Training teachers as change agents for Earth observation and geospatial information technology

12 Jul 2019

New paradigms in Earth observation (EO) science and advancements in geospatial information technology (GIT)–enhanced by the omnipresence of the internet–have allowed us to better understand our environment and quantify impacts caused by natural world phenomena.


Nineteen high school teachers participated in the training, which introduced them to EO and GIT tools and their applications.(Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

However, EO and GIT concepts are still rudimentary or non-existent in school curricula across the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, representing a significant lost opportunity. Gaps in institutional capacities, communication, curricula, and a lack of specialized training hinder school teachers from introducing EO and GIT concepts and their applications to students in schools.

To address these gaps, ICIMOD–under its SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) Initiative–organized a pilot training for school teachers from different villages in Nepal. The training–titled “Connecting space to village: Training teachers to disseminate EO and GIT knowledge”–focused on introducing EO and GIT tools to address environmental issues and introduced spatial concepts and tools that could benefit the teachers and their schools and communities.

Nineteen high school teachers, including two women, attended the five-day training at ICIMOD in July 2019. The participants represented schools from seven districts in Nepal–Chitwan, Dhading, Gorkha, Gulmi, Nuwakot, Nawalparasi, and Parsa – and taught science, computer science, and social studies.


The “Connecting space to village” poster shared with teachers attending the training. Available at:

Over the five days, experts introduced the participants to real-world applications being developed by ICIMOD that help understand and prepare for natural disasters like floods, forest fires, and droughts. ICIMOD researchers also showcased how machine-learning approaches and cloud-computing environments can help quantify and understand natural phenomena like land cover change and climate change. The teachers also interacted with and provided valuable feedback for different systems developed at ICIMOD,such as the agriculture atlas of Nepal, food security information system, drought monitoring system, flood early warning system, forest fire monitoring system, land cover monitoring system, stream flow prediction tool, and the high-impact weather assessment tool. They undertook hands-on exercises on QGIS, Google Earth, and Google Maps and created forest fire maps using data from the forest fire monitoring system.


Binita Shrestha, a participant in the training,receivesa certificate from the organizers. [L–R] Bikash Gurung, RAN; Rajesh Bahadur Shrestha, ICIMOD; Birendra Bajracharya, ICIMOD; and Binita Shrestha, Prabhat Secondary School (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

Binita Shrestha, a social studies teacher at Prabhat Secondary School in Bharatpur, Chitwan,shared that the section on global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) in her grade 10 curriculum often befuddled her. She shared that this particular training provided her with renewed confidence in explaining the concepts to her students.

Khem Raj Aryal from Mallika Secondary School commended the programme and shared that learnings from this particular training would help him in setting up an information desk in collaboration with the rural municipality in Marbhung,Gulmi. He added that his rural municipality had started an ICT programme in coordination with the school.

“We hope that these teachers will be change agents and spread the message about the benefits of using EO information and GIT in their schools and communities back home”, said Birendra Bajracharya, Chief of Party for the SERVIR-HKH Initiative at ICIMOD, during the closing session.

ICIMOD organized the training in partnership with the Robotics Association of Nepal (RAN). RAN will work with selected teachers to develop proposals around a minimum viable project to showcase learnings from the training in their schools and communities back home. Some projects showing promise will be supported by SERVIR-HKH. The “Connecting space to village” event is being considered for replication in other regional member countries of ICIMOD as well.

SERVIR-HKH is the regional hub of SERVIR, a joint development initiative of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). SERVIR works in partnership with leading regional organizations worldwide to help developing countries use the information provided by EO data and geospatial technologies for managing water, weather and climate risks, agriculture and food security, and land use.