The Okinawa Critigen team hosted a phenomenal series of events in recognition of GIS DAY 2014 on November 17, 2014. Our target audience was elementary and middle school students of the Department of Defense schools (Lester Middle School and Kadena Elementary Schools) here in Okinawa, Japan.
It took a completely volunteer team of 6 of us to make it happen. We were able to secure the venue(s), audio visual equipment and transportation for the students at no cost. Further, due to extensive planning and coordination, the teachers were well prepared for the content delivered and assisted us tremendously in keeping the flow of the presentation going forward. While planning for the event we surrendered to the teachers that we are not educators but simple "GeoGeeks" anxious to share our wonderful and rewarding work using technology. They always reassured us that we would do well and the recommendations they offered us in preparation for the event made everything work smoothly without exception. Below are abstract summaries of the activities:
Along with the Principal, Susan Nordell, there were about 12 teachers and roughly 12 parents that accompanied 254~4th and 5th graders to the 2 hour event. The venue was Camp Foster Community Center, Okinawa. The topics covered were:
- What is GIS?
- Statistical Mapping vs. Spatial Mapping (Flying GIS)
- How GIS impacts your life?
- What we do with GIS.
- E911 and Emergency Services
- Focused on knowing your address and what to look for if you don't know where you are.
- We also had several activities mixed in to involve the kids.
- Map and globe demonstration.
- Guessing what state football fans are from.
- Where are some the world’s famous landmarks?
After we finished the Principal was already asking about getting us into Kadena during career day this spring. Sounds like she would like to continue what we've started.
For the middle school group, grades 7th and 8th, we presented 3~40 minute power sessions with 60 students and approximately 4 teachers each session. Also in attendance was the Principal, Susan Paul. Maryanne Tirinnanzi, the Head of the Science Department, mediated the activities and coordinated the attendance turnover. The venue was Ms. Tirinnanzi’s science classroom, Lester Middle School, Camp Lester, Okinawa. The topics covered were:
- What is GIS?
- Various thematic mapping
- Fast Food locations
- Favorite football fans coverage
- What are digital overlays/layers?
- Demonstrate how overlay intersections can be used to narrow the search for dinosaur fossils.
- How GIS saves lives
- Address Standardization, US vs. Japan vs. Military Base
- Landmark triangulation methods for unknown locations
- Data Collection
- GeoTagged Photos
- Route Analysis
- Use of aerial imagery
- GIS Careers and Education
At the end of the session(s) all parties were very pleased. They encouraged us to come back again during the career week in the spring and also possibly with the high school during the late spring.
It should be noted that one cannot teach without learning something themselves. My most immediate take-a-way from this event was that all of the teachers want and need this technology. However, they don’t have the bandwidth to master it enough to effectively mentor the kids properly. In fact, all the teachers and administrators were more aggressive than the kids with questions. I went to great lengths to explain that ESRI had a plethora of resources available for them to use at low or no cost. Their response was uniform - they need professionals like us to mentor them because they don’t have time to self-instruct this intricate technology.
I don’t have a complete solution to this problem outside of a personal commitment to build a bridge to close this gap - albeit an effort that will not pay monetarily, but with the satisfaction of knowing that I assisted in affecting one kid to become a "GeoGeek", then I will have been successful. What an experience!!!