the lessons orally and then let them have a go at solving the problems.  I also have to figure out how to frame my lesson responses to the GRACE Project, since I am deviating so much from my original plan!  Only time will tell . . . . stay tuned!


Wind energy and physics

Posted by sransom_grace Oct 28, 2015

So  I have  began a project in physics about wind energy.  The other day  we did a 5x5 in class and had great success.  Today  we did a lesson from j kerski  on wind turbine on your school campus.  My students have al ready researched windmills and blades for part of the project.  The other part is where in the world would you put a wind farm.  This activity let the students understand topographic maps,  elevation, slope, and wind mill placement on a small school campus.   They are really getting somewhere.  


I was so proud of these 130 kids that went through this today.  We saved maps, and even got to show the principal what is happening in class.  Many of my students  are asking great questions  and having great arguments about where to place the wind mills.


'We also are working with Gearup in our school and they are coming in to see the work we are doing on GIS to help them place an actual windmill into the school grounds.

Twelve middle school boys and girls showed up yesterday morning at 7 AM sharp for our first G.I.S. Gang meeting at St. Francis School in Ann Arbor.  After welcoming them and asking for email addresses, I started by showing the students David Anderson's video about the GRACE project, which also featured one of the G.I.S. Gang kids IN the video!  Since my temporary AGOO has expired with Esri, and I still haven't followed up on my original school AGOO, I used my own GRACE login for all the kids and had the computers set up and ready to go when they walked into the lab. (I am going to do this for awhile, until I know who my permanent members are.)


My goals for the first day were to have fun and to try out some of the 5 X 5 exercises, so I had the kids find all the ways to zoom in and out on a map.  Next they found the University of Michigan Stadium and experimented with different basemaps.  (They all love the imagery one!)  Then I had them find whatever they wanted to, and of course, every student found his/her house first. Mauritius was a target of one of the kids; but my favorite was the student whose house sits on 10 acres of land, so it made for a great bird's eye view!  The students were not shy and needed no prompting to explore!  One thing I quickly discovered was that because my club is made of self-selected students, I didn't have to break things down into methodical steps.  They were ready to rock and roll for the whole 45 minutes with minimal teaching!


Our next venture was to look at some of the Living Atlas layers that I connected to recent news (USDA Wildfire Hazards connecting to the drought out west, US Flood Risk connecting to the flooding in South Carolina, and the World Traffic Service simply because it was a RIOT!!).  One thing I kept repeating aloud is that although each student would have his/her own computer, we would always work together to help and encourage each other.  This was put into practice when we were experimenting with the transparency slide.  Two of the students could only get the basemap to change its transparency instead of the map layer itself.  I said, "Hey everyone.  We've got a problem to solve!  I want all of you to gather around these two computers and figure out how to solve the problem!"  They did, and the problem was solved in 3 minutes.  I still don't know how the kids fixed it, but I'm happy to know that my students are more advanced than I at computer technology!


Finally, we had a few minutes to create simple maps. In less than two minutes, I showed the students how to insert a pin at a specific location, how to change the format of the pin, how to add text, and how to drop an image on the point.  They picked up the skills immediately and started going to town. We discovered immediately that we had to save the maps before we could see the points from the viewpoint of an observer.  That meant all the kids saved their maps to my folder.  We used GRACE as a tag, but if anyone thinks of a better tag, let me know.  Here's the problem, though ..  I don't remember how to find my folder!  Hopefully, someone can remind me!    When the bell rang for the start of school a few minutes later, the students were not ready to leave.   We will finish plotting points next week and then use the measuring tool to find distances between them.  After that, I plan to start teaching from my original list of lessons I gave to GRACE at our summer workshop.


One more thing, since I'm working with computer geeks, I have asked the students to email me fun computer sites.  I will check these out at home and then we'll spend 5 or 10 minutes at the end of every club session exploring these sites.  I must say, what a joy to A) work with kids who want to be there, B) NOT have to hold kids back because someone doesn't understand something, and C) NOT HAVE TO FORMALLY GRADE/EVALUATE ANYTHING!!!!!!!!! We can have fun and enjoy learning together:)


A short how-to list

Posted by dzolynsky_grace Apr 7, 2015

How to help in the GeoNet Community


This explains how the author of a discussion or question can mark an answer as correct, which eliminates people from having to read all the responses. The person marked "correct" gets 100 points!


MDLC conference

Posted by dzolynsky_grace Apr 7, 2015

I received this from my tech director and plan on presenting about the lesson I used in class, "Mapping the Shale Gas Boom" ESRI storymap. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for GRACE to show their stuff, even if you aren't in Macomb County. I would love to be able to use the copies given to us the first F2F meeting on how GIS ties in with NGSS, and would choose conference theme bullet #3.


The Michigan Digital Learning Conference is looking for educators like you to share your successes with technology integration and Technology Infused Learning.


Conference Dates: October 13-14, 2015

Location: Macomb ISD, Clinton Twp. MI


Deadline to submit is 5:00 pm, Friday, May 22, 2015.

You will be notified via email regarding your acceptance in June.


Conference Themes:

  • Ed Tech Trends & Tools
  • Management/Leadership  
  • Technology to Support Michigan Academic Standards
  • Mobile Learning
  • Statewide Projects and Initiatives
  • Blended & Online Learning Models
  • Data to Inform Instruction
  • Technology to Support Struggling Learners


Choose from 60 minute General Sessions, 120 minute Hands-On Sessions or 180 minute Pre-Conference Sessions


The Call for Speakers for the Michigan Digital Learning Conference in Macomb, MI is now open. Click here to submit your proposal:



Below are links to two sources of ready-made, data-rich GIS applications on a wide variety of topics. You may find many projects ready to use immediately in your classroom without the need to make any additional modifications.


You can find the story maps at

Once you get there, click on <Gallery> and/or <Collections>

You can simply browse, or you may enter search topics of particular interest.


Another interesting source is something called the ESRI Living Atlas of the World. You can find it at this link:

Living Atlas of the World


This is actually an ESRI Organization similar to the GRACE Org so you will need to log-in - use your GRACE Org log-in info, it will work just fine.


Again, you can browse or search in the gallery or in collections. One that I found that was really interesting was an App called World Distance to Water. I'm including the description of the map from the map's Details page. As you can see, just by following the links included in the description you could easily keep both you and your students, well, immersed in this topic for a lifetime or two!


The arrangement of water in the landscape affects the distribution of many species including the distribution of humans. This layer provides a landscape-scale estimate of the distance from large water bodies.

This layer provides access to a 250m cell-sized raster of distance to surface water. To facilitate mapping, the values are in units of pixels. To convert this value to meters multiply by 250. The layer was created by extracting surface water values from the World Lithology and World Land Coverlayers to produce a surface water layer. The distance from water was calculated using the ArcGISEuclidian Distance Tool. The layer was created by Esri in 2014.


This layer is part of a larger collection of landscape layers

that you can use to perform a wide variety of mapping and analysis tasks.


To learn more see the World Distance to Water layer in the landscape layers group.







Posted by Ardoss Mar 23, 2015

I have been enjoying the energy of this project as we collaborate and explore the activities and tools that are used.