Steven Moore and the Center for Spatial Studies are expanding the reach of GIS
by Jennifer Dobbs ’16
Drone controls in hand and a childlike grin on his face, Steven Moore easily keeps the attention of the elementary students at Geography Kids Camp (organized by the School of Education) by teaching them how to fly the aerial vehicle. “This is how kids like to learn,” says Moore, director for the Center for Spatial Studies at the University of Redlands, “by experiencing the knowledge they are gaining.”
The campers spend this one-day camp immersed in geography and spatial study, using GIS (geographic information systems) to map their own neighborhoods and travel a simulated globe. Spatial study, Moore says, is an important 21st-century literacy.
“Spatial relationships and data are complex,” says Moore. “The science behind global warming, for instance, requires an in-depth understanding of how spatial data are gathered; how such data is calibrated and compared over time and how spatial data are organized.”
When he isn’t flying drones at camp, Moore is running the Center, established in 2014 to realize the University’s commitment to infusion of spatial studies across the curriculum—a commitment he says rivals that of much larger institutions. The Center is a catalyst and support unit for spatial research and instructional activities at the University. It also supports the University’s master’s program in GIS.
“We provide support for MSGIS students completing their major individual projects by helping with GIS analyses, application development, programming, data acquisition and GIS modeling,” he says. The Center also conducts technical workshops for the students.
Efforts through the Center are also focused on connecting the humanities and the sciences in the College through collaborative spatial research and education. The Center is supporting Professor Lillian Larsen’s Re-Drawing the Map of Religion project and is working with Environmental Studies Chair Dan Klooster on a May Term class, “Panamapping,” that focuses on conducting spatial research relevant to the market-based conservation efforts happening at the Mamoni Valley Preserve in Panama.
The reach of the Center now spans the globe, and Moore believes it also needs to span all grade levels to reach young students like those he met at Geography Kids Camp. In 2015, Moore was instrumental in the University receiving its largest-ever grant from the National Science Foundation of almost $700,000 to educate and empower students for success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses and careers by improving their spatial thinking and computational skills at the elementary level.
“During the first year, spatial thinking lessons were pilot tested at Lugonia Elementary School in Redlands and Inland Leaders Charter School in Yucaipa,” Moore says. “A research phase is scheduled for 2016 where one class in each grade will receive spatial instruction; one or more classes in each grade will not. We will attempt to measure whether the spatial training had an impact on the students’ spatial thinking abilities and their mathematical performance.”
Moore also worked with researchers to develop “A Research Agenda for Geospatial Technologies and Learning” to discover how the use of GST impacts learners, how GST should best be taught, how educators should be prepared to teach with GST and how teaching and learning with GST are best supported through curriculum. The National Council for Geographic Education named the agenda “2016 Best Article for Geography Program Development.”