Chapters 10 and 11 form a pair. In Chapter 10, the committee derives six recommendations from its conclusions about the educational links between spatial thinking and GIS in the K–12 context. The thrust of the committee’s position is simple: spatial thinking is not being taught systematically to K–12 students at present. We need to do so, across the curriculum and for all K–12 students, because it is fundamental to everyday life, the workplace, and science. If we are to teach how to think spatially, then we need to provide both low- and high-tech support systems for practicing and performing spatial thinking. The recommendations range from the setting of research agendas to guidelines for software redesign, but underpinning all of these recommendations is a goal—spatial literacy. We must foster a new generation of American students who are equipped to think spatially.
Chapter 11, therefore, paints a picture of spatial thinkers at work, in this case eighth-grade students who are using GIS as a support system to help answer questions about the causes of high infant mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa. This picture represents the best of supporting spatial thinking through GIS. It does not reflect the situation in the vast majority of American classrooms. Students are not systematically being taught to think spatially because as a society, we do not yet recognize the pervasiveness of spatial thinking and appreciate its power and value.
It is the strong belief of the committee that these six recommendations are a way to ensure that the next generation of American students will have the opportunity to meet the goal of becoming spatially literate.
The title of the proposal that led to the formation of the committee was Support for Thinking Spatially: The Incorporation of Geographic Information Science Across the K–12 Curriculum. The charge contained two questions that logically followed from the proposal title: