The Story Behind the Map: 2019 Virginia AGO Map Competition


High School

First Place: Amelia Schmidt and Tyna Hesser, The Effect of Urbanization in Northern Virginia
                   Fairfax High School (teacher Jason Smolinski)

Second Place: Alyssa Cassano, Northern Virginia Population Change Over Time
                   Fairfax High School(teacher: Jason Smolinski)

Runners-Up: Mia S., Displaced People of Shenandoah National Park
                                            Greene County Technology Center (teacher: Andy Dojack)

Sydney Holdren: The Chesapeake Bay: It’s More than a Treasure
                            Albemarle High School (teacher: Chris Bunin)

Kevin Kuck: Virginia Tornadoes: A History
                            Lake Braddock Secondary School (teacher: Chris Bonnafon)

Middle School

First Place: George Leach, The Movement of Invasive Flora in Virginia
                                            William Wetsel Middle School (teacher: Kimberly Adams)

Second Place: Jeremiah Adams and Ryan Meredith, Invasive Species of Virginia
                                            William Wetsel Middle School (teacher: Kimberly Adams)

The winners will go on to compete at the national level.


Overview: In collaboration with Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute) Education, the Virginia Geographic Alliance is coordinating the 2018-19 Virginia Map contest based on the theme, “How has movement affected my environment?” Showcase the work of your students as they use the resources of an Esri Organizational Account to create a Story Map Journal or Web App to communicate their interpretation of the theme.

Who: Students in public, non-public, and home schools within Virginia


  • Pre-collegiate registered in grade 4 -12
  • Entries must come from a recognized school or homeschool even if the students work on the entries in an out-of-school club
  • Students can work as individuals or in teams of two
  • Each school can submit up to five (5) entries total

In Virginia, there will be two levels of competition: Middle School (grades 4 -8) or High School Grades (9 -12). If a middle school student and a high school student collaborate on an entry, it will be classified as a high school submission.

 Virginia Competition Theme

The organizing question for this year’s competition is “How has movement affected Virginia’s environment?” The theme of movement is broad enough to encompass a variety of disciplines—science, social studies, language arts, and the visual arts. The theme of movement encompasses multiple perspectives within the confines of the geographic extent of Virginia. Student products may explore physical and human aspects of the theme such as how the movement of people, goods, ideas, or elements of the physical environment have affected Virginia in either the past or present.

Students can explore the theme at the local or state scale of geography. Consider the questions that follow as a springboard for topic generation.

  • How does the migration of people, invasive species, pollution affect the distribution of people, plants and animals in Virginia?
  • How does the movement of elements of the natural environment, wind, precipitation, tides, and ocean currents affect Virginia?
  • How have social and environmental movements effected change in Virginia, e.g., civil rights, health of the Chesapeake Bay?
  • How has migration of people within the state affected the local environment–infrastructure, impervious surfaces, and demographic characteristics of the state or local area?
  • What patterns of movement characterize the area in which you live?
  • How do traffic patterns in your region of the state reflect the friction between time and distance?

Student-created story maps must focus on environments and events located within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Entries should be analytical in nature, map-centric rather than photo-centric or relying on too much text.

Entry Requirements

  1. Competition registration. See details in Next Steps. Registration for the competition provides the committee with a rough estimate of the number of entries that will need to be judged.
  2. Entries must be from an ArcGIS Online Organizational account. (Any US K-12 school can request a free online organizational account from Esri request for free and ArcGIS School/Club Bundle.
  3. Entries must be an ArcGIS Online web app or story map.
  4. Entries must be aligned with the competition theme of movement and focus on the physical and/or social environment within today’s borders of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Broader patterns of environmental characteristics or demographic movements may be referenced for context, but the focus must be on phenomena within the state
  5. Completed entry form for each product must be submitted by midnight Friday May 3, 2019. Entries received after the deadline will not be judged.



Winners of the Virginia Competition

  • An award of $100 to the top five middle school teams and the top five high school teams.
  • The winning teams will be notified by Monday, May 20, 2019.
  • Only one team from each division will be submitted to the national competition.
  • Within 24 hours of notification of winning a permission slip must be returned granting permission for the student work to be released to ESRI. (Permission slip available at the following URL and must be printed, completed, and returned within 24 hours of notification of a winning entry.

Winners of the National Competition

Esri will provide a travel grant to one high school team and one middle school team, each team consisting of the student(s) and at least one parent/guardian (could be teacher/rep). Awardee teams must agree to attend the Esri Education GIS Conference (“EdUC”), arriving by 10 am PT Sat July 6, and staying through at least 4 pm PT Tue July 9, 2019. Awardees will be responsible for handling any tax implications, be personally identified including name and photograph, and post a graphic in the Esri User Conference (“UC”) Map Gallery on Monday. Awardees will be recognized at EdUC on Sat and UC Map Gallery on Monday, and likely have additional attention.

Design/Judging Criteria

  1. Entries should be analytic in nature, map-centric, rather that photo-centric
  2. Entries must be visible without requiring a login. Entries using “premium data” (log-in required such as the Living Atlas) must set up the display to permit access without needing a log in. See procedures here.
  3. Entries must be “original work by students,” but may use data generated by outside persons or institutions with guidelines of “fair use.” Students are encouraged to use appropriate professionally generated data, but the integration, treatment, and presentation must be original.
  4. Entries must provide two links in “short URL” format (e.g.,

a. One link to the “display” page, (story map or web app)

b. The other link opens the “item details” page c. Users can create a short URL in “” format at Esri has a relationship with bitly so that any URL string formatted as “anything” will be turned into a short URL formatted as “”anything.

Virginia will use a rubric that includes the criteria and weighting of the national rubric that follows.

 (Point Value) Criteria

(5) Topic clearly identified Topic focuses on state theme. Featured content is within Virginia borders
(10) Presentation Overall presentation within the map product is effective in informing about the topic
(20) Effective cartography Cartography is effective in composition, visualization, and interplay of layers (display scale, transparency, classification, symbolization, popups, charts, tables, labels, filtering legend appearance) facilitates the viewer’s grasp of individual elements of the topic and story
(20) Data Data used are appropriate—engage an adequate volume and array of clearly significant elements.5 points are reserved for reward creation, documentation, and inclusion of one’s own data (0 = none, 1 = little/weak, 2 =some/modest, 3 = satisfactory, 4 = much/good, 5 = most/excellent)
(20) geographic analysis Geographic analysis (classification, filtering, geoanalysis) is evident, appropriate, and effective. The product includes more than uniform dots/lines/areas. The product includes more than pictures.
(25) Documentation in the item details page is clear and complete All non-original content (including images) in the product are appropriately referenced and/or linked so their sources are clear Original content is described and/or linked Identifies processes used to analyze the content Any persons who assisted in the product are specified, including stating no one provided assistance


Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

  1. Schools should consider issues around exposing PII. See for strategies for minimizing PII. Teachers should help students minimize exposure of their own PII and that of others, including in map, image, and text.
  2. For the state competition each school will submit the entry using only the first name and last initial of the students. Judges will see only the finished product without identifying student information. The information will be kept confidential by the state competition committee administrators.
  3. The winners of the state competition will be notified and provide authorization to disclose the information as stated below.
  4. States must help potential entrants understand the level of PII required. Entries submitted to Esri for the top national prize (i.e. 1-HS and 1-MS) must agree in advance to expose student names, school names, and school city/state (homeschool students would be identified to closest city/town name).
  5. Esri will not seek, collect, or accept student names for any entrants other than the national prize entrants (1-HS and 1-MS per state). These and only these will have names exposed by Esri.

Next Steps

  1. Registration is requested so that the VGA can determine the number of entries anticipated.
  2. Complete the registration document URL:
  3. Submission of registration form does not obligate your school’s participation. Absence of registration does not preclude your school from entering the competition.
  4. Registration forms are due by midnight February 28, 2019.
  5. Should you have questions or need further information send email to . Expect to receive response within two business days.

Early Mentoring

New to the competition this year is an opportunity for early mentoring. This process provides an opportunity for the judges to provide feedback and advice on the product’s content and presentation. The judges will not score the entry during this initial review. Feedback will be provided to the teacher. Students can then choose whether or not to modify their projects based on the judge’s recommendations. The feedback will be sent to the teacher who may then advise student revisions as appropriate.

The form for submitting entries for early mentoring can be found at Entries requesting early mentoring review must be submitted by Thursday, March 8, 2019 and feedback will be provided to the requesting teacher by March 22, 2019.


A series of Webinars will be conducted for teachers in order to provide updates to

  • late January: Tips for Creating Quality Story Maps
  • March 20, 7:15 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Using Analysis Tools to Reveal Information
  • late February, early March: Participant Driven Questions Galore and More

Webinars will be conducted via WebEx in early evening hours. Teachers who pre-registered their schools will receive notification when the dates are set via email. Social media will be used to advertise the event to the greater GIS community.

Email questions and suggestions to

 Participating Virginia Schools

Banner from a photograph by Ad Meskens of a painting by Newbold Hough Trotter (1827-1898).  In the public domain.

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