Developing Spatial Literacy in Coast Guard Officers


The National Academies have defined Spatial Literacy as constituting proficiency in terms of spatial knowledge and skills, spatial ways of thinking, and spatial capabilities. Defined in this way, spatial literacy and proficiency in geospatial technologies such as Remote Sensing & Geospatial Information Systems have become increasingly important skills for USCG officers. Geospatial and Remote Sensing technologies are necessary components to fulfilling USCG’s Maritime Domain Awareness, Intelligence, and Command and Control mission requirements, have become a integral part of our Deepwater platforms and Sector Command Centers, and are used for situational awareness and effective communications during every phase of emergency/disaster planning and response by our local, state, and federal partners. Therefore, USCG watchstanders and decision-makers will need technical expertise in these systems in order to understand their effective use for mission accomplishment, and the need for officers with a high degree of spatial literacy and proficiency in these technologies will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. To meet this need for “spatially literate” officers, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Science Department began offering an Introduction to Geospatial Sciences course for students in its Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) major in the spring of 2003. To further develop the spatial literacy of students in the MES major, the faculty within the Science Department have embarked on an effort to examine the development of spatial literacy in a more systematic fashion across the MES curriculum. Future efforts and activities are aimed at examining the development of spatial literacy across the entire Coast Guard Academy curriculum. The overall goal of these efforts is not to develop Geographic Information System (GIS) Technicians fully proficient in the use of GIS. Rather, the aim of these efforts is to develop “spatially literate” Coast Guard decision-makers with knowledge and skills in the use of geospatial technologies for emergency planning and response, facilities management, and operational resource management and decision-making.