In the Spotlight

Summer Extern Drives Students’ Knowledge of Mapping

As part of the 2007 Summer Externship Program, Nick Wolfe, a Social Studies teacher from Hartland Elementary School, spent a week at Tele Atlas after school let out at the end of June. A first time extern, Nick shares his story about his experience in an Upper Valley workplace:

“Having heard from a colleague at school about externships, I immediately knew that I wanted my externship to be involved with something to do with mapping and technology. Tele Atlas became an obvious match, and we went from there.

In the back of my mind, I assumed Tele Atlas would be letting me drive around in their special vans with the cool sensors on the top that collect information to be used with their various applications. I quickly found out that this particular job required a little more training than my one week externship would allow. Instead, Tele Atlas preferred that I help them with something that I actually had some background in—lesson plans. In return, I would get to go through orientation as if I was a new employee, able to see how all of the magic happens. In addition to that, I would also gain valuable access to one of Tele Atlas’ most prized resources, Don Cooke.

During the week I spent at Tele Atlas, I split my time between a few different tasks. I began by organizing existing GIS Day curriculum, which consisted of various lessons that employees use when going out into schools for GIS Day. Where I saw holes in the curriculum, I created new lessons to be included. The second part of my work included participation in the new employee orientation. I was lucky enough to go around the entire campus and see first hand what goes on at Tele Atlas and how it is all connected. That was a truly incredible day for me! Lastly, I was able to meet with Don Cooke to discuss various applications of the content and technology found at Tele Atlas to my classroom. He was generous enough to show me how to use handheld GPS units with students, as well as brainstorm creative ways to incorporate GIS into my 7th and 8th grade classroom.

After only a few weeks of the new school year I began building momentum for various GIS activities. I have been working specifically with my 7th graders on increasing geography skills: most notably mapping and latitude and longitude. The plan is to get them out into the world to do some mapping of their own. Long term, I envision students mapping the town of Hartland in various forms, as well as creating computerized replicas of historic Hartland buildings with researched reports, all of which can be placed in Google Earth for the world to see!
Overall, I had a wonderful time at Tele Atlas. It was truly eye opening to be able to see how some of basic skills and ideas I teach students translate into real jobs. I have found myself almost daily making connections between what we are studying and how I saw it applied at Tele Atlas. That is truly invaluable when working with Junior High School students, something I wouldn’t be able to share if not for my time spent at Tele Atlas this summer.”


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