James Madison University

Welcome to the Geospatial Semester

“Geospatial Analysis is unlike any other topic I’ve studied before, it’s applicable to almost everything inside and outside of school. It gives you experience with cutting edge technology. It’s great!”
Katrina, Fairfax County

“When I signed up for this class, I thought I would be just another science class that our school would try to put a “fun” spin on, but this class is one of the most exciting classes I’ve ever taken. It makes you think, it challenges you to be innovative, but it’s something you can use. It makes the work more meaningful when you know you’re doing something that affects your life.”
Julie, Fairfax County

The Geospatial Semester is a unique partnership between high schools in Virginia and the Integrated Science and Technology department at James Madison University (JMU).  High school seniors participating in the Geospatial Semester take classes on geospatial technology in their home school and can earn credit from JMU.  A key aspect of the program is a focus on local projects connecting students, technology, and their community.

The Geospatial Semester was created by Dr. Bob Kolvoord with the help of Ms. Kathryn Keranen, and is designed to offer options to high school seniors to keep them engaged in their final semester(s).  It differs from Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate in that there is no high-stakes test nor is there a push to cover too much content.  Rather, the students are given a chance to broaden their horizons by learning a cutting-edge technology and applying it to explore a local issue.  Students build spatial thinking and project management skills as they begin the transition from secondary education to higher education or the workplace.

The Geospatial Semester started in 2005 with four schools (Hopewell HS in Hopewell, VA, Norcom HS in Portsmouth, George Wythe HS in Richmond, and Lafayette HS in Williamsburg.

In the five years of the project, the following school districts have participated: Albemarle, Arlington County, Clarke, Colonial Heights City, Fairfax County, Hopewell City, Loudoun County, Page County, Portsmouth City, Rappahannock County, Richmond City, Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School (Augusta County, Staunton City, Waynesboro City), Stafford County, and Williamsburg City/James City County. Hundreds of students have taken part and earned credit.

Student projects have included work with the Nature Conservancy, various city and local governmental agencies, and private businesses.  They have created an evacuation plan for a small city, maps to analyze crime, a survey of impermeable surfaces for land conservation, maps to reassess school bus routing and much more.

Students have parlayed the experience into summer internships, job assignments in the military, and college majors that feature GIS.  They have also won a number of awards for their work.

If you’d like more information about the Geospatial Semester, please contact Dr. Bob Kolvoord.

If you are a Geospatial Semester student and wish to request a copy of your transcript, you may do so from the Registrar’s website.

Read the Geospatial Semester’s ‘Replication Guide’ to learn more about how your school or district might start its own program.

Read Dr. Danny Edelson's (VP for Education, National Geographic Society) take on the Geospatial Semester.

Read about the Geospatial Semester in the T.H.E. Journal

The Geospatial Semester is supported by JMU Outreach and the Provost’s Office, along with ESRI.

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