Moving GIS into the Classroom


“I feel more confident in using new websites and applications in the classroom so that students have a better understanding of geospatial technologies and why we use them.”

– Teacher

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Teacher Development/Training

Target Audience

Low Socio-Economic Status

Teachers/Educational Leaders




Pre-K - 5
Grades 6 - 8
Grades 9 - 12

 Promising link

Program Impact

COGA has introduced hundreds of teachers to computer hardware and software systems used to store, display, analyze, and map information. Teachers need opportunities to develop lesson plans, test them, and evaluate student learning. Of the 179 school districts in Colorado, approximately one quarter has a teacher with GIS training. COGA intends to double the number of school districts with trained teachers by 2018.

Survey results from a first-year pilot project demonstrated that over half the participating teachers had little familiarity with geographic information systems when they started the workshop. Post-workshop comparison showed that all participants with limited understanding of GIS increased their knowledge by the end of the workshop. Over thirty sample lesson plans using GIS have been produced and shared with the geography educator community through the COGA website.


Program Overview

Moving GIS into the Classroom” provides teachers and informal educators professional development on teaching students to use geospatial technology to collect data, analyze information, and present conclusions using spatial concepts.

Teaching about geospatial technology includes instruction in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and geomatics. GIS uses computer systems to capture, store, and display data related to positions on the Earth’s surface. GIS projects many different kinds of data on one map, enabling people to see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships.

Educators enhance instruction using GIS through multidisciplinary activities with real data involving authentic tasks and assessments. Students explore scales from the local to the global, encouraging community connections. Despite the prevalence of geospatial technology on phones, in news reports, and in scientific research, teachers often lack knowledge about GIS or experience in creating lesson plans.

Students need to develop skills in spatial analysis and undertake scientific sampling methodology, but they can be successful only if teachers are knowledgeable and comfortable with technology and content. Closing this gap is important because geospatial analysis skills are increasingly expected in the workplace.

How To Get Involved

Exposing teachers to geospatial technology is a first step to offering these skill sets to students. For $3000, up to 25 teachers can participate in a hands-on district or school workshop to learn about educational strategies in GIS. More extensive workshops requiring the production of lesson plans and providing follow-up support for up to25 teachers at a school or district can be produced for $5000. The Colorado Geographic Alliance encourages GIS professionals to participate in the Association of American Geographers – Esri ConnectED GeoMentor program. COGA is working with these national organizations to match mentors with teachers in Colorado.

Funders and Partners
  • Association of American Geographers
  • Colorado Department of Education
  • Center for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Education (CSTEME), University of Colorado Colorado Springs
  • Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
  • Esri, Inc
  • Gill Foundation’s Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado
  • National Geographic Education Foundation
  • Plan-It GEO

Other partners include School Districts across the state, such as Academy, Cherry Creek, Colorado Springs, Elizabeth, Englewood, Falcon, Fountain-Fort Carson, Pueblo, Limon, Mesa County, Windsor



Rebecca Theobald, Coordinator


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