The University of Vermont Extension's 4-H Tech Wizards Summer GPS Camp was a huge success this summer. Led by Americorps member, Geoff Whitchurch and Americorps VISTA member Fred Gonzales, the camp brought together Caledonia North Supervisory Union middle-school students, home-schooled students, Riverside School students, and even a student from Danville School. The camp is designed to increase scientific fluency in middle-school students while getting youth involved in the local community. The camp was split into two projects each lasting one week.
In the course of the first camp, students worked for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to map a little-known plot of forest on the New Boston Road in Lyndonville called the Lyndon State Forest. Students, led by Whitchurch and Gonzales, used Garmin eTrex GPS units to map existing trails within the Forest boundary. The forest was originally planted with dozens of tree species in the early 1900s to secure the wind-swept sand dunes that dominated the area. One of those species, Jack Pine, is not native to Vermont, and the Foresters asked the camp participants to map the boundary of this stand of trees so they can monitor it's extent.
In the course of the second camp, students worked for the Kingdom Trails Association to map in a new network of mountain biking trails within their vast network of existing trails. Camp youth spent long days hiking miles of trail to map this new section of trail that will ultimately serve as connector trails to facilitate access to the existing trails. Additionally, camp youth marked spots where the trail will cross streams and other wet spots, so trail crews will know where to install bridges once construction of the new trail begins.
Once all of the GPS data was collected, students uploaded their spatial data into Google Earth and produced high quality maps of both project areas. The public will be able to view these maps and ask students questions at the 4-H booth at the Caledonia County Fair on Aug. 22.
Each and every camp youth cited that the most exciting and important part of the camp was that they were doing original work that actual local agencies will be using their maps and data. Both the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Kingdom Trails Association are proud to have local youth involved in such projects and look forward to continuing this relationship.
For more information on 4-H camps in your area, please contact Geoff Whitchurch at UVM Extension, 397 Railroad St., Suite 3, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819; 802-751-8310, ext. 355; or email Geoffrey.Whitchurch@uvm.edu.