Community Involvement Project

John Wilson, Lafayette College


This project is designed to give students the opportunity to create a GIS project to apply skills they acquired throughout the semester to solve a real world problem. Each year, a local municipality or organization requests GIS help to enhance their operation and management. This project gives the local organizations access to data and workers, and gives the students access to real world problem solving.


Type and level of course
This course is a 200 level course, which requires that students have had an introductory level Geology course. Students from other majors are permitted with the instructors permission.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
This assignment assumes no background in the geosciences

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
Students have had a broad introduction to the use and theory of GIS and RS. Students are expected to be proficient in GIS use, data collection, data management, and data analysis. Students are also expected to have good modelling/display skills.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcView, Spatial and 3D analyst, ArcScene, Excel, and others depending upon the project.

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
5 Weeks


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
Students learn how to take a project from start to finish, and incorporate data from multiple sources, including their own, to solve a complex planning problem. Students often learn different GIS/RS techniques depending upon what the local organization is requesting of them.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
The two main goals of this project are for students to be able to design a GIS project, and use GIS to provide solutions to a problem given to them. In particular, students are often asked to build models and analyses which will be compared to others in the class. This provides the students opportunities to evaluate other methods of solving the same problem.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are asked to solve planning and management problems for a local organization. Students are asked to meet with the group, to understand the problems that they are being asked to solve. Students must then begin to formulate a GIS project which aims to solve some of the problems. Students must incorporate a field data collection component to their project, and review the literature to find similar instances of GIS use in similar problems. Upon completion of their project, students are asked to present their results at a meeting of the organization requesting the help.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are evaluated on their project in four main areas.
  1. GIS Data: The data sets used in their analyses need to be in a geodatabase format, ready to be handed to the requesting organization. All data must be in the same coordinate systems, be fully attributed with Metadata. In addition, all data sets must be complete.
  2. GIS Analysis: The students are evaluated on their analyses used in their projects. Students are evaluated on the amount of analysis, and the type of analysis.
  3. Presentation Layout: Students are required to create posters presenting their findings. These posters are presented in the presence of the organization, and are given to the organization after the projects completion. The posters are evaluated for their presentation, and the completeness of the materials on the poster.
  4. Oral Presentation: Students are evaluated by their fellow student, the instructor, and the requesting organization on their presentation given.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

URLs and References

Download teaching materials and tips

  • Activity Description/Assignment: Community GIS project (Acrobat (PDF) 58kB Jun1 10)
  • Instructors Notes:
  • Solution Set:

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