Steamboat Springs The Yampa Valley Community Mapping Project, a pilot project of the Orton Institute and the Yampa Valley Legacy Education Initiative, is hosting a geographic information systems, or GIS, day camp Aug. 1-4.
The camp at the Colorado Moun-tain College Alpine Campus is for students in grades seven through 12, as well as teachers, community members, parents and school computer technicians.
Connie Knapp, project manager for the Orton Institute says the main goal of the camp is to give students a place-based educational experience. Specifically, the camp is intended to give students exposure to learning outside of the classroom and show them that what they are learning is something professionals in the real world use all the time.
Knapp believes that this kind of education is important and is hoping that it will get built into school curriculum.
The GIS camp is an opportunity for teachers to learn how to incorporate place-based learning into their curriculum. During the camp, the students will take a field trip to mark and set up study sites in different areas of the Routt Divide Blowdown. The project will provide the Forest Service a place to monitor beetle infestations.
"The information will provide the Forest Service with a baseline information for many years to come" Knapp said. "They are basically setting up a long-term study. I know the Forest Service is looking forward to students keeping it up."
Global positioning satellite systems will be used to find the locations of the beetle infested areas.
Three teachers will participate in the camp and learn what Knapp calls a "beetle curriculum problem." They will then teach their students about beetle infestations in the blowdown, the history and the biology of the situation.
Five computer technicians are now involved in a weeklong advanced GIS course and will learn to be GIS support people. That way, teachers can take their students out on field trips with the GIS systems with experts.
This kind of program is not new for the Yampa Valley Community Mapping Project. Previous projects have included an auto accident mapping effort by south Routt students who recorded and mapped accident sites and information about them. The information was presented to the county commissioners and the state highway department.
Steamboat Springs High School students participated in a wildlife area management plan project. The 80 students drafted a plan for a newly purchased wildlife area. The project was divided into four different areas and the students chose to work in the area of their interest, ecology, structures, communication and technology. The students worked with community experts in wildlife, conducted public meetings and surveyed and presented their findings and recommendations to government organizations.
Other students created a virtual walking tour project that involved building a Web site. The project taught the students how to do historical research and interviewing people.
Another GPS project involving groundwater wells was initiated by a local conservation group that lost track of some monitoring wells. Students used the GPS system to locate them.
Sam Marti from the Steamboat Springs High School is very supportive of the place-based education as well as the GIS systems.
"GIS is creating so many new jobs for students coming out of school," Marti said. "It's a really good way to integrate so that it's not just learning a computer tool, it's use of a tool that is fun and interesting."
The other plus of the program is that academically at-risk students seem to come forward and take an active role, Knapp said. They also like being in front of an audience and presenting, she said.
The camp is full but according to Knapp if there is enough interest, they will keep the program going.
Joleen Fuller is an intern for the Steamboat Pilot/Steamboat Today newspapers.