Do you want to use GIS but don't have the budgetary support to install expensive software? Don't know where to start? QGIS is a free, open-source GIS that is a nice option for schools operating on a limited budget that still want a full GIS platform.
Here is an excellent set of video screencasts that are an introduction to what GIS is, using the QGIS software: http://linfiniti.com/dla/ . This site also has sample data, tutorials and worksheets.
Many small city governments without the budget to run proprietary GIS software use QGIS and here is a repository of QGIS resources including blogs, forums, tutorials and user manuals: http://www.townshipgis.org/resources/qgis
The National Atlas that is available online has an extensive database for simple online mapping. This is "GIS-light," an easy way to explore the spatial patterns within U.S. census data and other data sets. The lists all contain a wide variety of variables, making this a good way to get students to explore potential research topics. Thanks to the Connecticut Geographic Alliance coordinator for suggesting this link.
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