AMES, Iowa -- 4-H and FFA members in Hardin County have the opportunity to use hand-held Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as part of a project to map historic barns in the area.
The Barns of Hardin County, the first program of this type in Iowa, coincides with Governor Tom Vilsack proclaiming 2005 "The Year of the Barn and the Family Farm."
The Hardin County project is made possible with the help of Iowa State University's Extension Science, Engineering and Technology (E-SET) program, which makes GPS hand-helds available to ISU Extension county offices. E-SET, a 4-H Youth Development program, specializes in science and technology education for youth.
Youth who are interested in using GPS hand-helds should contact their county's ISU Extension office for information on how they can become involved, according to Jay Staker, director of E-SET.
"The kids love the technology and being able to use modern tools," Rod Scott, co-chair of The Barns of Hardin County, said.
Middle and high school students from Hardin County are surveying and taking pictures of barns from the 1960s or earlier in order to make a book of historic barns in the county. There currently is no record of historic barns in Hardin County.
"The main goal is to count and record the surviving historic farmsteads and barns," Scott said. "With the changes in agriculture that are happening so dramatically, 500 years from now the landscape will be radically different than it is now."
Students learned to use the GPS hand-helds in a March 2005 training session that more than 20 students attended. Staker traveled to the Hardin County Extension Office to assist with the training.
"I was really excited about the program and bringing technology, history and community service together," Staker said. "Our goal using GPS in learning is to increase their ability to use spatial thinking and decision making."
Megan Pieters, a 12-year-old 4-H member, has always been interested in technology. She decided to participate in The Barns of Hardin County when she learned that she would have the chance to use GPS hand-helds.
"After using GPS, my whole world is computers," Pieters said. She also developed several other new interests, such as math and historic barns.
Organizers of The Barns of Hardin County hope that students gain a sense of community pride and history through their participation in the program.
"We hope that this instills in them a preservation ethic, which is the appreciation for the architecture that's been handed down to them, and an awareness of the endangered status of these structures," Scott said.
Other organizations working to make The Barns of Hardin County possible include the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Farmers Union, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance, Humanities Iowa, Iowa Department of Agriculture, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, One Thousand Friends of Iowa, Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, Wallace House Foundation, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Women, Food and Agriculture Network.
ISU Extension's news staff will collect and post other barn-related articles throughout 2005 to a Web site at /emms/barns.
Carol Ouverson, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-9640, email@example.com