One of the most enjoyable things about attending the ESRI UC is interacting with all of the middle school, high school, and youth groups. Their enthusiasm is infectious — and that is just the teachers, parents, and mentors. The students are modest about their achievements which are usually civic volunteerism projects that benefit their community. The teachers, parents, and mentors are modest about the personal time and money that they invested in the project. They are all modest about the team effort, trust, and overcoming obstacles that volunteer projects entail beyond the geospatial component.
At the 2010 ESRI User Conference session on building content based learning environments on “teaching the teachers”, the speakers (Susan Flentie, Lewistown Junior High School; Jeff Dunn, University of Connecticut Libraries Map and Geographic Information (MAGIC) center, and Stewart Bruce, Washington College), brought up some of the core issues for integrating geospatial skills. The first is that often when teachers say “this would be too difficult for my students” what they mean is “this is difficult for me and I don’t want to look weak in front of my students”. For those who aren’t teachers, it is difficult to understand how much courage it takes for a teacher to let go of some of their authority in a class. Over the years of attending the ED UC and other educational conferences, the teachers who have overcome this problem often do so by taking the risk of learning alongside their students but the reward is that it encourages students to participate and feel mastery over a subject area.