Is there actually a state park within an hour of every Tennessean?

April 12, 2017  |  Permalink

In late 2016, Tennessee State Parks received an unusual phone call from a geography teacher at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He was looking for some of our data for park boundaries and centroids. While we receive requests for this data often, we were particularly intrigued by Mr. Smith’s request. Here’s why:

At Tennessee State Parks, we like to tout that there is a state park within an hour’s drive of anywhere in Tennessee. Mr. Smith was seeking an authentic problem-based learning activity for the students to test. The students were able to develop their hypothesis around our claim and test it using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Well, Mr. Smith’s geography class certainly put our claim to the test!

A few months later, our GIS office received a funny email from a colleague at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville with a link to Mr. Smiths’ students’ project and a tagline saying, “A little competition from a 7th grader…”. We were delighted to see students taking on these creative ways to use GIS to answer real world questions. We are happy to share it here for everyone to enjoy.

Click on the six tabs from left to right to read about the progression of the study and the methods they used.

The last tab reveals if our claim is truthful or not!



Tennessee State Parks would like to thank Jefferson Middle School, Mr. Smith and his geography students for working on such a delightful and practical project.


About Mr. Smith:

Mr. Smith was recognized in March 2016 as Mullane Geography Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Council for Social Studies. He teaches 7th grade geography at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, TN.


About the blog author:

Sunny Fleming is the GIS Specialist for Tennessee State Parks. 

About the author