GIS Day and Geography Awareness Week

Next week is Geography Awareness Week.

Next Wednesday is GIS Day.

If you haven’t been following along for a while here on the blog, I am a current Geographic Information Systems students finishing up my certification at a local community college.

The MOST basic way to explain GIS is displaying information visually via a map, but it gets very complicated when you look into all it can do. It’s also used in utilities, environmental work and urban planning, by publications and news agencies and first responders.

There are so many ways geography and GIS impact our lives. For instance, who doesn’t use their smart phone to find a location? GIS is used by the fire department when routing to calls, by city employees investigating a complaint.

It is really easy to celebrate geography and GIS with your kids, regardless of their ages. Here are some great ideas to celebrate #GAW2015 and #GISDay!

  •  Look at a Map

Doesn’t matter where you got it. You can hit the AAA, the web or pull out the map from your trip to Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm.  My son’s earliest map adventures were looking at the map of the zoo, theme park, or mall and helping decide where to go and how to get there.

  • Try Geocaching

I haven’t actually used the app, but I downloaded  a free geocaching app on my phone after seeing it mentioned a lot from my blogger friends, especially by Kim Tracy Prince. Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt, logging where you found geocaches and putting them back. This is the website I have an account through. There’s one down the street, so hopefully we’ll get to look for it next week!


  • Go Map Something

My son’s class mapped the routes to recess and lunch for their GIS Day project (look for that share soon!). Anything with a location can be mapped – a room, a town, a park.

Grab the kids, some paper and crayons, and set them somewhere to draw the world they see around them, preferably from an aerial view. Help them find North if you want to draw a compass rose, or older kids can create a legend for the shapes they are drawing.

Want to try something more local? I created a quick sheet ready for kids to draw their own neighborhood. Let them do the leading – what is important to them visually? What landmarks stand out for them?


  • Test your geography skills

There are so many apps and quizzes online, but my favorite is the GeoBee app from the National Geographic Geography Bee. It’s pretty tough after a couple levels, so it’s definite brain food for adults as well!


  • Attend an event

They are literally international. Some geography departments at colleges may be having some special Geography Awareness or GIS Day events, or you can find them on the GIS Day website, and get some ideas for celebrating geography at the Geography Awareness website.

We’ll be heading to the University of Redlands to check out their event which includes a topographic sandbox! I’m so excited to check one out in person.