More Brains Needed to Promote Healthy Earth/Focus on STEAM Education

More Brains  Needed to Promote Healthy Earth/Focus on STEAM Education

A few years ago I was inspired to write a blog. I was full steam ahead about sustainability. I had completed a course with V.P. Al Gore and couldn’t wait to share how “green” needed to be in my community of Bronzeville. I knew climate change was real.

This past week Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee are under attack from water but the White House claims there is no global warming. We hear shouts of clean coal, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Battles wage in one county of Michigan trying to slow solar and wind. It’s a tough position for farming counties, giving land over to wind mills and solar fields in lieu of fields of corn, soy, etc. It’s a balancing act.

I’m finding difficulty balancing my time to report on the multitude of things going on in the sustainability sector. There is so much pro climate reality and con climate reality.

Recently I got a boost from some friends who deal with the multitude of conferences, webinars etc. The following post is from a good friend in academia and friend of the climate. Who knew how interesting the study of geography can be and that there are software and associated products that make geography much more than flat maps and round globes. So without further adieu, Professor Nancy Hamill-Governale gives us a look at ESRI.

Nancy Hamill Governale is an Architect in the Chicago area who specializes in Energy Master Planning and Facilities Management. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago where she teaches Interprofessional Projects (IPRO), Integrated Facilities Management (INTM), and mentors special project students.

Extrapolating STEAM Education Benefits Through Visionary Project Development

Decades ago I studied architecture and geography and worked making hand drawn maps for cities and construction projects. It was fascinating looking through plat books and navigating the range and township system prevalent in the Midwest. Discovering a 1923 historic USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) map that represented the topography and buildings located in the township where we lived sparked thoughts about the evolution of land development. Who lived where? How did natural topography influence locational decisions, street layouts and building design. Digging into the layers of a map is akin to getting immersed in a really good book or the latest issue of Time Magazine.

Fast forward to the current Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools available to pretty much everyone. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the ESRI User Conference in San Diego. ESRI created the best know GIS software system, ArcGIS, developed over the past 40 plus years, that turns the world of map making into a comprehensive, data driven, visually interactive playground. If you can think of a correlation between data and its location, GIS provides the tools to visualize that relationship.
How this all relates to STEAM education through visionary project development requires some explanation.

STEAM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Last semester I was introduced to a wonderful group called Bronzeville Urban Development, or B.U.D. They are located on the south side of Chicago and have been working to transform a vacant stretch of land into Community Solar for low income and senior housing. The goal has been to improve an underutilized site, remediate environmental issues, build a functioning photovoltaic (PV) installation and sell energy to the community. The primary side benefit of all this science research, design, technology, adaptive reuse, locational analysis, artistic storytelling on aging embankment facades, is the exposure to kids in the neighborhood.
My involvement with B.U.D. was as an outgrowth from a college level course called an Interprofessional Project at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Over the years we had studied the Smart Grid for electric utilities, renewable technologies such as PV, wind, solar thermal and energy efficiency for the built environment. The B.U.D. vision for this vacant stretch of land provided a perfect real life application for the stuff engineers, architects, scientists, data analysts and others join forces to develop design solutions. And to understand what it takes to collectively solve problems as a team.
So, how does B.U.D. capture younger minds than the college students from the Bronzeville community and expose them to this wonderful design and technology? That is where the visionary project development comes into play. The B.U.D. vision is not about a neighborhood construction project. The B.U.D. vision is about perpetuating a means to fund neighborhood STEAM education for community youth on the south side of Chicago. The return on investment (ROI) from the PV portion of this development will go towards implementing STEAM education and learning by example.
Getting back how ESRI will help B.U.D. provide real life STEAM education to K-12 entities is by offering software to teach GIS. ArcGIS takes practice and time to master. Just as the ESRI User Conference was multi-layered, huge and packed with almost too many options to absorb, ArcGIS software and data inputs are equally complex. ArcGIS offers something for everyone. You start small and grow your knowledge of GIS. ArcGIS has the depth to tackle analyses of our ever changing built environment.
Furthering the vision of B.U.D, in Bronzeville, students can begin to visualize what is happening in their neighborhoods through exposure to the broad capabilities of ArcGIS and ESRI. How can they change things, improve them, re-design their community? ESRI makes geography exciting.
At the ESRI User Conference in San Diego, there was a huge room showing the results of the blend of data science, analysis and graphics centered on maps. Hopefully, in the future, B.U.D. and local community youth will be able to present their own Bronzeville map story at the ESRI User Conference.
One of the maps on display at the show had special relevance to the Bronzeville project in Chicago. The GIS team in Yakima, Washington put together a map with an incredible amount of detail related to Spatial Equity within a city. Their map graphically represents a study, in process, that measures spatial equity (equitable development of land use) throughout Yakima. At about 94,000, Yakima’s population is similar to one of the larger suburbs of Chicago. According to one study, the population of Bronzeville reached a peak of about 113,000 during the 1950’s. In 2010, the population of Bronzeville was about 22,000. As Bronzeville re-develops over time, spatial equity will be impacted. Mapping strategies will allow us to monitor and display spatial equity issues that may result from future city development.
Special thanks to Randy Bonds, Jr. and Tom Sellstad of Yakima, Washington, for allowing us to display their Spatial Equity map.

Filed under: Bronzeville, Climate, Education

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