Geographic Information Systems in K-12

This site is an educational portal for information and resources associated with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the state of Minnesota. Geospatial technologies are one of the three fastest growing technology fields (source: U.S. Department of Labor). There are several options for teachers to introduce students to the geospatial tools and skills that will be required for many high-demand jobs of the future.

The following options enable educators to access and provide geospatial technologies at little or no cost:

  • Esri offers free software via their Schools Program to all schools (public, private, home school) and youth clubs for instructional use. The ArcGIS School Bundle includes a bank of online tools plus apps for mobile devices. Windows-based desktop software is also available for those doing advanced work.
  • Mapbox provides education resources including tutorials for a wide range of users at Learn with Mapbox. If you need support for a project or have questions, contact the Community team.
  • QGIS is a free and open source GIS software package with installation packages for Windows, Mac, and Linux devices
  • Google Earth for Education provides step-by-step guides and tutorials on Google Earth and mapping tools to help teachers integrate Google’s geospatial technology into the classroom.

Incorporating GIS technology in the classroom provides an opportunity to use the same tools used in high-demand careers to examine geographic questions, conduct analysis and explore themes. Students can work with data in ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts. These skills are invaluable to studies in many subject areas, including science, mathematics, career and technical education, social studies, reading and language arts.


Training and Collaboration Sites

Minnesota K12 GIS Education
This partnership supports and promotes the attainment of GIS experience and skills in Minnesota K-12 students. It aims to foster the collaboration of Higher Ed, GIS professionals, teachers, and researchers, to advance best practices for teaching GIS in K-12 environments, and for connecting students to careers utilizing GIS. The partnership supports educators in integrating GIS into their teaching through training and GIS administrative support.

U-Spatial ArcGIS Online FREE Training at University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota’s U-Spatial Center provides FREE GIS classes. If you are a teacher and can get a training day off school, this is a great place to get free training from a knowledgeable source. Visit the U-Spatial Training site for course dates, registration information and workshop materials.

Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education (MAGE)
The Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education is a group of educators who advocate for geographic literacy. The mission of the Minnesota Alliance for Geographic Education is to be the premier collaborative organization on the forefront of geographic education by providing resources for teachers and opportunities for networking and experiences that motivate and inspire teachers for the benefit of students. Opportunities for teachers exist at MAGE through their Workshops and Conferences, student enrichment and Curriculum.

Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo)
OSGeo is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to foster global adoption of open geospatial technology (such as QGIS) by being an inclusive software foundation devoted to an open philosophy and participatory, community-driven development. Their “GeoForAll” program is powered by a global community working toward open education opportunities.

Discover and Use Your Data

  • The Minnesota Geospatial Commons is a collaborative space for users and publishers of Minnesota's geospatial resources. The Commons is used by researchers, cartographers, web and application developers, journalists, planners, and other citizens who need GIS data for a project. MDE publishes several datasets each year centered on school programs and district boundaries.
  • The Big 10 Academic Alliance Geoportal connects users to digital geospatial resources, including GIS datasets, web services, and digitized historical maps from multiple data clearinghouses and library catalogs.
  • Working With GIS data? Librarians Can Help With That. Published by Syracuse University, this article defines geographic information systems, provides a glossary list of GIS terms, and shares free, open-source software tools for building maps with geospatial technology. It also highlights five unique examples of problem-solving GIS maps such as heat, category, quantity, bubble, and dot density.