Mizzou Youth Experience Creates Early Bonds to Geography

Students experience hands-on remote sensing and other activities during the Mizzou Youth Experience, held Saturday, Sept 14.

On Saturday, Sept. 14, Professor Clayton Blodgett, along with grad students Sydney Bailey, Steve Cardinal, Melissa Church, James Kaemmerer and Caitlin Sliva, engaged students at the Mizzou Youth Experience in Middlebush Hall in hands-on remote sensing. It was, by all accounts, a resounding success, says geography Department Chair Soren Larsen.

The students came from both the Saint Louis and Kansas City metro areas and were middle-school-aged, adds Kaemmerer. The Department of Geography joined several other groups from Arts & Science as well as other departments around the university in this all-day event. The day ended with a tailgating party and Mizzou football game. In attendance with the students were chaperones, teachers and parents.

“The goal was to introduce students to some of the disciplines offered on campus and then of course to get them interested in Mizzou,” says Kaemmerer. “Also, to introduce students to geography long before they come to the university so students are aware of geography and geographic concepts and get excited about them. Few enter as a geography major. Most discover it and switch. This was an effort to introduce students to geography in the hopes they would consider geography as a major as an incoming freshman, instead of them discovering it in their junior year.”

Kaemmerer says Dr. Blodgett’s presentation was relevant and engaging. “We looked at satellite flood imagery from this last summer, comparing before and after imagery of the floods,” he adds. “Students were able to see the extent of flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.” They were also introduced to MSDIS, Missouri Spatial Data Information Service, a spatial data retrieval and archival system.

“There were lots of ‘wows’ and ‘oohs’ and ‘cools’ as students looked at the (Saint Louis) arch and then saw water reaching to the top steps of the arch park area,” Kaemmerer says. “It was a great way for students to see the human environmental interaction in areas they are familiar with, close to home.

“Hopefully some of these students continue to nerd out for the next four or five years in hopes that they become geography majors somewhere—wherever they go, wherever they end up. Arts & Science is a big college, so it’s nice that our relatively small department could have such an outsized presence in these events.”