Interactive BYOD Content for the Science Classroom

September 26, 2016

Today’s classroom computing environments vary vastly, and sometimes it's a challenge to find good technology-based, easily-accessible science resources. In this inaugural post, we will introduce an easy-to-use, ready-for-tomorrow Earth science GeoInquiry activity, created by the Esri Education team, for your classroom. Best of all, it’s free, with no software to install or log-ins to remember!

So what is a GeoInquiry? A GeoInquiry is a 15 minute, pre-built activity that allows teachers to cover required content using a free, online, interactive map. The activities are standards-based and closely follow the map concepts taught in leading U.S. textbooks. The streamlined version below of an actual GeoInquiry helps students understand landforms information quickly. The science-based GeoInquiries follow the 5E instructional model, including answers to the questions posed. 

Let’s dive into the geospatial inquiry series that exposes your students to the wonders of data and interactive mapping!

This land is your land

Open a web browser to for the map needed to complete the following exercise. 

Rough, rugged, or smooth, what landforms cover North America's surface?

Once you have the map open in your browser, click on Modify Map.

Then click the Content button on the left, and check the box in front of the Landform Marker layer.

You will now see Edit at the top of the map. Click the Edit button, and then click the Land Use Marker button.

Click and drag on the map to "sketch" around entire regions that you feel look similar to each other. (If necessary, zoom in to see more detail.)

What's elevation got to do with it?

Click the Edit button to get the Contents pane back.Click the About button in the panel (left of the Contents button).Choose the Open presentation link to view the presentation. (You can still zoom in or out or pan while in the presentation mode.)From your understanding and a little online research, pick out one particular feature and write a description of how these features might have formed.Exit out of the current tab that has the presentation running to explore the online map further.

Would a bay by any other name... sound the same? 

Use the Bookmarks button to find, write down, and differentiate one or more of the following types of landforms.

Coastal featuresFreshwater landformsOcean bodiesRiver-farmed landformsHigher elevation termsLarge ice features

GeoInquiries in the Field 

Finally, how about using this GeoInquiry as a springboard to taking students outside?

With GPS units in hand, have students walk around the school grounds and monitor the altitude and physical features of the land they are walking on. While they are out looking at the grounds, perhaps they could test water quality, soil texture composition, plant identifications using Peterson field guides? 

The GeoInquiries are meant to be a short introduction into pertinent content using the interactive ArcGIS Online maps and data while exciting students about the world around them. GeoInquiries are accessible from any Internet capable device: Tablet, iPad, Chromebook, or laptop. Consider using them in different experiential settings: one computer with projector class discussion or one-to-one device activity for students. They can be modified to reflect different instructional settings. If the teacher would rather tailor the GeoInquiry with different questions, download, then edit the document in Microsoft Word (2013 or newer) to create custom student worksheets! 

Because they are published under Creative Commons, they can be loaded to the school or district learning management system such as Edmodo, Blackboard, Portals, or Google Classroom. A flipped classroom setting is perfect for this type of experience. Assign students the GeoInquiry for investigation prior to a class discussion or further investigation. Use these in any way that will suit your classroom needs best. 

Currently, there are 60 GeoInquiries in the collection including science, history, geography and elementary (science and social studies) topics, more will be highlighted in future blog posts. For access to all of the GeoInquiries, go to

GISetc’s goal is to advance education, improve quality of curricula, contribute authentic research and learning projects, and to provide training and skill development in an atmosphere of discovery. You can learn more about GISetc and integrating data and maps into your classroom at Follow their updates on Twitter, @gisetc, or Facebook. If you would like to learn how your school can have free geospatial technology, contact She would love to help you map the day!

Anita Palmer

Anita Palmer taught middle and high school technology and social studies.  She has authored and taught over one hundred technology institutes and classes for K-12 teachers focusing on integration of GIS technologies throughout the curriculum both in the USA and in the international arena over the past ten years.

Mrs. Palmer is co-author of the original “Mapping Our World: GIS Lessons for Educators”, the community-based” Community Geography: GIS in Action!” Teacher’s Guide, the newly released Our World “Mapping Our World” and “Analyzing Our World” as well as the first GPS activity book “Going Places with GPS.”  Mrs. Palmer was a member of the development team for the NASA funded “Birdseye View” primary school curriculum and was one of three developers and teachers of the Eastern Michigan University GIS Masters Certificate program for educators.  She is an active member of TAGE and GEM in Texas and a teacher consultant in the Geographic Alliance in Nevada and inducted into the GAIN Hall of Fame in 2004.