KILLEEN — Nearly 300 area elementary students celebrated the City of Killeen’s Geographic Information Systems Day at Central Texas College’s Mayborn Planetarium here Friday, marking the 14th annual event. Since its inception in 2006, the Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division has played an integral role in providing a series of different presentations, Derrick McBride, GIS analyst, City of Killeen, said.

McBride explained this year’s event coincided with Texas Recycles Day and was an opportunity to teach youth about geography, being green and conservation.

“When students come out to GIS Day, they begin to see how it can affect their lives,” McBride said. “GIS teaches us to have a better respect for our planet, and then we can begin to teach our kids that responsibility at a young age.”

The event included city departments from Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove, Central Texas Council of Governments, Central Texas College, Bell County Communication Center and Fort Hood DPW.

“Presenters like the Fort Hood Environmental Division have played such a huge role is GIS Day and have been pivotal in continuing our success each year,” McBride said. “Engaging, interactive presentations make the experience fun and educational for students.”

Wendy Castillo, a second grade teacher at Clarke Elementary, said the event provided students with out-of-classroom experience that focused on material they’re learning.

“Field trips like this gives students real-life experiences and it introduces them to the experts. They are able to make connections with how GIS, recycling and environmental stewardship applies at home and school,” Castillo said. “The presentations reinforce what they have already learned, and it adds more depth. When student see this many care, it makes it more important to them.”

Sarah Barnum, a fifth grade teacher at Clifton Park Elementary, also added how she hopes her students will be leaders of change and educating others.

“GIS Day and Texas Recycles Day brings awareness to what students do on a regular basis that they don’t realize helps the environment, and what they can do to make small changes,” Barnum said. “I hope they will be more aware and pay attention what’s going on around them and teach others what they learned.”

Alexander Harrison, a Clifton Park fifth-grader, said his favorite booth was one about archaeology.

“I really enjoyed the archaeology and seeing the artifacts,” Harrison. “It was a really fun experience at GIS Day.”

Harrison was also reminded that students like him can help to be good stewards of the environment.

“We need to look out for the next generation,” he said. “Anybody can make a difference – even the small things like riding your bike to school or recycling can help.”

The 14 year partnership between the Killeen GIS Department and Fort Hood Environmental Division has helped to promote GIS and environmental stewardship not only at events like GIS Day and Texas Recycles Day, but at outreach events throughout the year, McBride said.

“Community partnerships, volunteers and students is what truly makes for an amazing event,” McBride said. “It creates this sense of family. We can depend on each other, and are like-minded in the sense that we want to take care of our planet, and we want students to feel that as well.”