Beginning with school children, we want everyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to understand how dependent we are on the Chesapeake and its rivers, how our actions affect the health of these waterways, and how we can contribute to the clean-up and protection of these treasures. More than that, we want to create a sense of connection that has been lost over recent decades: We want young people to regain a feeling of connection to the waterways. We want them to feel connected to them as natural, living systems We want them to feel connected to them as cultural treasures that are part of their heritage We want them to feel connected to the community that lives in the watershed. We want students from the James River in Virginia all the way up to the students along the Susquehanna and its tributaries in Pennsylvania and New York to recognize that they are all part of one community that shares the privileges of being part of this great river system and also the responsibilities to each other to care for and protect it.
We are envisioning a future where every student who graduates from high school has had this experience over the course of their schooling. That means that every one of them understands the nature of a watershed and the impacts of their activities. Every student has had multiple opportunities to experience the wonder of nature, the change of the seasons, and the physical experience of the waterways. Every student has participated as a member of a community that spans the watershed in monitoring its health, in looking at ways that we can restore damaged areas, and protect it from future damage. Every student has a connected with other students and other schools outside their local community over the resource that they share.
FieldScope is built on top of a very sophisticated geographic information system platform. In fact, it is the same platform behind the GreenPrint and BayStat applications in use in Maryland. The powerful thing about this GIS platform is that it can connect together data that may be stored anywhere on the Internet and may be updated constantly. It can support numerous different applications. For example, one can build very sophisticated analytical systems for professional analysts and planners, and one can build very simple map display tools for tourists planning a vacation or citizens who want information about water quality in their streams. In some ways, the work that we are doing for an education audience can be seen as a test drive for features that may be found in web-based tools for other audiences… The ability to upload photos that we showed you for documenting water quality could be used by communities to upload images and videos that document the culturally and historically meaningful sites along a river. The ability to generate charts and graphs could be used by analysts to identify areas of environmental concern or to track the effectiveness of protection efforts. Most important, these technologies can provide a mechanism for sharing and collaboration across political boundaries, so that we can start to get the benefit of coordinated activities in all four of these critical areas…planning, commerce, civic engagement, and education.
Using GIS Technology to Support Citizen Science Projects and Learning Objectives Elena S. Takaki, Program Manager National Geographic