Teaching Notes

Note: This chapter was retired in October 2018. The visualization tool (My World GIS) is no longer supported.

Example Output

Example Output
Map displayed on a My World GIS map.
This map is centered around an area in Baker County, Florida, and shows layers of data for an area with a 15 km buffer around Florida Interstate 10. By using My World software, the GIS data illustrates various land-use and geographical data and three proposed development sites within the defined area.

Grade Level

The chapter is appropriate for students in grades 7 through 12, as well as for undergraduate students.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:

  • navigate land-use, wetland, and political geography data using My World GIS;
  • use geospatial data to describe local land-use distribution;
  • use wetland classification data to identify wetland spatial distribution;
  • create buffers for roads and wetlands;
  • visualize the relationship between wetland location and exurban zoning; and
  • conduct spatial analysis in order to make informed decisions.


Wetland protection is becoming more important as exurban pressures increase. My World GIS provides students with the tool to conduct data analysis for informed decision-making and critical thinking. Perhaps more importantly, this chapter provides students with the knowledge and skills to conduct their own local analysis.

This chapter provides teachers with an opportunity to teach students basic land-use and wetland analysis from datasets that are widely available. A teacher could easily adapt this project for her/his own "backyard" use.

Background Information

Exurban growth increasingly places significant pressuresocial, environmental, and politicalon land-use planners. Issues of scale are central to conducting spatial analysis. Often, municipal boundaries are arbitrary, particularly when agricultural land is transformed to another use in isolated "islands" outside the normal municipal boundaries. These arbitrary developments lead to habitat fragmentation. In areas of gradually sloping topography, exurban pressures also create water runoff issues. Natural wetland habitat has been shown to reduce the impact of flooding. Facing these challenges, planners need to consider all factors when planning new development.

Additional Resources

  • Wonders of WetlandsExcellent educator and background resources. Includes: hands-on activities for students, background slide shows, and reading materials.
  • EPA Wetlands InformationBackground information on a variety of wetland topics and issues. Fact sheets are available for download from this site.
  • Land Use and Land Cover Classification system - Anderson (in PDF)Explains how satellite data is converted to land cover maps. Contains classification code tables.
  • National Wetlands Inventory ReportsStatus and Trends, reports on the nations wetlands, provides photographic evidence of land-use change back to the 1950's. Page contains links to download PDF files.

Instructional Strategies

If you have wetlands near your school, begin with a field trip to the site. Before the trip, probe students about their pre-existing knowledge. Use the experience as an engaging activity.

This particular chapter serves well for exploring and building explanations (second and third steps in 5E model) pertaining to the topic of protecting wetlands. If possible, have each student work on their own computer, but collaborate and discuss in small teams. Upon completion of this chapter, users should have the skills to apply to their local wetland (visited before you began this chapter). Have students explore the area around the visited wetland and propose a plan for protecting the wetland from future development (fourth and fifth steps in the 5E model).

More about the 5E instructional model.

Learning Contexts

This lesson provides an opportunity in either an Earth Science or Environmental Science (Studies) course in which students can learn about GIS technologies and make decisions based on spatial data. This chapter can also be used in geography or social studies classes.

Science Standards

Grades 5-8

8ASI1.3 Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.

8ASI1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.

8ASI1.5 Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.

8ASI1.6 Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions.

8ASI1.7 Communicate scientific procedures and explanations. With practice, students should become competent at communicating experimental methods, following instructions, describing observations, summarizing the results of other groups, and telling other students about investigations and explanations.

Understandings about scientific inquiry

8ASI2.4 Technology used to gather data enhances accuracy and allows scientists to analyze and quantify results of investigations.

8ASI2.5 Scientific explanations emphasize evidence, have logically consistent arguments, and use scientific principles, models and theories. The scientific community accepts and uses such explanations until displaced by better scientific ones. When such displacement occurs, science advances.

Grades 9-12

12ASI1.3 Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.

12ASI1.4 Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.

12ASI1.6 Communicate and defend a scientific argument.

Understandings about scientific inquiry

12DESS3.3 Interactions among solid Earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and organisms have resulted in the ongoing evolution of Earth's system.

12ASI2.4 Mathematics is essential in scientific inquiry.

12ASI2.5 Scientific explanation must adhere to criteria such as: a proposed explanation must be logically consistent; it must abide by the rules of evidence; it must be open to questions and possible modification; and it must be based on historical and current scientific knowledge

12ASI2.6 Results of scientific inquiry - new knowledge and methods - emerge from different types of investigations and public communication among scientists.

Geography Standards

The World in Spatial Terms

1. How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.

2. How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context.

3. How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface.

Places and Regions

4. The physical and human characteristics of places.

5.That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.

Physical Systems

7. The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface

8. The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface

Human Systems

9. The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface.

11. The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface.

12. The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement.

13. How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface.

Environment and Society

14. How human actions modify the physical environment

16. The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources

The Uses of Geography

18. How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future.

Time Required

Approximately five 45-minute periods are required to complete the Case Study and the content in the chapter. However, this lesson can be adapted to require less classroom time by downloading the datasets and My World GIS project file ahead of time. Instructors may also choose to start the GIS activity with Part 3 in order to shorten the lesson and focus more on GIS skills and analysis.

Teaching Resources

The My World GIS project files are provided here and directly within the chapter at the end of each part.

Part 1: Wetlands.m3vz ( 15.5MB Oct9 10)
Part 2: Wetlands_Part_2.m3vz ( 20.7MB Oct9 10)
Part 3: Wetlands_Part_3.m3vz ( 20.6MB Oct11 10)
Part 4: Wetlands_Part_4.m3vz ( 25.6MB Oct11 10)
Part 5: Wetlands_Part5.m3vz ( 25.6MB Oct12 10)