The start of a new school year

As the New Year begins, so too does a new school year for students in Costa Rica. Unlike the U.S. where summer vacation occurs during the months of June through August, students in Costa Rica graduate in December and go back to school in February.

At Escuela Verde, the teachers decided to spend some of their final summer days not only setting up their rooms and preparing for classes, but also wanting to learn more about what they can do with GPS and GIS with their students. During the school year last year, students were using GPS to record wildlife at a nearby wildlife refuge, conduct mathematical geocaching activities, observe rock and soil types, and explore plate tectonics.

Wednesday was the first of three training sessions for the teachers. With limited internet access at time at Escuela Verde, the training used book 2 from the Mapping Our World Series to learn the basics of ArcGIS Desktop. Joining us was Esteban, the new 5/6 grade Spanish speaking science teacher. Remember, Escuela Verde is a bi-lingual school with classes at every grade level being taught in English and Spanish by different teachers. Even with the lessons from Mapping Our World in English, the Spanish speaking teachers were able to explore an activity that can be used in their classroom.

Today was the second training and rather than meeting from 9-12, we decided as a group to meet at 7:30am so that we can get a start on heading out into the field to learn to use GPS. But to start any day off right, one needs a good cup of Costa Rican coffee.

We stayed on school grounds today as we had to modify our original plan to go to Playa Arco to collect due to another meeting the teachers had to attend. After collecting some points about features on the property, we returned to the library to setup the computers and then download the points onto ArcGIS Desktop. We’re using ArcGIS Desktop rather than ArcGIS Online due to the limited internet connection that exists at school. Even while stepping through downloading points, the electricity went out for 10 minutes.

Next Tuesday, we’ll meet for the final time before classes start so that the teachers can explore more activities with ArcGIS Desktop, create a map of Costa Rica, and develop and modify activities to use in their classes, which start Wednesday. This should be an exciting year to see the various activities and projects the teachers will do with their students.

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