Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mapping Tech Tools: NC River Basins

What comes to mind when you hear the word “map”? 

You might picture a globe or a paper road map. Maybe you think of GPS on your phone. But, do you ever hear "map" and think GIS?

GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, let us see, ask about, examine, and understand data - especially relationships and patterns in the data. (Learn more about GIS here). GIS can be utilized by educators to teach and learn. They are interactive, informational, and can be accessed virtually anywhere.

The North Carolina Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs is putting GIS to good use. In this GIS blog series, we are going to teach you to use our GIS features, to discover benefits for GIS both in the formal classroom and informal settings, and to explore the topics that our GIS maps and apps cover: river basins, environmental education resources, and your ecological address.
In the first part of our GIS series, we will focus on river basins.

So, what is a river basin?

A river basin is the land that water flows across or under on its way to a river. Just as a bathtub catches all the water that falls within its sides, a river basin sends all the water falling on the surrounding land into a central river. From there, it goes out to the sea.


Everyone lives in a river basin, even if you don't live near the water. The land that we live on eventually drains to a river or estuary or lake, and our actions on that land affect water quality and quantity far downstream. The topography of each basin determines where it drains to. For North Carolina, the water flows into either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. 

To help you explore your river basin and all the river basins in N.C., we created nineteen (!) GIS features:

1. One App (aka – an interactive map)
2. Eighteen Story Maps (aka – an interactive text)

Let’s start with the app: North Carolina River Basins. I recommend clicking the link or photo below to follow along in our GIS app. You can also access this on our website by going to Resources > River Basin Program > River Basin App.

When you open the app, you are greeted by a welcome screen with some background info, a disclaimer, and information about how to use the app.

Zooming in, we see there are three icons in the upper left blue bar: About, Legend, and Layers.

About is pretty self-explanatory: learn more here. 

You probably remember that a legend on a map is where all the information about represented features are compiled (rivers are blue lines, etc). So, for our river basin app, we see all of the river basins are color-coded to match with their location on the map. 

Layers might be new to you. Layers allow you to choose what you see on the map (and what shows up in the legend). In our layers, some are unchecked – so these are not currently in the map view or on our legend. But, if you check the box for public schools…

…then that layer appears on the map. Easy enough.

But - what do these icons on the map mean?

It’s well and good you can see these things on the map, but part of what makes an app great is that it is interactive. The legend tells us that the black and white icons are public schools – but what else can we learn? There are a couple ways to find out more:

1.) Click on the map feature you want to know more about

This pops up a box that gives you tons of info as well as links to other material. For our public schools, we learn its name, address, total number of students and teachers, type of school, and highest grade level.

But, what if you meant to select the river basin layer– not the public school? 

Just hit the arrow on the right of the top bar (outlined in red) to view the other features you selected. The numbers in parentheses in the upper-left of the box will let you know how many pages you selected (ex., 1 of 3). 

2.) Search in the search bar

This one is easier. Type in what you want to find in the search bar in the upper right of the screen and a box pops up for that feature. 

You may be thinking: But… this is a river basin app. Where is the river basin-specific information?

Use the skills we just went over - select what you wish to know more about! Want to learn about the river basin for Raleigh? Just click it. 

Within the box, you can select the photo to access our river basin brochures that have a ton of info about each basin’s history, ecology, recreation activities, and more!

What about those Story Maps?

Still want to learn more about river basins? Check out our Discover North Carolina's River Basins story map. This interactive-text will give you a good overview of basin basics. All you need to do is click through!

We also have seventeen other Story Maps that talk about each N.C. river basin in-depth. Find them all - from Broad to Yadkin-PeeDee - here!

Remember, when it doubt - click it out. The best way to get familiar with a GIS feature is to use it! So, make some time to learn about the GIS app and discover how you can utilize it to learn and teach about N.C. river basins.
To learn more about our GIS resources, contact the Office or visit our GIS page. To find out about other things the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs does, check out our website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

NAAEE Launches New Environmental Education Research Library

The environmental education field does amazing work: connecting people to nature, supporting community development, increasing student outcomes, and much more. But, most of us know an initiative or program that needs funding, support, or new tactics.

Research can help you access that.

Research gives you examples of best practices, inspires new curriculum and initiatives, and helps you get funding. Best of all, it can give you the proof you need so that you can do what you are passionate about: whether that be launching a new program for seniors or getting your students outside during the school day.

Unfortunately, finding, accessing, and understanding research can be hard. It takes time, expertise, and - many times - money to get at the research articles.

We are happy to say - there is a new way to get environmental education research!

The North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE) has created a research library to help you get access the abundance of environmental education research. In collaboration with the Children & Nature Network and with support from the Pisces Foundation and Duke University, NAAEE has gathered over 1,200 research articles and crafted research summaries and syntheses on almost all of these. The summaries break down the technical articles and highlight key findings and results.

NAAEE has created a tutorial video to help you best utilize the tool.

The tutorial video walks you through how to use the research library. It shows the unique tools to search for and find data that you need – whether that’s by the age of learner it pertains to (from infancy to senior) or the year it was published.

The research tool is set up to align with the key words funders look for. Each article is assigned to one of five broad categories: education, conservation, health, social justice, human development.

The NAAEE research tool can also highlight some of the environmental education research being done in North Carolina! Our search of "North Carolina” gave us 11 results, covering topics like outdoor preschools and environmental literacy.

Have an idea on how to make this library better? Click here to share with NAAEE.