Texas Students Use GIS to Track H1N1 Flu

…from the Winter 2009/2010 issue of ArcNews

Last April, when the spread of H1N1 (swine) flu began, students in Texas watched with a vested interest. The Texas Education Agency made recommendations to reschedule or cancel area and state-level competitions in an effort to limit student travel and minimize contact. With events approaching, like prom, spring concerts, and even graduation ceremonies, students waited as local school districts made careful decisions. Some districts halted student travel and others canceled school classes for a period of weeks.

Lubbock Independent School District GIS teacher Penny Carpenter knew GIS tools would be used to monitor and inform the public of the flu’s pandemic potential, and she saw a unique opportunity for her students. Philosophically, Carpenter motivates students with relevant real-world topics, and the reality of H1N1 flu had certainly captured her students’ attention. They found maps of countries and states with confirmed flu cases but none of Texas counties. Because the outbreak originated in Mexico, students looked to the border towns for reported infections, and that is when geographic inquiry began: Where were the counties in Texas with confirmed H1N1 flu cases?

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