MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Big Sky teacher Nancy Sheil was among 12 Montana teachers selected to participate in a workshop on GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) held on the Montana State University campus Aug. 10.

The teachers were selected via competitive application based on their ideas for incorporating GPS/GIS into their classrooms, their commitment to outdoor education, and their interest in sharing the technology with other teachers, students, families and community members.

Other teachers came from Seeley Lake, Red Lodge, Butte, Columbus, Malta, Billings, Phillipsburg, Lodge Grass, Libby, Miles City and Hamilton.

The teachers learned how to use a GPS unit for classroom activities and how to incorporate GPS data into ArcGIS Explorer desktop, a free software product developed by Esri. Participants also heard about how researchers within the Montana University System and the new Montana Institute on Ecosystems are using GPS/GIS to study everything from noxious weeds to water quality. The group practiced using the GPS units in the field to mark the locations of noxious weed infestations and learned about new smart phone apps for identifying and reporting weeds.

Each teacher received a Garmin Montana 650t GPS receiver and several books and educational resources for the classroom. They will take part in a year-long project that helps students learn about climate science- and ecology-based research by identifying and mapping noxious weeds in their communities.

The program was developed by MSU’s Extended University and is part of a public outreach program of Montana NSF EPSCoR called Climate In My Backyard (CLIMB).