Submitted by KristinaF on 23 November 2011 – 7:15am

Showing children the way spatial information is used in our world can be done in many settings. One of my favorites is using a program my friend Rita Hagevik, developed at Ligon Middle school in NC. The students and teacher created a 10 x 10 meter study site to investigate life (animal and vegetative life within the study site and in the process used the Cartesian coordinate system to mark each point students choose to sample. Thus a coordinate pair is labled and the vegetative ground cover (grass, brush, bare ground) a tree at the base of the pair identified, and the soil dug to permit a small plastic cup to be placed inside the small pit, also was saved and marked with the same coordinate pair.

Back in the lab students identified the animal life caputured within the cup filled with water  and classified it. By the time sampling was completed students aggregated their data, i.e. the number and variety of animals found all over the site, the type of soil at various areas of the site and the type of ground cover and trees present. Using GIS ArcView software, the students created maps of the study site. They had created hypotheses like, "There will be more animals found in the sunny grassy portion of the site" They proved or disproved their hypotheses based on their aggregate student-collected data and proved or disproved their hypotheses with their data.

Converting the site and data to map form is a powerful visual experience that allows students to experience their site visually in a spatial sense by maps as well as physically when they walked through the site, selecting their own sites and marking them with the proper coordinate pair. The whole experience moves the learner from concrete to abstract thinking and problem solving in spatial understanding!

Kristina H.Fowler

CEO, founder and Member, Contextual Learning L3C with Rita Hagevik, PhD is a Member of Contextual Learning L3C and Joyce Hilliard-Clark, PhD is a the third Member of Contextua Learning L3C