Using maps and apps
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
ELLIS -- Future scientists were deep in thought and hard at work Monday morning at St. Mary Elementary School.
Sixth-grader Zachary Eck was busy coloring a river and adding multiple trees to a plastic coated map. Close by, fifth-grader Konner Pfeifer had his green crayon whipping back and forth, forming a large patch of grass.
It was all part in a 4-H National Youth Science Day activity put on by Susan Schlichting, 4-H and youth development Extension agent for Ellis County.
"(4-H's motto) is a million new scientists, a million new ideas," Schlichting told the students and their teachers.
The program, in its sixth season, this year is called Maps & Apps, which challenges students to make eight different layers in making a city park, raging from nature features such as a river, pond, trees, shrubs and grass to man-made structures such as picnic shelters and bathrooms, flower beds, roads, parking lots and playground equipment.
One of the two groups huddled together before it broke out into small groups. The other broke off right away and made adjustments when they brought all eight layers together.
"It was just a different approach," Schlichting said. "Both worked."
Fifth-grader Maggie James had a quick answer when someone asked what they would do if some of their features overlapped one another when they reconvened with their team.
"Then we'll have to move some," she said matter-of-factly.
This year's national program teaches students the basics of mapping and other areas of GPS/GIS (global positioning systems/geographic information systems).
"Not only do they see how they might plug into their community and can make a difference," she said, "but also that this is a career path they could head down.
Schlichting, busy a big share of the year with 4-H activities, said she recognized students from 4-H events.
But, she added, she also noticed several others who have taken part in various community projects Schlichting has put on through the Extension service.
"We're trying to reach to the community," said Schlichting, who also will take her program to Victoria Elementary and Holy Family Elementary in Hays this week. "It brings a whole different way to them that maybe they don't talk a lot about at school."
Schlichting said she enjoys working with, and teaching, youth -- no matter what the venue.
"Just because they're not in a youth organization like scouts or 4-H," she said, "doesn't mean we shouldn't be working with these kids."