"We're going to do what?!" Day 1 of a 5 day class .... are we going to make it? Will everyone print a map by Friday? Do I know what I'm getting into? Inhale. Exhale. We got this....
So began last week, when I had the opportunity to teach 12 high school students in Parks and People's Branches program how to collect data and make maps. Branches is a 6 week program, and Parks and People decided to try something new - a pretty excellent decision. My goal was to impart a basic understanding of data collection and Quantum GIS - an open source GIS software that was chosen so that the students could continue to use it on their own, for free. I hoped each student could print a map by day 5... Here is what we did...!
Day 1 was a hands on Garmin lesson out in Druid Hill Park. They found out what GIS means, watched a few videos of some cool mapping projects, and did an intro lesson to QGIS. Not bad. Day 2, everyone came back for more, and we ventured down to the Star Spangled Banner Trail in the Inner Harbor for a scavenger hunt and data collection. I went with a group that had to find the Sondheim Fountain - bonus in the heat! ('found' it a few times!) After lunch our team walked around and recorded trees, trash cans, and retail options, and started learning about attributes. My two wonderful assistants joined the other groups so each team had hands on instruction with the GPS.
Day 3 - back in the classroom to map the data we collected. Pretty cool to see everyone get excited to see where they were and add some layers to the map. Symbology was also a favorite skill to practice, and the color combinations were eye-poppin. The students shocked me with their attention to detail and spatial awareness - they were much better at direction than some of my colleagues! Day 4 - back out in the heat once more to collect even more data about the Star Spangled Banner Trail. Teams hit Fort McHenry, Latrobe Park, Riverside Park, and Patterson Park. By the end of the day we had information about park amenities, restaurants and retail along the trails - even some data about the smelliest allies in Sobo and all points where a certain member complained about the heat :) Students are pretty creative!
Day 5 was spent making the final maps. Each team ended up with at least one map of their work, and I combined them to show how much they had accomplished in a few short days - More than 150 points and a large chunk of the SSB Trail! It was a fun experience and one that I hope to repeat. I found a new love in teaching, and realized again how great high school students can be. Many wish to continue to map their neighborhoods - pretty great. Who knows - maybe one student will be inspired and end up developing the next best 'geo-tool'. But in the very least, we had a great time, walked away with a better understand of our City and its parks, and put a few new friends on the map.
Team Ambition - signing the finished bridge.
One year ago, I left the comforts of a full time consulting position to plunge feet first into the waters of the entrepreneurial unknown. To say I've never looked back would be a lie, and a bit cliche. I think it's healthy to reflect on you choices - and this is one I have yet to regret. Yes, I had no clue what to expect and was terrified. But I knew that something had to change; I wasn't making enough of a positive impact on the world sitting on my bum making maps for multinational resource extraction companies. No sir.
What helped me take the jump was signing on for 6 weeks as an SCA leader guiding 12 Baltimore high school students in digging trails and building a bridge in the woods of Leakin Park. Do I think doing this start-up thing is tough now? Sure. But not as tough as getting 12 inner city kids into the 'scary' woods with sharp tools and asking them to get dirty without hurting themselves. What a fun yet stressful challenge. High power execs have nothing on a group of teens! But after 6 weeks, we had a trail, a bridge, and some amazing memories. All 12 students were still coming to the site every day, no one lost a limb, and I managed to hold on to my sanity.
After just 6 weeks in the woods with those amazing kids, I had the confidence to start building relationships and making my ideas become reality. I truly believe you build a company one conversation at a time, and have met some extraordinary people here in Baltimore. One year later I have co-founded and, sadly, ended my partnership in my first start-up, founded start-up number two, and am 8 weeks away from a year-long trip around the southern hemisphere. What a wild ride.
While I'm still finding my way, I have at least surfaced. I am very grateful to all of the people and clients who have supported me along the way and continue to keep me afloat. For those of you who have taken the plunge, you have my respect and well wishes. For those of you thinking about it? All I can say is, comfort zones are adaptable and have the ability to grow. Start with one conversation - you never know where it will lead you. And in the words of Tom Robbins, "You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans."
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference and a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born. A place to share stories, resources, and a way to inspire and support others in realizing their individual travel dreams.
WYPR: Interview on 'Baltimore's Future' with David Warnock
Baltimore Social Innovation Journal - Winter 2015
OpenStreetMap US: "Say Hello to Our Argentina Scholars"
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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