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GIS Grant

2017 Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program

Implementing GIS-Based Integrative Learning into New Haven Public Schools' Social Studies Curriculum

Southern Connecticut State University
February 2017 - August 2018

Department of Education


This project is funded in part by a federal grant under Title II of the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L.107-110) administered by the State of Connecticut Office of Higher Education. Opinions and findings expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Education or the State of Connecticut Office of Higher Education, and no official endorsement by either of these agencies should be inferred.

From the Grant Proposal:

Geographic information systems (GIS) has become an integral part of the geography discipline and an expected skill in geography. GIS, however, has only recently begun to be required in geography programs and few current K-12 teachers have knowledge and skill sets needed to integrate GIS into the social studies curriculum. New Haven school teachers will participate in professional development activities including intensive summer institutes consisting of GIS theory, models for effective inquiry-based learning with GIS and using GIS to “do geography”, and modeling GIS-interdisciplinary lessons. Teachers will receive coaching, support, and feedback through intensive experiential learning opportunities which incorporate and support the NHPS Social Studies Content Strands. Follow-up activities will include coaching and support plus additional enrichment workshops throughout the following academic year and will culminate in a second summer institute for sharing GIS lesson plans, experiences, and student work, and provide turnkey mentoring strategies for sharing GIS knowledge, skills, and curricular applications with other teachers. Southern faculty with expertise in GIS and in curriculum and learning will be the primary instructors. The professional development plan is supported by approximately twenty years of scientific research and supports district needs and goals as expressed in meetings with the NHPS Social Studies Supervisor.

This project will enable participating New Haven K12 social studies teachers to accomplish three interrelated goals. They will update their personal knowledge and skills in an area (GIS) considered a relatively new field yet now an integral part of the geography discipline; develop meaningful inquiry-based lessons that incorporate GIS and align with the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework Dimensions of Inquiry; and serve as mentors and coaches, passing along their new knowledge and skills to other teachers. Based on research, we also expect teachers to experience an increase in self-esteem and self-efficacy through gained confidence in their newly gained knowledge and skills with a new and integral tool in geography.

By “doing geography”, that is, by engaging in active, dynamic interaction with real population data and using actual tools of the geographer to answer current and relevant questions and draw conclusions or make connections among disparate data in the real world, the students of these participants will be given knowledge and skills that can be applied to other disciplines and can be taken to the workplace. Use of GIS in social studies and geography classes has also been shown to improve problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and to positively impact (increase) reading as well as science performance.

This project has the potential to impact over 13,000 New Haven students at the grade 6-12 levels.

Southern Connecticut State University has developed a comprehensive professional development program to meet four goals:


  • Participants will demonstrate knowledge of GIS theory that aligns with expectations for a first graduate level course in GIS



  • Participants will demonstrate skills in using GIS technology for problem-solving and critical thinking that align with expectations for a first graduate level course in GIS.



  • Participants will incorporate GIS and appropriate geographic skills into effective inquiry-based lessons that align with compelling questions and curriculum development considerations suggested in the Connecticut Social Studies Frameworks for the grade-level they are teaching.



  • Participants will incorporate GIS into effective interdisciplinary inquiry-based lessons that address grade-level sequence and framework, and align with compelling questions and curriculum development considerations suggested in the Connecticut Social Studies Frameworks and the Connecticut Core Standards for interdisciplinary areas for the grade-level they are teaching.


TQP/GIS Partners and Participants

from Southern Connecticut State University

Elsie Okobi

Dr. Elsie Okobi
School of Education

Matthew Miller

Dr. Matthew Miller 
Assistant Professor
School of Arts & Sciences

Greg McVerry

Dr. John McVerry 
Associate Professor
School of Education

Mary Brown

Dr. Mary Brown 
School of Arts & Sciences

from New Haven Public Schools

        Sandra Clark, Tiffany Barrett, Daisha Brahman, Marie Bryson-Baccus, Kimberly Carter, David Chandler, Zania Collier, James Colon, Susan Hansen, Todney Harris, Bryan Merritt, Mark Osenko, Soraya Potter, Robert Repko, Janet Ricci, Julian Sanders, Dena Vaillancourt, Malcolm Welfare, Alexus Williams, Thomas Woodard

Copyright © 2017 Matthew Miller, PhD, Southern Connecticut State University. Materials may be used in educational settings with attribution to copyright.


Mentoring is about talent development and engagement. It can occur within an organization, between organizations, or as an informal undertaking outside of an organizational network.

We have found that whether a mentoring relationship is being formed with the anticipation of a long - term association or for part of an afternoon, there needs to be a background understanding of what mentoring is as well as how to set goals and evaluate the outcome of the mentoring.

Displayed is the cover of the Turnkey Mentoring System pamphlet - a short pamphlet that is intended to guide you in setting up a rewarding mentoring relationship whether you are the mentee, mentor, or advising others on mentoring. You can click on the cover image to download a copy of it.


Final Evaluation

 From: Dr. Mary Brown
    School of Arts & Sciences

I feel the strengths of the professional development we provided can be categorized in two areas: people and events. Given the issues that arose, without the knowledge and professionalism of Drs. Miller and McVerry, any of the unplanned for issues could have negatively impacted the outcomes of the professional development. The planned professional development package was based on an extensive literature review. By electing to participate, teacher demonstrated their belief in the need to infuse GIS into the social studies curriculum as well as their belief in their ability to do so; the district social studies supervisor’s goals included increasing technology in the district’s social studies curriculum; the SCSU team were assured each school in the NHPS district has sufficient technology to support the program; and the district IT staff met with the project’s steering committee to review what was needed to have GIS software installed on school computers before the school year began. Following the initial intensive training in July 2017, the follow-up activities involved a system of in-service days to review and extend the gained knowledge and skills; the monthly site visits to each TQP|GIS Fellow were intended to support teachers and help troubleshoot problems. Observations during each of the follow-up in-service days and culminating institute and reviews of the monthly site visit reports suggest that elimination of any of the components could have jeopardized the implementations and successes the TQP|GIS Fellows achieved over the 2017-2018 school year.

To read more of Dr. Brown's Evaluation click here

 From: Dr. Matthew Miller
    Assistant Professor
    School of Arts & Sciences

The strengths of this professional development project were introduction of GIS to K-12 teachers in New Haven, the training of teachers on exercises they could immediately implement in their classrooms, and the development of a support network among the teachers regarding GIS exercises. GIS is a very in-demand skillset in the job market yet few people are aware of GIS, let alone exposed to it, before college. This lack of exposure to GIS is going to be an ongoing problem in the K-12 system because very few K-12 teachers have had any training on, or exposure to, GIS. This professional development project was able to train K-12 teachers on GIS terminology, concepts, and the use of GIS software. This will continue to expose students in the New Haven public school system to GIS for years to come. The support network the teachers developed will increase the likelihood that GIS exercises will continue to be used in the New Haven K-12 system. It also opens the possibility that the teachers successfully train peers within their schools on how to use GIS.

To read more of Dr. Miller's Evaluation click here


Susan Hansen
Grade 3
Christopher Columbus Family Academy

"For the past year I have participated in the Implementing GIS based Integrative Learning into the NHPS Social Studies Curriculum. My participation in this program was a great learning experience for me as a student as well as a teacher. As a third grade teacher, I have found that embedding the language and foundations GIS in my young learners a precursor for them to implement GIS programs in not only Social Studies but in other content areas as well. This past year my students learned and became aware of global awareness while learning content while learning how to show their understanding via mapping systems."

"One of the greatest parts of my participation in the GIS program was the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers within my district across grade levels. We had great support from the SCSU professors who had a wealth of ideas to enhance the creation of the implementation of GIS tailored to our grade level and content area needs. The GIS grant opportunity is very multi-disciplinary and any content area teacher would benefit if a grant is offered again in the future."

Mark Osenko
Grade 9
Hill Regional Career Magnet High School

"Going into this workshop last summer I was not certain what to expect. Mainly due to the fact that I had very limited knowledge and experience when it came to GIS. However, spending time with the staff at Southern over the summer and learning about the key components of GIS through lectures and hands on training. I was able to build up my knowledge and create lessons that not only taught the students, but truly peeked their curiosity about geography and believe what was learned by the students will carry on in their future education."

"The staff was exceptionally helpful and guided me each step of the way, and provided support throughout the school year. I would truly recommend teachers attend these workshops if they are offered in the future."