Esri Receives Youth Environmental Science Award
by Charlie Fitzpatrick
February 24, 2017
At Esri’s 2017 Federal GIS Conference in Washington, D.C., Esri President Jack Dangermond received a small medal for having made a big difference, and two local organizations were very happy.
The Youth Environmental Science (“YES”) Award is given annually by Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists (“YLACES”), a non-profit organization that supports science education for youth. The award includes a $10,000 grant to an organization engaging youth as active citizen environmental scientists, and Esri chose the Jane Goodall Institute’s “Roots & Shoots” program.
The focus of YLACES is getting students engaged in inquiry-based, experiential science. “For 25 years, Esri has helped K12 students gather, analyze, interpret, and present data about the world, thereby equipping students to better learn science by doing science,” said YLACES president Dr. Dixon Butler. “Esri has made powerful tools available for free for educators around the world, from ArcVoyager to public ArcGIS Online, and provided training so teachers could do this. This commitment has made a difference.”
The Roots & Shoots program recently added GIS into the toolkit. In Roots & Shoots, young people do projects where they investigate a local problem, design a solution, and take action. With encouragement from renowned conservationist Jane Goodall, and an invitation by Dangermond, the Roots & Shoots staff and a score of youth ambassadors spent time at Esri headquarters during 2016, learning to use ArcGIS Online to map and analyze their data. This year, the ambassadors are sharing their knowledge with other local Roots & Shoots groups.
Esri’s program for schools began in 1992, and Esri software is now used in all grades, in thousands of schools across the United States. Science teachers and students were early and active users, bringing in data about weather, water, rocks, soil, organisms, and other phenomena. By gathering local data of interest, analyzing it, interpreting it, and presenting it to others, students build a deep understanding of the process of science, the value of good data, the power of collaboration, and the importance of effective communication. The tools have changed dramatically in 25 years, but the mission remains: use GIS to understand the diverse patterns and relationships, at all scales, in order to make good decisions and build a better world.