[ed. note: Data @ IFRC is a blog series to share highlights from the Red Cross Red Crescent Secretariat and National Societies. We will include learning opportunities and thought pieces on all things data from ethics to evidence.] 

Maps have always been storytelling devices. And, the art of mapmaking is a community-building exercise. Missing Maps and YouthMappers are two programs which provide unique ways to connect humanitarian work to mapmaking. YouthMappers, with university chapters around the world, connects humanitarian mapping needs to education programs. Their main target group is university-level geography (GIS) students. Missing Maps is both a global and local program that supports mapathons around the world. Inspired by both concepts, data scientists Heather Leson and Guido Pizzini co-hosted a Missing Map event for youth at Ecole Internationale Geneva. See below the complete narration;

Kids Plus Mapmaking

Imagine a room of 50 Grade 9 students making maps and learning about humanitarian action. Ecole Internationale Geneva’s “Celebration of Lifelong Learning” gives students opportunities to learn and do fun things. For our two sessions of mapathons, we divided each cohort of students into three groups – one station for digitalization and two ‘whiteboard field mapping’ stations. The Missing Maps team at American Red Cross provided us with a map task to add buildings to OpenStreetMap in Malawi. This activity is in support of the Measles and Rubella Initiative. Humanitarians and local partners will use the updated maps to plan logistics. The enthusiastic students added over 200 buildings. Some of the key lessons of this event are:

  • Getting Missing Maps into high schools builds youth volunteer engagement.
  • Kids pick up mapping super fast. They especially enjoyed the Missing Maps Leaderboard to motivate their efforts.
  • We pre-trained four student mentors. This worked incredibly well. The student leaders demonstrated the ‘how to map’ exercise for the whole class as well as provided peer-to-peer coaching of their fellow students throughout the event.
  • The event provided an opportunity to share impact stories about other humanitarian activities: health (vaccinations), water, hygiene and sanitation, information management, community resilience, volunteerism, and emergency response.

About the Missing Maps projects for the Measles and Rubella Initiative:

Learn about OpenStreetMap  
Materials on Teach OSM

Session Plan: Mapathon with High School Students

We had 3 meetings with the school contacts to get to know each other, plan the session and prepare logistics. There were multiple emails to coordinate over the 3 months leading up to the date. Building a common language and managing expectations are key to success.

The student helpers (from an older grade level) were selected by the school. We had one training session in person. They also had the links and practised in advance.

IFRC created the content and provided the trainers. Ecole Internationale Geneva provided the outreach, the location and student volunteers.

Room Set-up:
Two projectors: One for the presentations and videos. The second projector streamed maps onto a whiteboard wall. A dedicated laptop was required. We will project a map of Geneva and asked people to trace it. One team created a map key to colour code it.

Markers, white boards, 1 pages for how to Missing Map, 2 projectors, field map atlases printed for the school vicinity. The school provided laptops.

Session schedule:
Introduction to IFRC, why are we humanitarians, basic map concepts, and Use of Maps
What is OpenStreetMap, Missing Maps and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team  (with videos)
Learn about how to Map (conducted by the student mentors)
Group 1: Set up OSM, learn Missing Maps process, mapping
Groups 2 and 3: “Whiteboard Mapping”: trace maps of Geneva to learn about the concepts of mapmaking and be interactive.
Close session: Play a great video about the power of maps and humanitarian action. We used this one from CNBC.

Future ideas: Get enough helpers to do a proper Field mapping of the school grounds. For this number of students in this age group, it would be better to have three unique, simultaneous activities.

Thank you!

Thank you to Ecole Internationale Geneva (Emmanuel Guhirwa and Sylvi Amira Shibaru) as well as our student helpers: Kara, Sam, Luka and Nas. Thank you to the IFRC colleagues (Guido Pizzini, Josse Gillijns, and Karen Keung).

(Photo credits: Heather Leson, Guido Pizzini. CCBY)

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