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K12 Instruction

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As of October 1, 2019, the following software is available globally in the Esri School Mapping Software bundle. It is free for classroom and club instruction of youth.

  • ArcGIS Online (Organization Subscription)
    • Living Atlas data
    • ArcGIS Story Maps
    • Survey 123
    • Collector
    • Quick Capture (software info)
    • Operations Dashboard
    • WebApp Builder and Configurable Apps
  • ArcGIS for Desktop (with several extensions)
  • ArcGIS Pro (with several extensions)
  • Community Analyst
  • Insights for ArcGIS (software info)
  • City Engine (software info)


ArcGIS Online is the primary software used in 95% of school settings.


U.S. schools and youth clubs may sign-up with this form to request the software. Non-U.S. schools need to check with the local Esri distributor, see  For more information on licensing, see this blog.

Educators interested in complimentary evaluation book copies from Esri Press, may now request ebooks. Esri works with VitalSource, a powerful digital textbook delivery platform that enables qualified educators to examine books with ease.


· If you do not have an account with VitalSource, you can get a free account here:  (Because the platform collects name and email address, this is not meant for minors such as K12 students.)


· After establishing an account, college instructors can get access to books directly through VitalSource. K12 instructors just need to send an email to and request a code for a specific Esri Press title (or titles), then "redeem" the code within your VitalSource account … simple! You can access your VitalSource Bookshelf library via multiple devices, including mobile devices, and your progress and notes sync. It's awesome!


· To view titles and descriptions, you can do it on VitalSource (which will expose books from publishers other than Esri Press, but Esri can provide codes only to Esri Press titles) or check on the Esri website, (which shows just Esri Press titles).

Talking and working with teachers around the country, I commonly hear ideas and suggestions.  Today, I've explored building a proof-of-concept out of a few of those ideas.


  1. Schools are heavily using Google Docs (and Google Forms), the hands-down standard in K-12 education.  
  2. Many teachers have asked about making GeoInquiry questions digital (form-based).
  3. Still others have recommended putting the questions and map on the same webpage.


One way to achieve this is to place the questions in a Google Form and share it publicly - embedding it, along with the GeoInquiry map into a storymap. The results aren't too bad and the data collected by the form would ideally flow into a spreadsheet on the teacher's Google Drive.


Of course, Survey123 could replace the Google Form and perhaps another story map template (gen 1) would work better in this case.


Related links:

Check out the new "GIS in CTE" Learn path!  This new path is intended to help educators and students in general GIS CTE classes get an understanding of the broad, technical landscape of GIS.  If you have feedback about what is or is not in the path, send an email to



Esri challenges US high school and middle school students to create and share projects about something in their home states, striving to be among the best in the school, state, and nation. Esri's 2020 ArcGIS US School Competition is open to high school ("HS," gr.9-12) and middle school ("MS," gr.4-8) students in the US who can analyze, interpret, and present data via an ArcGIS web app or story map.


Esri offers to all states (and districts, territories, and DoDEA) the chance to participate, with grants to states supporting ten equal prizes of $100, for the five best HS and five best MS projects in the state. Schools can submit up to five projects to the state, and states submit to Esri up to ten awardees (up to 5 HS, up to 5 MS), with one project each at HS and MS tagged for a final level of competition. From across the nation, one HS project and one MS project will each earn a trip to the 2020 Esri Education Conference in San Diego, CA.


State Leadership Teams: Esri seeks state leadership teams to conduct each state's competition (limit of one team per state, covering all 4th-12th graders in the state). The team may consist of geo-savvy adults from schools, higher ed, informal ed, government, business, and non-profit realms; different types of expertise are important.


2019 HS+MS Competition Winners at 2019 Esri Conference

L-R: HS teacher Russell Columbus and HS winner Donovan Vitale, from Monroe, MI,

and MS winner Abby Ziehl and MS teacher Laurie Bohn, from Bloomington, MN

Click the pic to see their 8-min video interview from the Map Gallery at the Conference


See the projects of all 2019 winners, honorable mentions, and state awardees



2019-20 Contest Details

Elements below:

I. Eligibility

II. Entries

III. Awards

IV. State Registration, Mentoring, and Judging

V. Design/Judging Criteria

VI. Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

VII. State Leadership Teams


I. Eligibility

  1. Entrants must be pre-collegiate students, registered in grades 4-12 at the time of project submission, from public schools or non-public schools including home schools, who have not yet received a high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Entrants must reside and be in school in the United States, including districts or territories, or attending a Department of Defense Education Association school: 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and DODEA sites. (Thus, "state" in this document means one of these 57 units.)
  3. Students can work singly or in a team of two, but can participate in only one entry. Teams with one student in middle school (gr.4-8) and one in high school (gr.9-12) must be considered as high school.
  4. Entrants may work on the challenge through school, via a club, or independently, but entries must be submitted to the state from a recognized school or home school, their primary school of record in case of engaging in activities at more that one school.
  5. Any school or home school program can submit to the state a maximum of five (5) entries total, counting the sum of middle school and high school entries.


II. Entries

  1. Entry forms (student/s to school, school to state, state to Esri) will be made available to state leads in fall 2019.
  2. Entries must be from an ArcGIS Online Organization account (not a "public account"). Any K12 school (public, non-public, or homeschool) or formal youth club can request for free an ArcGIS School/Club Bundle (includes an ArcGIS Organization account).
  3. Entries must be in the form of a StoryMap ("new" template), or a Story Map (any of the "classic" templates), or an ArcGIS web app (via template or builder).
  4. Entries must focus on content within the state borders. States may choose to refine the focus further, but the geographic scope of the project must be within the state. The project may reference data outside the state "for context," but may not extend the focus of the study beyond the state borders. For example, broader patterns of environmental characteristics or demographic movements may be referenced for context, but the focus must be on phenomena within the state.
  5. Schools must announce their own internal deadlines, in time to complete judging and provide information to the state by its deadline. States must announce their in-state deadlines, but can be no later than 5pm Pacific Time on Wed May 13, 2020. States must submit data to Esri no later than 5pm Pacific Time on Wed May 20, 2020.


III. Awards

  1. Esri will announce its awards decision by 5pm Pacific Time on Mon June 1, 2020
  2. Esri will provide a travel grant to one HS team and one MS team, each team consisting of the student(s) and at least one parent/guardian (could be teacher/rep). Awardee teams must agree to attend the Esri Education Summit ("EdUC"), arriving by 10amPT Sat July 11, and staying through at least 4pmPT Tue July 14, 2019. Awardees will be responsible for handling any tax implications, be personally identified including name and photograph, and post a graphic in the Esri User Conference ("UC") Map Gallery on Mon. Awardees will be recognized at EdUC and UC Map Gallery on Mon, and may have additional attention.
  3. Because only the top 1HS+1MS nominees from a state will be considered for the national competition, states must ensure that, if selected, their top nominees are willing and able to accept the award and attend.


IV. State Registration, Mentoring, and Judging

  1. States may determine but must announce in advance if they will require any form of "pre-registration" by schools as potential participants, and any cutoff date. Any such exclusive operation must be clearly announced and applied equitably.
  2. States are encouraged to establish an "Early Mentoring" option. In this scenario, states set an "Early Mentoring" deadline, recommended as no later than Fri March 20, 2020. Entries submitted to the state leadership group by the state deadline would go to state judges for review and comment (but not scoring), so students might benefit from learned guidance. States would be responsible for constructing and implementing their own submission/comment/return process, ensuring adequate opportunity for judges to review and respond, and students to consider and revise. Any such process should require "transparency," to foster good instruction and prevent inappropriate communication; only a student's parent/guardian/teacher/leader should be communicating with the student; all other communication should be between adults. In considering this model, states are encouraged to seek early commitments from many judges.
  3. States using an "Early Mentoring" process may determine but must announce clearly in advance if entries must have gone through the formal "Early Mentoring" process to be accepted for final state judging, and must apply the policy equitably.


V. Design/Judging Criteria

  1. Account: Entries must be from an ArcGIS Online Organization account, not a "public account." This can be an Org operated by, e.g., the student's school or club, the district, the state GIS Education Team, or similar group.
  2. Login: Entries must be visible without requiring a login. Entries engaging "premium data" (login required, such as Living Atlas) must set the display to permit access without needing a login. See helpful note.
  3. Originality: Entries must be "original work by students," conceived, created, and completed entirely by the student(s) submitting the entry. Class projects turned into an entry by one student, and teacher-directed projects, are not acceptable. Projects may use data generated by outside persons or institutions, within guidelines of "fair use." (Students are encouraged to use appropriate professionally generated GIS data, but these must be documented, and the integration, treatment, and presentation must be original.)
  4. Visual Supports: Because this is meant to be a "map-centric" exploration, analysis, and presentation of a geographic phenomenon, "non-map visuals" (images and videos) are limited to
    1. total up to 60 seconds of video, and
    2. total up to two images not created by the project author (e.g. 1 historic portrait photo plus 1 historic landscape photo), and
    3. total up to five images created by the project author (replication of project maps as smaller/thumbnail images, and items visible as popups within interactive maps, do not count against these limits).
  5. Short URL: Entries must provide to the school/state/Esri two links in "short URL" format
    (e.g. "http;//"), where
    1. one link goes to the primary display page (the app or storymap), and
    2. one link goes to the item details page (the metadata page for the app or storymap). (A link to the item details page will require a login if the Org does not permit anonymous access and the link uses the the form "<my_org>;" to work around this, change the link to the form "" before creating a short URL. Ad hoc short URLs can be generated at
  6. Scoring: The state can vary this, and even use different systems for HS and MS, but must apply the same system to all entries in a single grade band, and the system must be clarified for the entrants at the start. The national competition will use this system, and recommends it or something similar:
    "We look for a clear focus/topic/question/story, good and appropriate data, effective analysis, good cartography, effective presentation, and complete documentation."
  7. Project Tips:
    1. Look at previous national winners and honorable mention projects. This is a "map competition." Entries should be analytical in nature, map-centric rather than photo-centric or relying on too much text. Use of videos or static images generated by anyone other than the team members must be carefully documented, and such media should be used sparingly; outside content generally detracts in national judging. The project must emphasize student work; professionally generated GIS data generally does not detract from national scores this way. A good way to judge project balance quickly is to identify the amount of time a viewer would spend consuming the entire project; map-based time and attention should be at least two thirds.
    2. Good projects gently help even a viewer unfamiliar with the region know quickly the location of the project focus. Requiring a viewer to zoom out several times to determine the region of focus detracts from the viewing experience. (Pretend the viewer is from a different part of the country, or a different country.)
    3. Maps should invite interactive exploration by the viewer, not be static ("images"). The presentation should hold the attention of the viewer from start to finish.
    4. Maps should demonstrate "the science of where" -- the importance of location, patterns, and relationships between layers. There is an art to map design; too much data may feel cluttered, but showing viewers only one layer at a time may limit the viewers' easy grasp of relationships.
    5. Care should be taken to make "popups" useful, limited to just the relevant information. They should add important information, and be formatted to make the most critical information be easily consumed. These popups can include formatted text, key links, images, data presented in charts, and so forth.


VI. Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

  1. Schools should consider issues around exposing PII. See for strategies for minimizing PII. Teachers and club leaders should help students minimize exposure of their own PII and that of others, including in map, image, and text.
  2. States must help potential entrants understand the level of PII required. Entries submitted to Esri for the top national prize (i.e. 1-HS and 1-MS) must agree in advance to expose student names, school names, and school city/state (homeschool students would be identified to closest city/town name).
  3. Esri will not seek, collect, or accept student names for any entrants other than the national prize entrants (1-HS and 1-MS per state). These and only these will have names exposed by Esri.


VII. State Leadership Teams

  1. Team leaders can apply using a form downloadable below. (There should be only one entry per state. Communicate with your in-state colleagues; collaboration is key.)
  2. State application deadline is Dec.13, 2019. States submitting a complete application by Nov.1, 2019, will get an email promotion from Esri to our connections in the state advertising the state's participation.
  3. The state leadership team is the key to student participation in a state. All students in grades 4-12 are eligible to participate if a state has submitted an application to and been recognized by Esri. If there is not a formal state leadership team, no students from the state may submit entries.
  4. State leadership teams can include anyone who is willing to help develop the state rules and apply things fairly for all students in the state. Team members can be teachers, education leaders, college instructors, GIS practitioners, nonprofit or for-profit groups, or any adults interested in students across the state being able to participate.
  5. The tasks that must be handled by the leadership team are these:
    1. Decide state customizations: particular themes, dates, and participation policies.
    2. Submit appropriate paperwork to Esri, including the address of the state website and active email to which state participants may submit questions. The paperwork defines whom Esri will deal with on rules, participation, and grant funds.
    3. Post the necessary information, including state customizations, to a publicly accessible website. This can be quite elaborate (see MN 2019 example), but can also be just a single page of text, as long as it provides all the relevant info.
    4. Let schools, clubs, educators, and students across the state know about the competition, website, and email.
    5. Recruit and organize judges, and coordinate any "early mentoring option" communication.
    6. Post the state's official versions of Esri's template entry forms.
    7. Ensure the entries from school to state carry complete information.
    8. Submit to Esri proper information about participation and awardees from the state.
    9. Receive funds and distribute prizes



Email Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri K12 Education Manager,

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