Maryland has signed a statewide software license agreement with Esri to make GIS technology available for all K-12 classrooms and after-school programs.
This agreement marks another step for the state as it expands its efforts to develop science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-proficient students with the ability to pursue postsecondary study and careers in these fields.
"States want all students to build skills in integrative thinking, analysis, problem solving, and communication, and GIS fosters these," says Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri's K–12 schools solutions manager. "Many businesses and government agencies in Maryland use GIS to solve problems, and now all kids, educators, and administrators can as well."
As early as elementary school, students need to engage in applied STEM-related projects to begin the development of their technological knowledge and skills. GIS software is an important tool for these projects because it can help students answer complex questions, investigate global issues, and solve challenging real-world problems.
"We have a project funded by the Maryland State Department of Education to develop elementary STEM education training for teachers," says Stewart Bruce, GIS program coordinator at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and administrator of the state license. "Free access to GIS for all elementary and secondary school classrooms and formal after-school programs will help us achieve our goals to increase STEM-related education. It will also be a very useful resource in our environmental projects."
Bruce has set up a website for Maryland teachers interested in requesting GIS software or learning more about it. A web-based GIS curriculum for elementary and secondary schools is also available on the site.