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La Grande Observer Daily Paper 07/25/14

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HOW HIGH IS THAT MOUNTAIN? Cleaning, patching and repainting have given Angela Collins and friends Kara Baxter and Dani Waite a challenge as they work on their community service science project at the Union County Museum. The girls are repairing a topographical map of the county made in 1933. (Observer photos/T.L. PETERSEN).
HOW HIGH IS THAT MOUNTAIN? Cleaning, patching and repainting have given Angela Collins and friends Kara Baxter and Dani Waite a challenge as they work on their community service science project at the Union County Museum. The girls are repairing a topographical map of the county made in 1933. (Observer photos/T.L. PETERSEN).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

UNION Just about everywhere Nod Palmers eighth-grade science classes looked, there was a problem.

Problems they decided to fix.

And the Union County Museum is a brighter, better place for their community service work.

For two intense days last week, the museums exhibits about the areas natural resources were the focus of the eighth-graders research, hunting trips and supply-gathering efforts.

It was a class project, Michael Seale said.

While Seale and his partner, Ranny Sauer, were finishing up their portion of the upgrade, others had gotten hooked. Angela Collins, Kara Baxter and Dani Waite are repairing a three-dimensional map of Union County originally created and painted by Harley H. Richardson in 1933.

We like the challenge of it all, Waite said.

And the community service aspect, Baxter added. We plan to work on this during the summer, too.

The project has given the students a number of experiences. First, they had to find some aspect that interested them. Then they researched their area of interest, using textbooks, library books and the Internet.

A key component was giving a school presentation on their findings.

And of course, the work at the museum.

Josh Steenstra and his partners, Jim Garwood and Brian Waite, noticed something important in the Cornucopia Gold Mine exhibit.

There wasnt any gold.

After researching gold mining, the boys, using spray paint, added some gold flecking to the exhibits walls and made a few small rocks look like nuggets.

We didnt know what the glass jars were for, either, he said. They learned that nitroglycerin for blasting used to be stored in the jars, which now have better labels.

We looked up information on the Internet on what the mines were like, he said. We wanted to make it look more like a gold mine.

Bren Sheehy went plant hunting on his grandmothers land to revitalize the museums native plants exhibit, tucked in one corner near a window.

He and Sean Maley had to rework the soil in the exhibit first.

The tuffest part was that the soil was in really bad condition, Maley said. The boys worked on it, getting out rocks and bark and working it back into condition. The project, Maley admitted, was more work than I thought.

But now, I think we might come down this summer and do more, Maley said.

Paintbrushes in hand, Collins, Baxter and Waite lean over the topographical county map.

It looked really bad, Waite said of the formerly chipped and graying map.

We wanted a challenge, Collins said.

The project has tested their research abilities along with their artistic talent.

What color paint did Richardson use, anyway? The girls have had to mix and match.

But first they had to repair broken off mountain tops and gouges in the map with plaster of paris, after determining what the topography needed to be in the missing pieces.

This summer, they hope to redo the information piece of the exhibit, at least darkening the type.

The girls have also shared their work at the museum, bringing Union kindergarteners to the museum two or three times.

We have a lot more school opportunities now than there used to be, Baxter says.

And the museum has a lot more volunteers.

Ask each eighth-grader why they chose the piece of the project they did, and most answer like Michael Seale, who along with Ronny Sauer upgraded an exhibit explaining how to identify Northeast Oregon trees by their bark.

I thought it was interesting, Seale said.

Seale took the exhibits signs homed and retyped them, and Sauer had planned to add leaves to the exhibit but ran out of room.

And we put (the exhibit display) up higher so you can see the answers, Sauer added. The exhibit had sat on the floor.

During the process, the boys learned some great trivia.

Ponderosa pine smells like vanilla beans, Sauer said. This stuff is really interesting.

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