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Engaging Students to Learn About Their World Through Geography
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TORONTO - August 31, 2011 - Since 1984, ESRI Canada has helped educators across the country make learning interactive through digital mapping.  This school year, take your class up a notch with ArcGIS Online (, a free cloud-based resource from ESRI that allows users to create, edit and share maps.  The Web site provides access to a wealth of maps, geographic data and Web lessons that you can use to promote your students' critical thinking and geographic analysis skills.

“Geographic thinking is a valuable skill for addressing the many challenges our society faces today,” says Alex Miller, president, ESRI Canada.  “Using geographic information systems in the classroom helps students deepen their understanding of various issues and develop a better appreciation for our world.  We recognize that schools face many resource constraints.  With ArcGIS Online, we've made GIS technology and data freely accessible to schools and the public so they can experience firsthand how geography informs decisions.” 

Toronto French School uses ArcGIS Online to develop environmental research skills among its grade school students.  Recently, the school leveraged the geographic information system (GIS) solution to look more closely at the impact of increasing soil erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs, a 14-kilometre coastline east of Toronto.  The area has rapidly eroded since the 1940s, causing a risk to residents and a decline in property values.

Using ESRI's ArcGIS technology hosted on the Amazon Cloud, students were able to map and intersect various data including settlement in the area, access to the escarpment, property values and environmental data.  They plotted data on free Canadian basemaps available in ArcGIS Online, which are contributed by authoritative sources through the ESRI Canada Community Maps Program.  As a result, students were able to predict the potential impact of erosion on the value of properties in the area.  They also assessed whether the City's erosion-control programs were effective in mitigating this environmental threat.

“We didn't have the infrastructure to host all the data we needed to conduct this study effectively, so we looked for free, publicly available resources that could help us do the work,” said Josette Bouchard-Muller, social sciences teacher, Toronto French School.  “ArcGIS Online enabled our students to visualize the changes in the Bluffs over time and uncover connections between the environment, the population and property values.  It's a good tool for promoting collaboration within the class, while helping students hone their research and analysis skills.”

ArcGIS Online provides numerous teaching resources, including maps, data and applications, as well as Web lesson plans developed specifically to complement Canada's K-12 curriculum.  Use the lessons to examine the spread of the mountain pine beetle across Banff, Alberta; explore the historical events surrounding the Battle of Fort George during the War of 1812; or visualize and assess areas across the globe under threat of coral reef disease.

Schools do not need to purchase or install software to use the GIS; you can get started quickly by accessing the Web site and creating a free ESRI Global Account.  Students can easily create, edit and share maps by accessing the Web site from their school or home computers, as well as Web-enabled mobile devices.

Read the case study on Toronto French School's use of ArcGIS Online.  For more information on ESRI Canada's GIS solutions for education, visit

About ESRI Canada

Founded in 1984, ESRI Canada provides enterprise geographic information system (GIS) solutions that empower businesses, governments and educational institutions to make timely, informed and mission-critical decisions by leveraging the power of geography.  The company distributes the world's leading GIS software from ESRI, Telvent, Cityworks and other technology partners.  Headquartered in Toronto, the company serves over 10,000 customers from 16 regional offices across Canada and has been named as one of the top 250 Canadian IT companies and top 25 IT professional services providers in Canada by the Branham Group.  Information about ESRI Canada can be found at

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