How do you do research without the Internet?
Believe it or not, five young ladies did just that this week as part of the 4-H National Youth Science Day project. Funny enough, it was actually a project about technology!
This week, 4-H’ers around the country explored geographic information systems.
In Newton County, we used an aerial photo as the base map of section of a Colorado town similar to the area around Oak Hill Elementary in our community. It had schools, parks and other facilities where people frequently visited.
In the fictional situation, workers cleaned up all the areas and used GPS coordinates to mark where each type of trash was found.
The 4-H’ers then used transparencies to create layers of maps: one for recyclable plastics, one for trash, one for recyclable aluminum, and so on.
By using different colored markers, they were then able to put the entire map together to see where trash and recycling bins were most needed.
But here’s the fun part: The budget was limited.
One team Friday came up with $3,000 in trash and recycling bins the members thought were needed to help the Colorado town with its trash.
The budget for the project? $300.
So teams went back to work, deciding where to strategically place bins for maximum efficiency. They could easily take each "layer" of garbage apart by removing or adding transparencies, just as you’d be able to do in a GIS map on the computer.
The youths collaborated to make a plan work. One team even decided that the income from recycling might fund the purchase of more recycling bins.
It’s not too late to participate in the 4-H National Youth Science Day project, and anyone can do it.
You can print everything yourself if you have paper and transparency paper, or you can purchase a pre-made kit from the National 4-H Council.
Just go to www.4-h.org/nysd to download the manuals and find all the information you need for this year’s activity. You may also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the information.
So how did 4-H’ers end up learning to research while doing this activity?
Our middle and high school 4-H’ers are applying the knowledge gained about geographic information systems mapping to a local project. Some of them spent part of Fall Break checking out historical homes and sites in Oxford, which are currently mapped on a paper brochure.
Even my dog looked doubtful that we were ever going to find some of those places with teenagers and a paper map.
Plus, they had so many other questions about the houses, architectural styles, former owners, and other historical sites in Oxford that wouldn’t ever fit in the brochure.
So we hit the library’s local history room.
Even youths who had been to the library many times were amazed at the resources we found.
OK, they got a little sidetracked by old Newton High yearbooks, but then we moved on to Newton County history books, cemetery records, highlights from old newspapers, and historical maps.
I admit we didn’t actually come out with a ton of new information on our current project, but it was a lot of fun watching the youths discover local history.
Three students who moved here from out of state were amazed to learn that Newton County wasn’t named after Isaac Newton, and to find a map showing that Sherman’s March to the Sea actually included our community.
Over the next few months, we hope to do more research, take pictures of places we’re including on our interactive map, and talk to people who know about Oxford’s history.
Then we’ll compile everything into map software we were awarded through a grant with ESRI, which is the same software professionals in the Newton County and Covington GIS departments use every day to map our community.
By the time Oxford hits 175 years old in January, we hope to unveil our contribution to the celebration, an interactive map to bring history to life for local residents and visitors.
If you’d like to be interviewed by the students, have ideas for spots we should include, or would like to help in other ways, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Terri Kimble Fullerton is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.