GIS Training in Transportation and Environmental Justice for Promoting Student Success in STEAM Education

Minority and lower-income populations have historically been disproportionately underrepresented in STEM education and jobs. The educational attainment gap for underrepresented minorities graduating high school and earning a college degree, especially in the STEM field, continues to remain wide. Teaching theories of environmental justice and transportation planning in a school curriculum helps to empower the youth of communities by addressing local issues concerning transportation plans and environmental justice and ultimately, helps students to develop skills to make important life and career decisions. To address the education gap and promote student success in STEM Education, the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs at UT Arlington will partner with two high schools in the City of Dallas and develop a 4-week lab course curriculum on geographic information systems (GIS), known to be useful for career development. This GIS lab course will demonstrate the interdisciplinary approaches between transportation planning and environmental justice. It also aims to expose young students with diverse backgrounds (e.g. Hispanic, other minorities) at the early stages of their higher education to interdisciplinary learning and research to promote academic and career success. The curriculum will be developed jointly by the research team and the high school teachers to ensure replicability by the teachers beyond the lab course. The lab course will include GIS training with real-world data, guest lectures by transportation and environmental planning experts, and a site survey with emerging technologies (e.g. a drone). The findings from the lab course will help students to initiate practical analysis for their existing/new courses (e.g. architectural studio, geography & technology) addressing transportation and environmental justice issues of accessibility around the Trinity River in the DFW metroplex. The findings will also feed into the IUS’s larger research that documents various aspects impacting the well-being of the Upper Trinity watershed.