How Can I Get My School and Students Involved?

The Pacific Geospatial Semester (PGS) is a mentored dual-enrollment course taught in Oregon high schools in collaboration with Pacific University faculty. In this course, high school students learn cutting edge professional grade Geographical Informational Systems (GIS) software (ESRI’s ArcGIS) and then apply that knowledge to explore a local issue.

Students who complete this course may elect to earn Pacific University credit and pay a significantly reduced tuition rate that matches your districts’ dual enrollment tuition rate. The course is Env 170 Introduction to GIS Systems for 2 credits or Env 270 Geospatial Analysis using GIS for 4-credits. The 2-credit course is for high schools that only want to offer a 1-semester course; the 4-credit course is for schools that want to offer a yearlong course. Both of these courses count toward fulfilling the Natural Sciences credit at Pacific University.

The Geospatial Semester has been successfully taught in Virginia at James Madison University (JMU) for over ten years and in Oregon at Forest Grove High School for five years. We use a model in which the course is taught by local high school teachers in collaboration with higher education faculty who serve as the faculty of record. Pacific faculty are actively involved in teaching the course, making regular classroom visits to support the high school teacher and students, helping in the assessment of final projects. In this “mentored dual-enrollment” model, high school teachers and university faculty form a professional community of practice around this tool and its use in student projects. See the Student Work link on this page to view student projects that have been featured in the Map Gallery of the annual ESRI software User Conference, an event that attracts thousands of GIS software users from around the world.

Benefits for students and teachers

  • High school teachers collaborate with college faculty knowledgeable in the use of GIS tools and advanced scientific visualization tools in high school settings.
  • High school students learn to use ArcGIS tools, work on real projects in their community and get college credits GIS and career track.

Why Geospatial Technologies?

Geospatial technologies are predicted by the United States Department of Labor to be one of the top three job growth areas in the next 10-15 years (US Department of Labor, 2010). The spatial thinking and software skills developed will prepare students for work in a variety of fields from public safety to natural resources management to business site selection. PGS is a secondary education course that develops students’ geospatial skills and leads students to consider how maps influence important decisions in the world outside of school.

Existing partnerships between Pacific University and local organizations including Clean Water Services, the Tualatin River Watershed Council, Washington County, and Centro Cultural allow access to spatial data and highlight the need for geospatial analysis thus serving as potential clients for students enrolled in PGS.

What is the commitment for high schools?

  • Offer the Pacific Geospatial Semester, taught by a high school teacher with Pacific faculty support. Decide if it will be for a semester (Env 170: 2 semester credits) or a year (Env 270: 4 semester credits).
  • Select the teacher who will offer the course.
  • Provide computers with an Internet connection and ESRI ArcGIS software. This software is available for free through ESRI’s statewide site license. ArcGIS runs on Windows computers, though there is a way to make it work with Mac using ArcGIS Online. It will not run on Chromebooks or tablets.
  • See the course in action during the spring semester at Forest Grove High School before taking the summer course.
  • Enroll the teacher in the Geospatial Technology Workshop For Teachers in the summer before they will teach the course. This course provides training for the teacher in the use of ArcGIS, professional grade geospatial analysis software, which is the tool students will use in the course.

What do participants receive?

  • The Geospatial Technology Training Manual used by teachers in Virginia to teach the Geospatial Semester. District or teachers purchase the Kolvoord/Keranen text Making Spatial Decisions Using GIS: A Workbook (about $50) to serve as a long term teaching resource.
  • Pacific faculty will lead this workshop with the teachers. Pacific University faculty support the work of the high school teachers during the academic year as questions come up, provide project support, and attend final project presentations and help with the evaluation of those final projects.
  • Dual enrollment paperwork for high school students (course registration) to be handled by the Pacific faculty.