Going geospatial in science – a framework for teachers

The following framework aims to offer indicators of how geospatial learning can be integrated into science. The framework is not meant to be exhaustive, but to provide a starting point from which pre-service teachers and teachers can begin to come to grips with geospatial learning. The framework focuses on three levels of geospatial thinking:

– Developing descriptive & geometric understanding in students

– Establishing an analytical understanding of structures, objects and phenomena

– Advancing inferential understanding of topological patterns

Suggested activities are made with the GeoSciTeach and GeoSciTeacher android applications in mind, so the suggested activities point to how these applications can fulfil geospatial learning in science. It is worth bearing in mind that with geospatial applications in science ‘many curriculum design issues remain unresolved’, and that ‘[t]here is no single correct answer. GIS curricula will vary, for example, by:

    • Level and student background
    • Delivery mechanism
    • Intended outcomes
    • Instructor preferences’

David J. Unwin (1997) ‘Curriculum Design for GIS’

With this in mind the suggested framework below aims to give you some starting points to begin to explore geospatial activities in science using geospatial integrated systems.

Geospatial skills: Teaching and Learning suggestions

Key geospatial concepts

Key terminology

Suggested Activities with GeoSciTeach

SECTION A:  Developing descriptive & geometric understanding in students

Students understand and identify own location



Use Google map so students can identify their present location e.g. Kew gardens to locate where you are; Take a photo & upload to Google Earth

Students can identify, label, capture, and preserve appearance




Students record ambient data & record & link to their location or country; soil, humidity, temperature can be recorded; photographs can be record and QR code can be used to quickly access information from the internet.  Recorded information can be uploaded to Google Earth and analysed later

Students can understand and identify the location of collected data




Students use video to record information about selected data, or interpretations about data; Note taking can be used to enhance understanding by allowing further questions to be recorded; GPS, latitude and longitude coordinates can be used with uploaded Google earth data files to later construct geometric areas defined in terms of shapes within the focus model
SECTION B: Establishing an analytical understanding of structures, objects and phenomena

Students make connections and reason about data





Find relationships,

Establish Patterns

Students zoom and pan within a map space which enables them to make connections about data sets when multiple sets are gathered

Students understand relationships amongst data sets and see patterns

Students understand the distribution of plants by looking at how they link to different parts of the world via Google Earth/ and or other maps

Students define and calculate distance, such as how to get from A to B

Students through photo tagging begin to understand the relationship of one place compared to another; They overlay information onto maps and real images to compare information
SECTION C:  Advancing inferential understanding of topological patterns

Students understand the structure of objects

Integrate complex data, 


Calculate relationships e.g. time or distance


Students use the leaf overlay/silhouette tool to see analyse the leaf mosaic (with the camera) and isolate measurement of incident (light) radiation

Students understand space in either 2 or 3D

The leaf mosaic (with the camera) is analysed to interpret the measurement of incident (light) radiation on leaf mosaic

Students understand views of data such as overlaying data to the future or past

Students record data at a particular place then use a time slider to see how the ecosystem might change in the future (from uploaded data). This could be a way of looking at normal ecological success (i.e. natural) and also human impact/disasters/global warming etc.

Students understand perspective/orthogonal views of maps

Perspective/orthogonal maps are be made post-hoc by tagging plants (this would include longitude, latitude and altitude data) and then the information is shifted to 3D perspective view allowing you to explore data visually.


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