Houston Area GIS Day helps teens realize career options using the technology

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November 16, 2017 by HCDE-Texas

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Through the Houston Area Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day, high school students are learning that GIS technology applies to a majority of 21st century career paths. From disaster relief to medical fields, GIS is the way of the future.

Students from five school districts visited Harris County Department of Education on Nov. 16 where Houston-Galveston Area Council members assembled GIS labs, drone stations, geocaching, mobile command vehicles and provided GIS trivia. The annual event gives the teens a global view of how GIS works, especially in instances like Hurricane Harvey.

“There are great opportunities in this technology-driven career,” said HCDE Teaching and Learning Center Science Curriculum Director Lisa Felske, who helped coordinate the event. “Students learned how all these agencies worked together to provide updated information at a city and county level. There was incredible information shared between companies, agencies and government during Hurricane Harvey.”

GIS computer software is used for creating maps that are used for analyzing and reporting information such as weather, elections, flood prediction and more.
The hard-hit city of Silsbee, Texas near Beaumont is still recovering from the effects of Harvey, and Silsbee High School human geography teacher Erin Smith says GIS is continuing to help her city recover and plan for the future. Students in her human geography class are helping with that effort.

The Silsbee students are learning to use ArcGIS software from company Esri this semester. They’ll apply that knowledge to help with disaster relief in a community still ailing from Harvey.

“We’ll plot it out in times of hurricanes and disasters and include which routes to avoid, what routes for emergency management to take, and examine the problems we encountered during Hurricane Harvey so we can learn how to better prepare,” said Smith, whose “human geography” class studies how people interact throughout the world.

This year’s GIS Day focused on Harvey and how GIS played an integral part in planning, response and recovery. Teens from Silsbee participated along with four other high schools in Houston and Spring.

The event was hosted by HCDE’s Teaching and Learning Center and led by Felske and the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Geographic Data Workgroup. Numerous emergency response teams brought GIS-powered vehicles to the event held in the Conference Center and extending into the Irvington parking area.

Felske says future plans for GIS studies include a grant from Kinder Morgan which will allow her to create professional development for teachers who want to learn to use GIS software with their students. To learn more about the free training, email lfelske@hcde-texas.org .

About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE provides special education, therapy services, early education, adult education and after-school programming. Services are funded by government grants, fees and a local property tax rate of $.005195. For every dollar in local property tax collected, HCDE provides $4.40 in services to the 25 Harris County school districts. HCDE also operates four campuses for students with profound special education needs and adjudicated youth who require a low student-teacher ratio and highly structured environment. One-hundred percent of students served on HCDE campuses are at-risk. The organization is governed by an elected board of seven trustees and has 1,060 employees and 33 facilities, including 15 Head Start centers. More info at www.hcde-texas.org.

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