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Wetlands story map nets student third place

Oct 23, 2020
Hannah Walker impresses at Esri Canada’s inaugural Student Story Map Competition.

By Dave Johnson, Welland Tribune
Hannah Walker has always been passionate about the environment and issues around it.

That passion paid off as the 15-year-old Port Colborne High School student took third place in Esri Canada's inaugural National Student Story Map Contest.

The contest called for students to create story maps using ArcGIS — GIS stands for geographic information system — with a focus on a personal, local, regional or national topic/issue in Canada.

Walker, a Grade 9 student at the high school, focused her story map on the proposed development adjacent to Thundering Waters in Niagara Falls.

"Our class went on a trip to the Walker Living Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake and learned about issues including Thundering Waters and the development of it," she said.

Students heard from Karl Dockstader and Owen Bjorgan on the Indigenous perspective around Thundering Waters while at the campus, run by District School Board of Niagara.

Port High geography teacher Jonathan Fletcher said when the contest came up through Esri — a privately held, Canadian-owned company — he told students they had to look at an issue that was a long-lasting problem, had many different perspectives, something not easily-solvable and had a spatial component to it.

"Hannah wanted to take on … the value of wetlands," said Fletcher.

Walker said she started gathering data and making her story map knowing the Niagara Falls wetland was not the only one in Canada facing the same issue.

She learned the wetland's importance and its impact on the area around it, the Niagara region and Canada as a whole.

"I looked at the data on a map to see what developments were near it, and how that impacted animals living in and around the wetlands.

"From there, I looked at possible solutions. It took me a couple of weeks to put together."

Walker ended up taking third in the country with her story map, which was judged on the map itself and supporting web maps, geographic analysis and supplementary details.

"I didn't expect it all … I was really surprised," said Walker.

Fletcher, who uses GIS in class to engage his students and show real world applications, said Walker is a very strong student and though she didn't think she's do well, he thought she had a chance.

"I said, 'Let's see what we can do,'" said Fletcher, adding Walker asked for input on the project at times and that input was allowed. "I was pleasantly surprised when she got third."

Walker said coming into the school year she didn't think she would have a huge interest in geography.

"After taking this course, I'm thinking it's something I'd seriously consider for a career.

Walker's story map can be found at ‪https://arcg.is/1GuyOj.