This unit is divided into two main thrusts. Part 1 addresses GIS in general. This topic is covered most heavily in Lesson 1, "What is GIS?" and Lesson 2, "Projections and Coordinates: Turning a 3D Earth into Flatlands." Additionally, Activity 1, "Who Can Make the Best Coordinate System?," Activity 2, "What's Wrong with the Coordinates at the North Pole?," and Activity 4, "Searching for Bigfoot and Others Lke Him" help supplement this first part of the unit.
Part 2 of the unit includes Lesson 3, "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch," and Activity 3, "Get the Word Out at McDonalds!," Activity 5, "Where Are the Plastics Near Me? (Field Trip)" and Activity 6, "Where Are the Plastics Near Me? (Mapping the Data)." These focus more on using GIS for a particular application: the study and representation of data related to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
If the teacher wishes to simply give students exposure to GIS and digital mapping concepts, then use all or some of Lessons 1-2 and Activities 1-2, 4 without reference to any of the environmental concerns of the other half of the unit.
If, however, the teacher is more interested in the environmental side of the unit and less in the GIS aspects, then all or parts of Lesson 3 and Activities 3 and 5 go far in exposing students to an environmental issue that relates to their own community. Following this more environmental approach, students are asked to understand scientific information that they find on their own, evaluate its usefulness, and give credit to its source.
Activity 6 is the exercise that puts together both what students are expected to learn from the GIS side of the unit and the solid waste environmental side.