Starting a Youth Community Mapping Project
Commonly Asked Questions
What is youth community mapping?
- A program in which youth and adults collaborate to determine critical needs in their community, showing casing those critical needs via digital mapping.
- Intersection between technology skills and community service where youth learn geospatial skills and apply them to addressing a community issue or need.
Why would such a program be good for youth in my community?
- Youth are positioned as leaders in using cutting-edge technologies to collect and share information about their community. This experience is meaningfully tied to youths’ lives, and provides a vehicle for them to engage with a wide range of adults and organizations in their community. Involved youth have the opportunity to work with community leaders on authentic projects using mapping skills and providing the valuable asset of civic minded youth and their energy and knowledge working toward the common goal of improving an aspect of the community.
- Adults benefit from hearing youth perspectives on their communities, and have motivated, real world uses for the data represented in the youth-created maps.
- By participating in a community mapping project, youth become more engaged in their community, learning more about its attributes and networking with community members. Youth build a desire to improve their community, becoming more civic minded, recognizing they can make contributions that make a real difference.
- Youth learn about science and technology through applying it to real life issues.
- Youth make valuable business contacts; build lifeline networks and partnerships; and have an opportunity for career exploration, as they move from middle school to high school to college.
- Youth community mapping allows youth to help their community identify available resources, learn to collect specific data that help them create maps, in addition to identifying gaps in needed services or telling their community story.
How much time will this require of me?
Some groups meet once a month to explore GPS/GIS or any other technology, but mapping projects can take as much time as one is willing to devote. Youth involved in community mapping tend to be the youth involved in other activities. Consider working in smaller groups to finish a specific project, or only work on major projects when there is a school holiday or a long weekend.
- Projects that appear to be a short turn around probably are not. To do one of these well, it may take a full year to get through all the steps, especially the first time through. As youth are trained and partnerships are established the maps are developed much faster.
What do we need to get started?
- Most important thing is caring adults with a desire to help facilitate youth in developing life skills. GPS-GIS knowledge not necessarily. However, adults need to be willing and comfortable allowing the youth to drive, meaning facilitating the youth to discover the solutions and not necessarily having the answer for them.
- Adults and youth willing to commit the time to conduct a project.
Meeting locations with computers capable of running GIS software and access to internet
- Enough computers so there are no more than 2 youth per computer at a time. Make sure there are not blocks on the computer that keep youth from getting to the sites they need.
Look for free software, mapping tools, and other resources.
- Google MyMaps
- Community resource maps can be made of using available street addresses.
- GPS (geographic positioning system) device to identify the exact latitude and longitude position of each data point.
More advanced map features can be achieved with other GIS (geographic information system) map software, such as ArcView. GIS software is used by workplace professionals. ESRI has partnered with National 4-H to support youth community mapping projects by awarding GIS software curriculum grants.
- ESRI youth grants have been the incentive to really develop an ongoing program.
How do we get started if we do not have our own equipment?
- There are great online resources like ArcGIS Explorer, Google Earth, and numerous ‘mapping machines’ free to explore – and that allow you to add your own collected GPS points to make a unique map. Youth can make maps of many community resources using available street addresses. It’s not necessary to use GIS/GPS tools right away to have a successful community mapping program.
- Some Extension offices have a GPS kit that can be checked out.
Contact local 4-H programs to see what GIS programs are using for equipment.
- If an existing 4-H club with a focus on geospatial technology does not exist, consider starting a new club. There are excellent resources available through 4-H.
- Explore county organizations that may be willing to share their equipment.
- See if a local business might sponsor your group and give you funds to buy GPS units along with funds for snacks, materials and other incidentals.
Look for small grants.
- There are some educational grants listed on our Organizations page.
Check with local GIS organizations/professionals for available equipment.
- GISetc has a GPS loaner program
- Schools, colleges, and libraries often have computer labs that sit idle for hours or days at a time.
- Nebraska partnered with GEAR Tec program, the Army Corps of Engineers, Parks and Recreation and Forest Service.
How do we recruit youth?
- Geo-caches are often an effective way to introduce youth to GPS, inviting them to attend a community “treasure hunt”. This can be used to get them interested in exploring and thinking about their community in new ways.
- Organize a special interest group around a topic like “environmental stewardship” and use community mapping as one of several activities related to that theme by having youth collect data on local tree species. The same could be done for any topic.
Meet with the local school district personnel, explain program and then ask for permission to conduct an interest assessment of youth. If there is an interest, move forward.
- Emphasize community service aspect and let them choose the project
- Tell them they are going to be outside and going to interesting places for part of the project.
- For older kids, emphasize the job readiness they’ll gain
- Geospatial Fun Days
- Programs for service clubs
- Presentations at local, regional, state, and national workshops and conferences for educators and youth advocates.
- GIS Days for schools and the community.
- Advertise the opportunity in the local paper.
- Encourage youth to bring a friend and then start out with a super fun activity and snacks – need to have food.
- Emphasize how the skills they will learn will help them in their future endeavors.
- Use recognition of current youth projects to recruit new members and leaders.
What are some good ways to get other adults involved?
- Presentations at local community service organizations showing how community mapping can relate or apply to something they are passionate about, whether it’s animals, public safety, health, etc. Be specific about how the results will benefit something or someone. i.e. mapping old schoolhouses. The families took interest in this as many of the grandparents or even parents attended these old schools. It was personal. Plus the parents took to the idea of their kids connecting with an elderly neighbor over the subject. This is just one example, many more can be found at the Youth Community Mapping Website.
- Look for entities in the community that could benefit from having current data around a topic gathered within a visual map, such as local utility companies, the fire department, the school district, the park district, chamber of commerce, city government, social services, etc.
- Tell the story of successful projects, make presentations at GIS events to recruit professionals, offer training to youth and volunteers, create programs that provide needed equipment and in return the group must complete a community map.
- Ask for specific help from experts – could you come to our club once a month for 1-2 hours for the next 4 months – something that lets them know they aren’t committing 24/7 for life.
- Find the person that could help the most and ask them to join in. If they can’t get involved at that time ask if they could suggest someone else.
Who Can I turn to if I have questions or need guidance or help?
- YC Mapping advisors will be happy to help you work through any problems you might have
- In Iowa Jay Staker, the State 4-H Director.
- Questions related to ESRI programs contact Esther Worker
- Jim Kahler can be contacted on matters related to 4-H National Leadership Team or for dates and times of GIS GPS Team conference calls.
Who in my community might I be able to turn to for help?
- GIS professionals and educators through the ESRI Education Community Portal
- National, State, and Local Park services
- City, County, and State government, especially their GIS departments
- The Central Area Tech Team (CATT) in Iowa
- Cooperative Extension as part of the land grant university system
- Professionals at agencies such as Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, State Forester, DNR
- Local school district technology program
- Youth organizations already involved in GIS programs: 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, and military installations.
- College faculty and staff – especially in forestry and engineering, community planning –don’t overlook what is going on at your local community college and vocational center!
- Planners with private businesses
- Police and fire departments and tribal environmental departments
- 4-H volunteers and staff already involved in GIS projects
- Army Corp of Engineers
- Non provide or private community trusts: Trees Forever, Isaac Walton, IOWATER, state Ag & Natural Resources foundation (providing funds for equipment and conference registrations, training, etc.).
Are there support groups that will help me learn more?
- Kansas is creating monthly support platforms for pilot program communities. This will involve webinars, conference calls and online site. ESRI and the Geography Alliances have excellent support people as well.
- Local geologists, GIS support groups (ESRI), and GSA.
- on-line community at the ESRI K-12 Education site that can be pretty helpful
- State, region or county GIS User’s groups
- Oklahoma’s YCM provide support through GIS trainers and informal support from group to group.
Other questions are listed here.