GISAS - Geographical Information Systems Applications for Schools
GISAS is a research and development project focusing on the incorporation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies into secondary school, for geography and environmental education. The GISAS project deals with collection of water quality indicators: the partner schools collect water quality data from local rivers twice a year, analyse it and visualise the results by overlaying the water quality database with other GIS data layers on a local raster map. The schools also participate in testing and developing new educational GIS applications.
The main objective of the GISAS project is to collect various types of environmental data from the local areas of the partner schools. The schools have previously monitored local water quality using the Biotic Index at Secondary Education Level – BISEL. This method uses aquatic macro invertebrates as biological indicators of water quality.
These data are used with GIS software to study, analyse, monitor and visualise local environmental elements and their effects on water quality. In the GISAS project, all collected data is stored into a large database, which is available for teachers and their pupils to be used in the classrooms.
The overlay–analyses of the collected data provide answers to the pupils' inquiries and allow them to actively combine different types of data layers and ask new geographical questions.
Digital photographs taken from the water data collection points are also available, hyperlinked to the points visualised on maps.
The user may thus learn about the water quality of a certain area and, at the same time, see the landscape image of that area. This enhances the adoption of a holistic approach to environmental education and supports visual learning experiences.
Another objective of the project is to collect water data for a European digital water atlas. That atlas is part of the web-based learning environment and contains nation-wide data, visualised on choropleth maps to see national differences. The flexible scaling of the map from local to European dimension is one of the characteristics of GIS, which is used in GISAS project. The digital European water atlas intends to highlight the European dimension of the project.
The project is funded by the European Commission Minerva action and it includes schools from eight European countries: Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Sweden.
The partner schools have previous interest and experience on assessing water quality in Europe.
The participating teachers are not all from the field of geography but represent physics, languages and computer science, as well. The teachers will disseminate the educational material, exercises, result and innovations at their own schools and later on provide training for other teachers to use GIS in the classroom too.
Partner schools cooperate with their municipal authorities and regional environmental agencies and at the same time try to involve other schools from their countries as network partners for the project.
The project is coordinated by the Department of Geography, University of Helsinki in Finland. The Finnish National Board of Education is responsible of the dissemination of the materials and results and supports the pedagogical planning of the project outputs. The Jozef Stefan Institute from Ljubljana, Slovenia has created a web-based GIS atlas where the participating institutions can download, update, visualise and share their local data on maps.
GISAS is a three-year (2003-2006) project which started in October 2003. More information can be found from the web page of the project: http://www.edu.fi/gisas/