The Great Outdoors: An ArcGIS Approach Integrating Geographic Knowledge and Environmental Education in Florida
The outdoors provides opportunities to experience nature first-hand, serving as a critical alternative to traditional educational facilities for community members and stakeholders to acquire a more intimate understanding of what natural resources are, while becoming increasingly aware of their interconnectedness with those resources. It is used as a tool by researchers, educators, resource managers, and government officials in demonstrating “hands-on” methods that vastly enhance any curriculum by simply moving outdoors. The outdoors as a classroom can radically enrich an educator’s prospects to diversify concepts and teach skills, objectives, models, and results introduced in either Powerpoints, research articles, or textbooks. In this study, we identify where public schools intersect with government parks within a five-mile radius and aquatic preserves within a one-mile radius. According to the 2014 census in the state of Florida, there are currently 7,423 K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. We report that of those schools, only 536 schools are within a five-mile radius of a government park and 524 are within a one-mile radius of an aquatic preserve. As a result of this study, we make the case that these protected areas should be integrated into institutional curricula for the aforementioned benefits. Moreover, this will facilitate the passing of cultural knowledge to the emergent generation of environmental stewards and Floridians, enhancing both the stakeholders’ worth and the environments’ intrinsic value. We conclude that incorporating these habitats and natural resources into institutional and community-wide activities can be economical and sustainable.