GIS Day showcases students’ geomatics work

Years ago, you would never have seen a geomatics class on your high school timetable. But now it is an available elective for most Fort High students.
And it was the work of students from this class that made up the Rainy River District School Board’s booth at the GIS Day demonstrations held at the high school last Wednesday.
Other booths included Rainy River First Nations, the Town of Fort Frances, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Rainy River Future Development Corp., and Abitibi-Consolidated, which allowed students, staff, and the public to view GIS information and hands-on demonstrations.
FFHS teacher Rob Donaldson said it was a great opportunity for his current and former students to display their work.
“The students here do some amazing work and a lot of people in the community, and even within the school, still don’t know what GIS [Geographic Information Systems] is or what this class is about,” he remarked during the fourth-period class Monday.
“It’s still a new thing and some students may not even be aware it is an option,” he added, noting this is only the second year the geomatics class has been offered at Fort High.
Donaldson said he and the other GIS Day organizers were happy with how well it was received.
“Although this was the first year we had GIS Day, it is an annual celebration worldwide so we’re already starting to think about next November,” he remarked.
Grade 12 student Derek McLeod had his work on his display.
“We did a map showing the Fort Frances High School sign inventory,” he explained. “It marked all signs on the property and what condition they were in.”
He said Donaldson then forwarded the data to the school’s maintenance department so it would be aware of any broken signs.
“So what we’ve done in class is important, but also fun,” McLeod stressed, noting he enjoys learning how to analyze data.
McLeod said he decided to take the geomatics course based on recommendations made by friends who took last year’s course.
“It seemed interesting, and I’m glad I’m taking it because I’m learning skills that I will use in the future,” he added.
While McLeod doesn’t want to have a career in geomatics, he knows it is a technology that’s being used in many workplaces. “I’ll probably use these skills in almost any job,” he noted.
Brandi Oar and Wyatt Hughes, also students in Donaldson’s geomatics class, agree it is an interesting course.
“We’re learning a lot and it gives us a better understanding of what’s going on around us,” Hughes said.
Both participated in GIS Day, showcasing their work to other students and staff.
“It’s fun to analyze data and maps, and I think others enjoyed seeing our work, too,” Oar remarked, adding if you like geography, the geomatics class is an excellent course to take.
Other student work showcased during GIS Day allowed people to view Fort Frances traffic incidents from 2004, visualize Mount St. Helens before and after its May, 1980 eruption, and examine the effects of the January, 1998 ice storm in eastern Canada.
Donaldson said his students seem to enjoy his class since it’s “not your traditional geography class.”
“It’s very practical and hands-on,” he explained, adding the importance of conducting field studies. “And I think they really appreciate it because there is an application to their own lives.”
Donaldson also agreed the work his students do is important.
“The town uses data that the students have collected,” he remarked. “It’s interesting we can use the same software that is used in the industry.”
Donaldson hopes to expand the geomatics class in the future as more students know what it is about—and also would like to incorporate GIS into other classes at the high school.

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