Cranston Public Schools is pleased to congratulate Hope Highlands Middle School seventh-grader Caden Baum and his competition faculty advisor, Hope Highlands science educator Paul Spencer, on this year's Rhode Island middle school first-place win in the
Cranston Public Schools is pleased to congratulate Hope Highlands Middle School seventh-grader Caden Baum and his competition faculty advisor, Hope Highlands science educator Paul Spencer, on this year’s Rhode Island middle school first-place win in the Environmental Systems Research Institute’s Aeronautical Reconnaissance Coverage Geographic Information System (ESRI ArcGIS) Mapping Competition.
Last spring, Baum entered and won the Rhode Island middle school first-place award for the ESRI ArcGIS Mapping Competition after having been introduced to the topic by Spencer. This year, he entered as a seventh-grader and won again. Both years, Baum has chosen to donate his winnings to Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
Baum was first introduced to the concept of digital mapping prior to the COVID-19 pandemic’s shutting down of in-person teaching and learning and was able to take his interest and pursue it further with Spencer, who helped advise him when it came time to enter the first year’s competition. This year’s entry required much more independent work by Baum, because of the pandemic.
“This year because of the pandemic, it wasn’t as easy for us to connect in person and Caden had to do most of the work for the competition by himself,” Spencer said.
The student entries had to follow very specific guidelines and focus on a topic that was beneficial to the environment.
“Last year my topic was renewable energy and this year it was state waterways,” Baum said.
In addition to knowing how to create layered maps and connecting them to a topic and a beneficial purpose, the project required Baum to spend a great deal of time doing research, collecting data, and taking photos and drone footage. He visited waterways located all over the state of Rhode Island, including reservoirs, wildlife refuges and state management areas, all of which he created digital mapping for use in his presentation. He also created maps that detailed invasive species in local waterways and how those species impact the waterways’ integrity.
“My parents spent weeks driving me back and forth to different places to take my photographs and to use my drone,” he said. “Of all of the photos submitted, one or two could be stock photos but the rest had to be my own. I also had to submit GPS coordinates and any of the data I needed to do the mapping.”
Once Baum had collected and analyzed his research, data and footage, and created his maps, he then had to create a detailed presentation, which was sent to the judges for the statewide competition. Five winners were chosen at the middle and high school levels and those winners were then sent for consideration to the regional level and if chosen, on to the national level. You can view Baum’s presentation here: torymaps.arcgis.com/stories/ddf05da932184c69bcc0c6e36e4fda02.
When asked how much background knowledge he knew about the Acrgis system used for mapping, Baum stated that he had learned a little bit about it when covering topics such as topography and geography but that he enjoyed the more in-depth learning that he gained beyond that introductory knowledge as he worked on his initial competition entry with Spencer, who emphasized that mapping crosses many curriculum areas and can be applicable to many real world situations.
“Maps are not solely a social studies topic,” he said. “They have tons of uses in other areas like English language arts when providing a historical context for literature, and it lends itself to topics in both science and math also. GIS is also a huge career opportunity. The CDC and the FBI, environmental planners and city planners all use digital mapping. Most of the maps we were looking at this year from the CDC tracking COVID cases used this platform for their mapping. There are lots of analytical tools that go further into this than even we can do at this level.”
When asked whether or not this might be a career possibility for Baum, he stated that it’s still too soon to know.
“It’s definitely interesting and it sounds like a fun job,” he said. “It could be something that I’d like to do, but I’m not sure yet.”
One thing he is sure of, Baum would like to enter the competition again next year, and can do so throughout middle and high school, as it is offered through the 12th grade.
“I’d definitely like to enter it again next year, I just need to think of a new topic,” he said.