ES/GE 217 Mapping and GIS

Dykstra Eusden

Bates College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


This course focuses on learning the principles of GIS through extensive computer use of ArcGIS via examples from geology and environmental science. Lectures will supplement the laboratory component of the course. Students are introduced to cartography, common sources of geographic data, methods for collecting novel spatial data, and data quality. Finally, students learn to extend the capabilities of GIS software to tackle more advanced spatial analysis and data management tasks. Each student does an independent research project using GIS data.

Course URL:
Resource Type: Course Information
Special Interest: GIS
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14)
Course Size:


Course Context:

This is a mid-level course with one hour of lecture and 3 hours of lab each week with one required weekend trip. One intro geology course or e.s. course serves as the pre-req. 40% of the students are geo majors, 40% e.s. majors, and the rest are random folks from across campus. The course may, by petition, satisfy a 100-level or a 300-level course in the geo major.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to adequately use ArcGIS v 9.3.
Students should be able to make geologic maps in ArcGIS using gps locational and structural data.
Students should be able to find GIS data on the web and use it in their research projects (thesis or otherwise).
Students should be able to frame and write research proposals in e.s. or geology that utilize GIS.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The weekly homework exercises and weekly labs give the practical GIS experience as well as the map making skills.
The independent project for the last third of the semester gives students experience in finding GIS data, writing a research proposal, and doing higher end GIS work. Multiple presentations about the research project help us assess students progress towards these goals.

Skills Goals

quantitative abilities
independent research

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The lab with its hands-on practical GIS work and the independent project are key to the course. Grades on exercises and labs as well as in-lab individual discussions with students as they do their GIS work gives us a sense of how they are meeting the goals. All students in the class present posters of the independent project at a campus-wide research symposium which also helps us assess their progress.

Attitudinal Goals

gaining confidence in using Arc independently
learning how to solve GIS problems in multiple ways
increasing their understanding of spatial data

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

As the course evolves over the semester we are less prescribed in telling them what to do for lab and write more generally about the task at hand. This forces them to find their own ways of using GIS to complete the task.


Grades, of course, on the exercises, labs, and independent project. Oral presentations on their independent project. Campus-wide symposium poster presentation on their independent project. We ask not just for maps that are a result of their ArcGIS work in lab, but also a write-up of the methods they used or a description of what a particular technique does (e.g. illumination in a hillshade). They also write a 5-10 pg paper describing their independent project focusing on the GIS methods and metadata.


ES/GE 217 Mapping and GIS syllabus (Microsoft Word 68kB May24 10)

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