Spatial Thinking for NRM

Promoting spatial thinking in natural resources management through community mapping

The Case of urban and rural secondary schools

Ended in April 2015.


“Promoting spatial thinking in natural resources management through community mapping: The case of urban and rural secondary schools”-Project was a two years pilot project funded by DFID through Innovation for Education Project based in MINEDUC. It was carried out by RIT in consortium with RECOR and CGIS. The targeted schools are located in Southern Province, one in Huye District: Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare in urban area and another in Gisagara District: Groupe Scolaire St Philippe Neri in rural area. EAV Kabutare in Huye district was also concerned by the project by serving as a control to help measure the impact of the program. This project had a timeline of 26 months. With its period-of-performance it started on February 5, 2013 and ended in April, 2015.


The main objective of the project was to impart spatial thinking skills and knowledge to teachers and students by integrating GeoICTs (GIS) and environmental education into secondary schools learning system. Improved spatial thinking skills raised the community’s awareness on local environmental issues, potentiality and at the same time outline the close relationship between human activities and natural resources and give a way for spatially oriented everyday life problem solving. The focus was on:
• Skills development,
• Used of appropriate technologies in education, and
• Climate change and Environment.


In this project students were taking part in a geographic information systems curriculum that puts them in the role of scientist as they collect and analyse data using Android-based phones and tablets. We were teaching students and teachers how to be innovative with the use of FOSS (Free Open Sources Software) ICTs focused on spatially oriented problems. The emphasis of using FOSS ICTs directly means to improve classroom teaching and learning via appropriate and cost-effective technologies. Specific student projects targeted at mapping and inventorying community natural sources also gave the project a clear link to climate change and environmental management. In addition, appropriate mapping technologies are fundamental to supporting educational practice across multiple educational levels and in numerous subject areas such as geography, history, earth science, environmental Science and Social Studies. Therefore the project envisions, enabling students and teachers to become stakeholders in their own community by developing a long-term sense of appreciation and advocacy for protecting natural resources of their surrounding community and their rational management.


During the relevant project period (From February 2013 to January 2014) RECOR and its partners firstly administered 2 Spatial Thinking Ability Tests (STAT) for project statistics and baseline purpose. The first test was a pilot test to see how students understand spatial characteristic relating to:
(1) Comprehending orientation and direction,
(2) Comparing map information to graphic information,
(3) Choosing the best location based on several spatial factors,

(8) Comprehending geographic features represented as point, line, or polygon


5. Evaluation sample sizes are 75 students each at our two test schools and the control school for a total of 225 students. Our ultimate final project targets are that 25 to 50 (out of 150 students from the two test schools) show increased spatial thinking ability as evidenced via increase in mean score improvement of the entire test group using a single STAT at each phase to ensure reliability.


The characteristics of our two tests in terms of one rural (GSO-P) and one urban (GBO-B) and the broader project context was to promote quality, equitable and effective education – and with girls in particular – lead us to develop two working hypothesis we wished to investigate via the STAT. More specifically, we hypothesized that:
1. Urban school (GBO-B) will perform better on the STAT as compared to the rural school (GSO-P) as a result of GSO-B students generally
having access to better educational opportunities before attending GSO-B
2. Females at both test schools will not perform as well as males due to broader, systemic educational access and quality gender issues in

Students learn how to use tablet computers and FOSS (Free Open Sources Software). 

Project achievements:
• Teachers involved in the project received trainings on the use of “FOSS” such as “ODK Collect” in data collection (creation of survey form, data point collection and related picture of the mapped feature), the use of handheld devices especially tablet computers to map different features and data information representation and visualization for further analysis and passed the information on to their students.
• Through this exercise students learnt how to take geographic information and deliver it in presentation on a map (Map My School). This kind of project/exercise gives students an awareness of their surrounding community and the ability to understand relationship between them.
• Students gained basic knowledge of natural and artificial features around the school and learned how to identify differences between natural and artificial environmental features supported by geoICTs 2D and 3D views. This allows students to solve problems using the properties of shapes and to develop spatial thing skills.
• Students learned to distinguish between different types of land cover and land use.
• An online survey form has been created to figure out which form of awareness motivation is prevalent for students’ learning development, his/her future expectation and knowledge of local environment.



‘Map My School’-Project