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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide


Place Based Geospatial Education for Alaska
Teacher and Student Guide
Grades 6-12


MapTEACH (Mapping Technology Experiences with Alaska’s Cultural Heritage) is an educational curriculum for middle and high school students designed to help them both (1) understand the physical and cultural features of their environment, and (2) use mapping technologies to enhance and portray that new understanding. As such, it emphasizes the integration of three focus areas: geoscience, local landscape knowledge, and geographic information science (GPS, GIS and remotely sensed imagery). MapTEACH gives Alaskan students the opportunity to make a connection between traditional ways of viewing the landscape, scientific ways of making observations about the landscape, and the process of using cutting-edge information technologies to gather and disseminate information about the landscape. At its core, this curriculum is place-based and interdisciplinary in nature, and seeks to connect students, teachers, community members and scientists in an exploration of the local landscape from multiple perspectives. Lessons are organized into the following sections for ease of use [click here for the whole curriculum (~30 MB)]:

Section 1: Place Names and Landmarks
These lessons seek to answer the question “How do you know where you are?” by grounding students in an appreciation of their own mental maps and then expanding this to include understanding and documentation of the place names and landscape knowledge of local experts. This work is based on the belief that there are many ways to “know” where you are and that each way of knowing contributes to our overall understanding of the landscape.

Section 2: Remote Sensing and Geology
These hands-on lessons introduce students to remotely sensed imagery by exploring local air photo imagery, stereo pair photographs and topographic maps and by using these maps and imagery to evaluate river erosion and change over time. These lessons are not only interesting and relevant in their own right, but provide a solid introduction to the imagery used in several of the GIS lessons.

Section 3: Global Positioning System
These lessons guide students through the basic uses of handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) units by finding and placing geocaches, documenting waypoints, and downloading location information into a computer in order to create a map of a place or a journey.

Section 4: Geographic Information Systems
These lessons enable students to use GIS mapping technology to enhance and portray their understanding of the world around them by: (1) exploring the fundamental concept that maps are made of layers of data and a computer allows us to stack these layers in many different ways; and (2) manipulating existing data layers and adding their own data to generate original maps of personal, cultural or scientific interest.

Several of the lessons included in the MapTEACH curriculum involve making digital maps using GPS and other data collected locally by students. Satellite imagery can be a useful and informative base map layer upon which students can display their own data. It is not feasible for MapTEACH to be able to anticipate every possible area that any given student project would need satellite base map data for, therefore we have developed two procedures so teachers (or advanced students) can generate their own image layers for use in their local-area digital mapping projects. These procedures can be found in the Appendix.

We expect and hope that as you become more familiar with this curriculum, you will find new ways to use and adapt these lessons and make them your own. We hope you will share these adaptations with us and also let us know what we might do next to make this curriculum more responsive to your needs.


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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified April 27, 2009