Today in Frenchtown Elementary School, 17 lucky students received new winter coats from Columbia Sportswear as part of our new pilot GIS program called “Treasure Hunt in the Treasure State”. Developed by Bear Trust International and the Rocky Mountain Research Station, the goal of this program is to provide engaging opportunities for our local kids to learn GIS skills, which includes mapping and analyzing spatial data. Because we live in the Treasure State, we thought: why not introduce GIS to students by going on a treasure hunt?
For this pilot program, participating students are creating a treasure map of the 9 Mile Area, which they will use to try and identify where undiscovered gold may lie. With GIS maps in hand, they’ll get out into the field, learn compass and pacing to find their treasure sites, and pan for gold. But that’s not the end of the story. Students will also learn about historical measures that were used to extract gold and discuss how this may have affected water quality. Is water quality still affected today, 150 years later? To test this question, students will collect and analyze water samples from streams above and below existing gold mine sites.
What will they find? They may find heavy metals and chemicals like cyanide, lead, cadmium, arsenic. “At the end of this program, we hope the students will discover that the greatest treasures in the Treasure State include not only shiny minerals like gold but also resources like clean water”. As with many programs in Missoula County, this pilot program is highly collaborative. Bear Trust International’s Melissa Reynolds-Hogland and Rocky Mountain Research Station GIS expert John Hogland co-wrote the lesson plan, and are helping in the classroom. Dalene Normand and Brandon Wood are leading the in-class program at Frenchtown Elementary School. Montana Association of Geographic Professionals helped fund the program and is paying for water sample kits, and GIS 4 MT is providing all the ArcMap GIS software for free to kids at every school throughout MT. When Columbia Sportswear heard about this program and all the partners involved, they jumped on board and provided free coats “so that the students can stay warm and dry while they are in the field collecting data and panning for treasure”. Learn MORE