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It's A Geospatial World Out There

Friday, October 9, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kim Pond, UMass Extension
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It’s a geospatial world out there. The apps on our phones collect geodata, more and more cars have onboard navigation device, digital cameras can remember locations of images and in our news, we look at before and after pictures of storm damage, follow the pandemic cases and tap into community service opportunities near us. Games like Pokémon Go even have people and families out and about searching for Pokémon by looking and following a map to collect. I bet you can list several ways you used geospatial technology today.

Today we also understand that spatial thinking skills are critical for youth in order to excel in STEM learning. Research findings show that those who have scored higher in spatial thinking, also excelled significantly in STEM understanding and skills. (Nora Newcombe, American Educator, summer, 2010)- link to source https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Newcombe.pdf. Problem solving skills and data analysis are also key for successful understanding of how people can use “science” to improve communities.

The National Council for Geographic Education has outlined eighteen national standards and six essential elements that undergird youth’s understanding of spatial concepts. The very first standard outlined states that: “learners need to know how to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective”.

The 4-H Geospatial Task Force has worked cooperatively and successfully to pull together research-based resources, volunteers, and private and public partnerships to offer effective learning opportunities for youth audiences across the US. These programs and strategies parallel the core competencies outlined in the 4-H Professional, Research, Knowledge and Competencies document published in 2017

The goal of this article is to share information, resources and specific contacts for participants in order to incorporate more Geospatial Science into their 4-H STEM offerings.


Some introductory activities include geocaching and letterboxing which is a scavenger hunt style activity use maps and or GPS (Global Positioning System) which are on many phones now.

Youth then can make their own geocaching or making a geotrail like NY youth did in partnership with farms to boost agritourism.

Plants and Engineering for NY’s In-Touch – compare the veins in a leaf to a map to show how larger roads lead to and from cities with smaller ones as things get delivered further out to rural communities

Orienteering and reading a topographical map

See if your office has a copy of the “Exploring Spaces Going Place” the N4-HCC Curriculum CD

If you can make a powerpoint you can create a storymap which is a fairly new feature that could be created for a fair, or project. Ex: https://ma4-hset.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=85ae12f1e0dc43e39ead6a2a38320d46 Use the NYSD Maps and Apps from 2013 and learn about GIS (Geographic Information System) https://4-h.org/parents/4-h-stem-challenge/maps-and-apps/

Dig into GIS and makes maps for your community? Marking food desserts, mapping a cemetery...

Utilize the 2020 4-H STEM Challenge activity on The Landing Zone that talks about the map of Mars and key features in the map. http://www.4-h.org/nysd

These are just a few 4-H Geospatial Science strategies to engage youth in a fun, educational, and timely (current technology trends) 4-H STEM program that is transformational in nature. Younger youth (youth with no Geospatial Science experience/background) have entered programs, including the GGLEAD program with limited knowledge and transitioned into teaching other youth. A specific example of this is the 4H GGLEAD youth participation in the National 4-H Health Summit, where 4-H GGLEAD youth have to presented and provide leadership in a dynamic, national, conversation working with the RW Johnson Foundation to identify specific health needs on communities across the nation. Youth have been trained as valuable peer educators in this setting. Project Link https://healthdatatoaction.com/

Our working group welcomes anyone interested in learning more and seeing how some of these strategies can be brought into what they are already doing whether it is: animal science, cooking or photography; urban or rural; or age.

If you are looking for new programs or ways to attract new members why not jump on National Geography Week November 15-21 with National GIS Day on November 18. Many ways you can work virtually as a team on a project to create a map of the community.

National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals


701 Exposition Place, Suite 206 | Raleigh, NC 27615 | T: (919) 232-0112 | E: contact@nae4hydp.org