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Community Geography Past Projects

Community Geography Initiative Projects (2001-2003)


Read the final report on the Community Geography Initiative (.pdf file)!

The Institute for Portland Metropolitan Studies trained community-based organizations in GIS and asset mapping to help citizens use information more strategically. Funding for this training was provided by The Ford Foundation through a three-year grant.

Each year the Community Geography Project chose community partners to work with. Below are links to the groups we worked with during the term of the Ford grant. Integral to each project was the relationship between community-based organizations and local schools. This is in part an effort to imbed the technical skills needed to develop a GIS within the community fabric. By training kids in GIS and involving them in local projects, partners strive to create a community resource of technical expertise they will be able to draw on in the future.

2002-2003

Johnson Creek Watershed Council/Trillium School

The initial projects formulated by staff and volunteers included an interactive fish survey webpage with a GIS element, an investigation into stream bed changes due to WPA channeling during the 1930s and a look at local and watershed-wide demographics. The webpage project was concluded in early January, 2003, and the other two projects continue to be developed and have spawned a fourth poster project aimed at documenting the restoration efforts along a Johnson Creek tributary that holds the best promise for supporting native salmon populations in the watershed.

Trillium Charter School, in partnership with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC), has used GIS to better understand the Johnson Creek watershed and the regional and local forces that affect its overall health. A group of twelve 6th graders participated in the GIS training program. Since the school did not have an operational computer lab, these students were transported to GIS lab facilities at Portland State University once a week for a two-hour GIS lesson during the 2002-2003 school year. Students also participated in field exercises during the week.

The goal for the first trimester (Fall, 2002) was to introduce students to GIS and the concept of a watershed. Students learned basic ArcView GIS skills using local datasets, such as a background hillshade, that helped them understand how a watershed is defined. Population and zoning datasets were used to highlight the unique pressures urban development places on this particular watershed. JCWC also provided their membership database. Lessons and exercises centered on "asking spatial questions" and producing maps that informed people about something in the watershed. Before the December break, the students produced a poster of their work including maps that defined a watershed, located the JCWC membership, analyzed potential point source pollution sites along the Johnson Creek corridor, highlighted aspects of their field experiences and identified the schools within the watershed for future outreach efforts.

In January, 2003, the focus moved into using GIS as a research tool. The Trillium students "adopted" a local park within the watershed (Tideman Johnson Park) and conducted field research identifying human activity in the park, animal and plant characteristics, and aquatic habitat. The data collected provided the material for the students' continuing lessons in GIS concepts and tools. In April, 2003, the students presented their field work at the GIS in Action conference. During this time, a JCWC AmeriCorps volunteer assisted in the field work, providing a valuable connection to the

Oregon Child Development Coalition/Cleveland High School

Friends of Trees/Portsmouth Middle School/Winterhaven Middle School

Eight students from Portsmouth Middle School, located in the Portsmouth neighborhood of north Portland, were involved with the project. Students from Doug Saulter's seventh and eighth grade computer science class assisted Friends of Trees in collecting data about the health of trees planted in the neighborhood and assisted in the analysis of this data. Students received weekly instruction in GIS software and geospatial analysis techniques. They created several outstanding maps regarding the density and overall characteristics of the plantings and presented these finding to two civic organizations (Friends of Trees and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council). Their poster was also put on display at the GIS in Action Conference. One significant contribution of the students' work was the inspiration it provided Friends of Trees' staff and volunteers in visualizing information about their plantings in new and creative ways. FOT staff and volunteers who were involved with the students also were able to hone their own GIS skills through teaching.

Winterhaven Middle School is a special focus school with an emphasis on math, science and technology. A group of six middle school students (mostly 7th grade) participated in the partnership with Friends of Trees. CGP staff conducted lessons in ArcView GIS during a morning study hall session once a week during the 2002-2003 school year. A Friends of Trees AmeriCorps volunteer also participated in these training sessions, providing valuable information about FoT activities and the Access tree planting database under construction. The Winterhaven students monitored and collected data about the trees in the Brooklyn/Sellwood neighborhood. Using FoT's city-wide dataset and local data that they collected, the students applied GIS skills such as geocoding, querying and classification. Students were asked to develop questions and create maps that helped to answer those questions. The maps that some students produced addressed the issue of species diversity, prompting FoT to remove some species from their tree selection list. Additional tasks included developing methodologies for gauging and mapping tree coverage in the Portland Metropolitan area using high resolution aerial photography to assist FoT in planning future outreach activities. The students presented these methodologies and findings at the GIS in Action conference in April 2003.

2001-2002

Old Town History Project/Lincoln High School

Sherwood Institute for Sustainability/Sherwood Public Schools

As a first step toward realizing the goals of the partnership, SIS engaged the Sherwood School District in the development of a community-based youth job-training program called the Sherwood Youth Corp. Youth Corp students received CAM (certificate of advanced mastery) credit for their involvement in the various projects. The goal of the training was to assist in incorporating GIS into the design and implementation of several projects in partnership with community groups who needed volunteer assistance, technical expertise and useful outreach/analysis products. The projects were specifically designed to address issues relevant to the seven categories in the Vision plan.

Since neither the City of Sherwood nor the School District had access to GIS software, the initial task was to secure a license for ArcView GIS software through ESRI's Community Atlas program. During the summer of 2001, approximately 24 Youth Corp students learned about GIS and cartographic techniques using internet mapping sources and a GIS freeware program, ArcExplorer. They submitted a webpage describing their city through maps which resulted in the award of a site license for ArcView GIS. This license was installed in the Middle School (the High School's computer lab was under construction at the time). The submission of two more webpages secured an additional ArcView license and an extension package (3D Analyst) for the High School.

During this time, the CGP and SIS mentored the development of several ongoing projects involving cooperation between the Youth Corp students and community organizations. In addition, the CGP provided technical training and assistance to Middle School teachers interested in incorporating GIS analysis into the technical arts and science curriculum. Adult volunteers from the Sherwood Historical Society also participated in training sessions.

The Wetlands Conservancy/Open Meadow Alternative School

Open Meadow, located in the St. John's neighborhood of north Portland, worked with the Wetlands Conservancy to map the great wetlands of the region. Initially, they had hoped to inventory regional wetlands and include the results in a larger statewide map and database created by the Wetlands Conservancy. These products were to be presented on a web site to provide a statewide context for localized wetland projects, a tool and source of information for the prioritization of wetland restoration and conservation opportunities, a reference for case studies of a variety of restoration efforts, and an opportunity to network for groups and individuals interested in wetlands conservation.

Students from Open Meadow selected the wetlands that they proposed to investigate, with the guidance of the Wetlands Conservancy. They then worked together with local interest groups, watershed councils and public agencies to identify current and planned restoration activities for the selected wetlands. Once students collected information, the Wetlands Conservancy, PSU and other community groups plan to develop graphic digital materials that reflect restoration activities.