LEarNing Spatially (LENS) was a campus-wide initiative promoting spatial literacy as a foundational component within a liberal arts university. The initiative was the outcome of 10+ years of Redlands’ dedication to spatial thinking in curriculum, programs and research. The LENS Initiative received generous support from the W. M. Keck Foundation (2010-2013) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (2011-13). LENS also greatly benefited from partnerships with neighboring Esri and the dedication of the University of Redlands.
Spatial thinking – the ability to visualize and interpret location, position, distance, direction, relationships, movement and change through space – was at the core of the LENS initiative. The initiative represented a lead effort in understanding how geospatial technologies can be linked to the greater pedagogic objectives of critical thinking and problem-based learning. The LENS initiative introduced faculty to the idea that they are not just teaching a tool, but a way of thinking. The LENS approach developed student and faculty capacity to explore the spatial nature of multiple disciplines to generate insights that drive active learning. LENS harnessed the integrative power of geography with technologies to help faculty and students visualize knowledge, solve problems, and understand relationships through a spatial lens.