Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Students tackle community projects with technology

Choctaw Nation GIS Specialist Ryan Spring gives the students a tutorial.

The Talihina Kiamichi Technology Center auditorium filled with friends and family of students who took part in the Beyond the Bell: Totally Teched Out Camp on the evening of Jan. 21, for the showcase and celebration of the work completed during the camp.

“We did a lot in four days,” stated Carrie Kirkes, a facilitator for the program, which experienced its inaugural run with considerable success and positive reception.

During the camp, which ran each evening from Jan. 13-16, students in grades 6-8 were able to take their interest in technology and produce useful services for the community.

Tuesday’s event, consisting of dinner and presentations, was a showcase of the in-depth work completed during the four-day span. The presentations included videos recorded and edited by the students using industry standard hardware and software; graphic work utilizing photos taken by students and Adobe Photoshop; and detailed maps created by Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a widely used technology used to map complicated areas.

Students who were a part of the program were excited to show their work and inspired to investigate further into how technology can influence their future.

Moreland describes how maps are made using GIS

“I am definitely going to keep trying this,” exclaimed Preston Moreland, a seventh grade student at Talihina School. Moreland, who gave a quick explanation on how GIS mapping can benefit community projects, explained that he enjoyed being able to use the equipment to tell a story.

The story told was that of the Choctaw Nation Capitol Grounds and Museum, located near Tuskahoma. This historical site, which receives a steady amount of visitation during the year, had little information describing what guests should expect prior to a visit. The students saw an opportunity to assist a landmark in the community, all while improving their knowledgebase.

Over the course of the program, students divided into three groups: video, photography/graphics, and GIS. These groups were led by juniors and seniors of area schools who are members of the Environmental And Spatial Technology (EAST) Initiative, a program based on education through the use of technology.

EAST is a project-based curriculum according to Kirkes. It serves as a half-day alternative to conventional education for upperclassmen in high school who are interested in the utilization of technology for real-world implementation. More information about EAST is available on their website at

The group grabs a quick picture before
gathering content for their project

Justin McClellan, a senior at Talihina High School and EAST participant who assisted students with the GIS portion of the project, mentioned that even though he was teaching he still learned from the experience.

As the teams connected their creations with newfound skill, the entire vision of the project came to fruition in the form of promotional materials for the Choctaw Capitol Museum. The students produced a hard copy brochure featuring a layout of the grounds and descriptions of the landmarks guests will find while they explore.

An interactive digital map was also included in the finished product. Potential guests will now be able to access a virtual tour of the capitol grounds online before they visit.

“This will be utilized worldwide,” stated Museum Director Regina Green as she expressed how impressed she was with the students’ creations.

Totally Teched Out was funded by the EAST Beyond the Bell Grant made possible by the EAST Initiative and the Arkansas Department of Education, and was the first Beyond the Bell program to occur outside the state of Arkansas. The facilities of the Kiamichi Technology Center were utilized to facilitate this project.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma also contributed to the effort, providing funds for meals and shirts. Kirkes stated that she was very thankful for the support provided by the tribe and looks forward to working together in the future.

This is the printed version of the map created for the capitol grounds. Click the image to view the interactive digital version.