ACM Pedagogic Resources > ACM/FaCE > Projects > Outdoor Classroom > Activities > Gathering field data using a GPS and ArcGIS 9.3 Part 1: Collecting Point Data

Gathering field data using a GPS and ArcGIS 9.3 Part 1: Collecting Point Data

Jeff Clark, Lawrence University


Students learn how GPS and GIS can be used to gather and analyze point data. The main outcome is a digital map of campus trees classified by size and type. The technical skills learned in this lab will be used in a subsequent lab to analyze water quality data.

Learning Goals

The content goals are simply to learn the GIS and GPS interface/navigation as well as to learn how to collect point data. Students explore the limitation of GPS system accuracy and how this can be improved with the use of aerial photography.
Some rudimentary data analysis such as color-coded classification is explored. Students are asked to develop and test simple hypotheses regarding GPS accuracy and proximity to buildings.
At this point the equipment (i.e. Tablet PC and GPS receiver) and software (ArcGIS 9.3) is completely unfamiliar to the students, so the focus is on learning navigation and use of the GIS. Students are required to think a bit about how to best use symbology to represent their data.
This exercise is entirely based upon mobile technology.

Context for Use

Integrates mobile technologies into an introductory level course: Introduction to Environmental Science
Exercise is used as part of a sequence of exercises.

Skills that students should have mastered before beginning this activity:

None, this is the first lab in an introductory environmental science course. This skills based exercise is the first of a two-part lab. The second lab (see The Effects of Storm Water Management on Water Quality) uses these skills to analyze water quality parameters through a set of in-line storm water detention ponds north of Appleton, WI.

Description and Teaching Materials

Lab1_GPS_GIS (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 241kB Aug5 10)


There are several check point questions throughout the lab and the map at the end clearly indicates if they gathered and classified the data properly.

References and Resources

Supporting data

The underlying aerial photography was gleaned from the City of Appleton.


This activity is based upon one created by the folks as Vassar College. Please see for more information and some informative videos.