Statewide GIS License Supports Washington’s STEM Education Goals

ArcGIS Software Helps K–12 Students Develop Critical-Thinking Skills

The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has signed an agreement that provides all K–12 schools, districts, and formal youth clubs in the state with free access to Esri’s ArcGIS software. The agreement aligns with OSPI’s approach to technology integration as a multifaceted way to support effective instruction and deepen student understanding of standards-based curricula.

“We’ve got to teach kids how to analyze information and solve problems,” says state school superintendent Randy Dorn. “These are the skills that count in today’s world. And we know in the classroom or when students get to do real fieldwork, GIS [geographic information system] technology helps kids learn these skills.”

Because of the unique ability of GIS to visualize spatial data—making complex concepts clear and understandable—teachers are quick to take advantage of the strong instructional support it provides in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

While the statewide license is new, individual schools in Washington have been using ArcGIS for several years. Fourth-grade students at Waterville Elementary School study and map the habits of the short-horned lizard (horny toad) as an annual class project. Accomplished through close work with scientists at the University of Washington and local farmers, their efforts have altered the understanding of the region’s ecosystem and biodiversity. See the video Technology Empowers Student Fieldwork.

“Our STEM educators are excited about several course applications that hold great potential for GIS technology—environmental sustainability and design and the agricultural sciences,” says Dennis Small, director of educational technology at OSPI. “However, most problem–solution activities in the core curricula have a spatial component, so we want to put GIS in the hands of Washington State teachers as a tool that can expand the way kids think about solving a problem.”

The four-year statewide GIS license not only will enhance K–12 education but also is set to become a key software component of the STARS Project, an online system that enables Washington school districts to submit school bus operation data for review and analysis. ArcGIS will manage the calculation and distribution of student transportation funds to the districts based on the state’s new funding formula.

For more information about Esri’s GIS for Schools program, visit

[Source: Esri press release]

Using Human Movement Data to Derive Dengue Virus Transmission Networks

Spatio-Temporal Constraints on Social Networks Workshop, University of California, Santa Barbara, Center for Spatial Studies, 13-14 December 2010


“Movement patterns and social structure play an important role in modulating human-vector contact rates, affecting transmission dynamics, and the spread and persistence of vecto rborne pathogens. For dengue virus (DENV), limited dispersal range of its day-biting vector, Aedes aegypti, points to movement of viremic humans as a plausible explanation for the rapid spread of infection across urban environments. We used field data from spatially explicit semi-structured interviews (SSI) and GPS data-loggers to derive contact networks of individual humans for DENV transmission in Iquitos, Peru. We obtained movement data for 300 participants and expressed their contact network as an undirected bipartite graph representing the locations participants had in common as a consequence of their routine movements. Different measures of network topology were estimated for the full contact network and “key sites” network containing only those locations where exposure to Ae. aegypti is most likely (houses and schools). Places where participant’s spent the most time outside their home were other residential locations (71% of total time); markets and stores (18%); parks, cemeteries, and recreational areas (3%); and hospitals and health posts (2%). Average degree of a participant (number of locations visited) increased with age from an average (SD) of 2.8 (1.1) for 3–8 year olds to 7.1 (4.3) for 45–69 year olds. The derived key sites network had a main component with 69% of all the participants, indicating a high degree of connectivity at residential locations. Current targeted vector control programs focus on neighboring homes within 100 m of a diagnosed dengue case’s house. Our quantitative empiric contact networks indicate that residential exposure can occur beyond 100 m of a person’s home and are consistent with the notion that movement of viremic people is a prime driver of rapid DENV propagation in urban environments.”

Using GIS Spatial Analysis and Logistic Regression to Predict the Probabilities of Human-caused Grassland Fires

Journal of Arid Environments, Volume 74, Issue 3, March 2010, Pages 386-393

Z.X. Zhang, H.Y. Zhang, and D.W. Zhou

“This study created a method to examine the probability of human-caused ignition in grassland in the east of Inner Mongolia, China. Spatial analysis was used to locate the human-caused ignition of grassland fires that occurred in the study areas during 1976–1996. The area was divided into grid cells, and for each grid cell the distances to various human-built infrastructure and weather factors were determined. Logistic regression was used to build a predictive model of the probability of human-caused ignition of grassland fires in each of the grid cells, using topography, distances, and weather factors as predictor variables.

“The probability of a grid cell ignition was positively correlated with temperature, and elevation; and negatively correlated with precipitation, relative humidity and distances to villages, dirt roads, railroads and isolated buildings. Grid cells were grouped into five classes of ignition probabilities, i.e. <0.2, 0.2–0.4, 0.4–0.6, 0.6–0.8 and >0.8. These methods and results should be useful to local administrative managers in assessing initial ignition risk for grassland.”

URISA Announces 2011 Student Competition

URISA is pleased to announce its 2011 Student Competition.  The 2011 Student Competition will consist of a two-tier approach that includes Papers and Posters. Submissions are due on or before June 6, 2011. For complete details:

PAPERS – Graduate and undergraduate students  are invited to submit a paper for a special section of the URISA Journal. The papers will undergo a review process under the direction of the Publications Committee, augmented by the Editor of the URISA Journal. Lead authors of the top three papers would receive an award of a one-year membership in URISA or free registration at the annual URISA conference.

POSTERS – Community college and GIS Certificate students are invited to submit posters.  The posters would undergo a review process under the direction of the Publications Committee, augmented by community college instructors. (This category is co-sponsored by the National GeoTech Center.) The top ten posters will receive an award of a one-year membership in URISA and will be recommended for free registration at a regional URISA conference.

The URISA Student Competition Committee will review all submissions and the winners will be notified in early August. Winners will be recognized during the awards ceremony at GIS-Pro 2011: URISA’s 49th Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana (the Awards Breakfast will take place on Thursday, November 3, 2011 ).

For details and submission information, visit

[Source: URISA press release]