Alaska School District Plans Geomentoring Program by Local Agencies and Visiting Scientists

Alaska School District Implements ESRI GIS Site License; Plans Include Geomentoring by Local Agencies and Visiting Scientists

The North Slope Borough (NSB) in Alaska has used ESRI’s geographic information system (GIS) software for more than 30 years. Recognizing the potential of the technology to provide future employment for its students, the borough recently signed an agreement facilitating the instruction of GIS throughout its entire school district.

Comments Barrow High School science teacher Tim Buckley, “We began instruction 10 years ago [after receiving] a grant for a GIS lab. At that time, we were using ESRI’s Mapping Our World lesson plans. The lab was recently refurbished, and the new software license is perfectly timed.”

Under the supervision of Buckley and Paul McNeil, former GIS analyst at NSB’s GIS Division, students at Barrow High School have begun a customized educational program using ESRI’s self-paced Virtual Campus courses supplemented with local data from NSB. This allowed McNeil to bring his geomentoring skills to the classroom for applied instruction and real-world experience.

Says McNeil, “Using local data helps the students better visualize the power of GIS and how it can impact their own lives, as well as the lives of others in their village. In addition, it provides them with some insight into the many uses of GIS here in the North Slope and in other areas.”

By structuring the training around ESRI’s self-paced Virtual Campus, the district can give students the ability and confidence to continue their GIS studies at a university or immediately seek employment from the growing list of local government agencies and private companies that use the technology.

A number of scientists who use GIS in their research visit the North Slope on a regular basis. Several large companies with local offices, such as Shell Oil, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), ASRC Energy Services, and the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation, also use GIS as part of their day-to-day business activities. Buckley hopes to develop a visiting geomentoring program that would invite GIS specialists in the area to come to the school and talk about their work.

“We believe that providing a comprehensive program of ArcGIS instruction, supplemented by visiting experts and field trips to gather georeferenced data, will help students develop GIS technical skills that are much sought after by local employers,” concludes Buckley.

[source: ESRI press release]