ation be given to the development of spatial thinking standards and assessment tools. In their absence, the systematic incorporation of GIS and other support tools for spatial thinking across the K–12 curriculum will never occur.

Because of the absence of spatial thinking standards, there is little incentive to develop a curriculum and curriculum materials to support spatial thinking skills and abilities through the use of GIS. However, there are programs and projects that do generate GIS learning materials; these generally support the existing curriculum and are designed primarily for the middle and high school grades. These materials have come in part through a top-down process, in which experts develop and test learning modules, and in part from peer-to-peer exchange, in which teachers develop, test, and share materials among themselves. A sharing infrastructure exists to support both modes, through Access Excellence ( and the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE; DLESE has more than 3,000 items indexed and described in terms of age applicability and subject, and most of the items are designed for K–12 education (Figure 8.21). In an initiative similar to DLESE, ESRI’s Geography Network site ( links a large number of resources, including data sets and functionality, but it is not specifically organized around educational needs (Figure 8.22). A welcome addition to these initiatives would be the creation of a central clearinghouse for GIS educational materials.

A variety of GIS-based curriculum materials, courses, and competitions are available, and they offer some support to middle and high school teachers who have implemented GIS. Examples follow.

Curriculum Materials. Examples of GIS materials for teachers and students that can be integrated into the existing curriculum include those developed by the Saguaro Project (, Kansas Collaborative Research Network (KanCRN;, Missouri Botanical Garden (, and ESRI (

The Saguaro Project has developed modules on cyclones, the dynamic Earth, and hurricane hazards. KanCRN provides two modules, one that spatially relates tornadoes and average jet stream positions and another that analyzes leaf samples for ozone assessments. The Missouri Botanical Garden has developed six natural science modules. Each module comes with a tutorial and data set as well as instructions on how to view data and conduct analyses using GIS. ESRI has developed materials that both promote its GIS software and support the teaching of science, social studies, and community-based studies through GIS. ESRI’s ArcLessons web site offers 110 downloadable lessons covering a range of topics from social studies to life sciences (, and the Explore your World web site offers 50 lesson plans for use in the classroom ( Mapping Our World: GIS Lessons for Educators (Malone et al., 2002) teaches how to use GIS software through standards-based lesson plans. Community Geography: GIS in Action (English and Feaster, 2003), which assumes that teachers and students are already using ArcView, contains case studies of community projects completed by U.S. students.

Courses. Digital Quest’s ( SPACESTARS program and the Looking at the Environment (LATE) project ( have developed courses for the upper school grades.

Digital Quest’s SPACESTARS curriculum consists of three turn-key GIS related courses for grades 9–12. The courses, which provide an introduction to GIS and working with GIS, are based on the terminology, key concepts, and core applications of social studies and science topics. The purpose of the SPACESTARS courses is to teach decision-making and problem-solving skills using GIS. The courses, which are tailored to the school and other regional contexts, are intended to

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