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Mapping Local Data in a GIS

Debbie Dogancay, Newbury Park High School, Earth Exploration Toolbook Chapter

This activity offers an introduction to working with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) by using field data on the Urban Heat Island Effect that was collected by students. The field data is entered in the GIS, displayed in a map, and analyzed.

Activity takes at least 3 lesson periods (50 min each) and requires thermometers, hand-held GPS units, and GIS licenses (after the 45-day free trial).

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
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C) Energy.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Original student research produced by following the guidelines would be appropriate for a science fair or a class project.
  • More discussion questions and guidelines of how these findings fit in a larger context of climate change and human impacts is necessary.

About the Science

  • MyWorld GIS is used for this GIS-focused activity that uses the example of urban heat islands and the relationship between surface temperature and type of land cover. The temperature measurements are done by students as a project.
  • Activity is mainly a guide of how to use a GIS program and the urban heat island is simply an example. Background information is presented well, as is instruction of how to do the measurements; however, it lacks some scaffolding and further questions that lead students towards an understanding of the science behind the Urban Heat Island phenomenon.
  • Refer to a more recent quote from the US Global Change Research Program's Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States assessment that was released on Tuesday June 16th, 2009.

About the Pedagogy

  • Great combination of hands-on data collection and graphical display of results.
  • Well-designed introduction to GIS with a number of suggestions for potential environmental research questions that can be explored by students.
  • Scientific research question of Urban Heat Island is mainly a vehicle to learn the use of a GIS Program; therefore, it lacks a lot of the pedagogic scaffolding that would be helpful for teachers (no assessment strategies suggested, no discussion or interpretation guidelines for results).
  • Defining research hypothesis, setting up experiment, conducting the measurements and displaying data in a GIS will engage students of different learning styles.
  • This activity is a time-intensive activity and requires software that can be downloaded for free but needs to be purchased after 45 days.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Activity requires thermometers, hand-held GPS units, and GIS licenses (free 45-day trials, but if teacher wanted to repeat the activity, each license is at least $100).

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