EarthXplorers

An exciting new online initiative for GIS learning that features National Parks historic sites and engaging project- and inquiry-based activities.
With GIS technology and adventure learning, educators have an incredible opportunity to reach beyond the classroom. Students can engage hands-on in field research – and share it with their peers across the globe. At the University of Minnesota’s Learning Technologies Media Lab, we are making this possible with new applications and adventure-learning programs that inspire problem-solving of pressing environmental and social issues using GIS (geographic information systems) technology, field research, and storytelling. We are helping usher in a new era of education that brings real-world relevancy and understanding to the classroom, while enhancing 21st-century skill learning.
ESRI is the world’s leader in geographic information systems technology. The ArcGIS platform allows users to store, manipulate, and analyze map and geographic data from all over the planet. It paves the way for groundbreaking research and more sustainable, intelligent analysis of our planet. Now, thanks to support from ESRI president (and University of Minnesota alum) Jack Dangermond, the LT Media Lab has developed an online learning environment that assists in bringing this cutting edge software to our nation’s K-12 schools for free through the ConnectED initiative.

GIS is one of the fastest growing areas of technology. EarthXplorers helps teachers understand how to use ArcGIS in their classrooms, and scaffolds them in how to teach with it using six modules centered on historical sites around the nation that have ties to pressing contemporary issues. EarthXplorers was built around content that inspires students to go out and do real-world analysis and research. That content was inspired by another LT Media Lab partner: the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Through its nationwide initiatives and website, SavingPlaces.org, the National Trust is preserving historic treasures across the United States. The EarthXplorers ArcGIS educational content is centered on a selection of these treasures, tying history to contemporary issues. In this new learning environment, students learn about specific historic sites nationwide, and conduct analysis using ArcGIS.


EarthXplorers Project Goals



  • Scaffold teachers and students in the use and integration of ArcGIS in the classroom.


  • Increase geoliteracy and spatial thinking skills.


  • Increase historical literacy and understanding of why historical preservation matters.


  • Inspire kids/classrooms to visit state and national parks.


  • Scaffold and inspire teachers/students to use ArcGIS for local problem solving.

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