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Map to a big future? 4-H club explores technology based around geography February 25, 2011

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in English, Haber (News).
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From inside a computer lab at Front Range Community College, members of Boulder County’s newest 4-H club explored wide swaths of the Front Range with a few mouse clicks.

“I have not ever seen anything like this, so it’s pretty cool,” Blue Mountain Elementary fifth-grader Orion Zona, 11, said as he scrolled around a satellite map of Longmont.

The nine members of the new Boulder County Community Mapping Team are learning about geographic information systems or GIS — a field that addresses gathering, analyzing and presenting geographic information, often by creating maps.

During the team’s second meeting Saturday afternoon, students marked grocery stores near their schools on a satellite map. Their findings will be entered into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food environment atlas, which provides data on a community’s ability to access healthy foods.

The new club is the latest initiative among local 4-H clubs to offer more STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — programming and provide youths with the skills to work in science and math fields.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that from 2008 to 2018, jobs in computer and mathematical science are expected to grow more than twice as fast as the average for all occupations.

Local 4-H clubs are trying to prepare students to tackle those careers, said Kim Morrison, the 4-H youth development program associate with the Colorado State University Extension office at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.

Local 4-H shooting sports programs are among the programs getting a STEM boost. In those clubs, Morrison said, she plans to roll out a STEM curriculum that incorporates math and physics concepts. She said she hopes to train instructors and launch the curriculum by April.

The approach isn’t new; it’s just a more refined focus, Morrison said. 4-H started in 1902 to introduce younger generations to new technologies in agriculture and animal husbandry.

“We like to think we’ve been doing STEM long before it had a name,” Morrison said, chuckling.

In the mapping club, members are learning to use professional-grade mapping software called ArcGIS. Later this year, they will use their new skills to complete a service project.

Funding for the new club comes through a grant from Environmental Systems Research Institute in Broomfield. ESRI’s 4-H and youth program manager, Esther Worker, and Front Range Community College’s GIS coordinator, David Skiles, are co-leading the club.

The ESRI grant allows club members to have the ArcGIS software installed on their home computers, with access to a virtual campus of GIS classes. That package retails for about $40,000 per person, Worker said.

Broomfield High School sophomore Julia Birgen has created maps and entered GIS projects in the the county and state fairs for the past two years through the Fairview Crops and Livestock 4-H Club. Birgen, who plans to become a history professor, said it’s a skillset she sees herself using in the future.

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