Iowa 4-H Youth Conference: Identifying Prairie Plants from the Ada Hayden Digital Collection

What do you do when the prairie is teaming with blooming plants, 4-H’ers are on campus, a new digital exhibit has been completed, and an expanded digital collection is finalized? Conduct a workshop, of course! Last week, digital collections staff (Kim Anderson, Lori Bousson, and Laura Sullivan) were able to team up with Deb Lewis, Curator at the Ada Hayden Herbarium, to work with 4-H’ers attending this year’s Iowa 4-H Youth Camp.

The workshop we conducted, entitled “Prairie Plants Pioneer: Ada Hayden and Identifying Prairie Plants”, used the hand-colored lantern slides Iowa State botany professor Ada Hayden used during her public lectures to advocate for prairie preservation. (The lantern slides are available online in the Ada Hayden digital collection.) During the two-day workshop, the 4-H’ers were able to get a tour of the Ada Hayden Herbarium (they were amazed to learn that the earliest specimen is from the 18th century, among many other fun facts), learn about resources used to identify plants, add information to a wiki platform similar to that of Wikipedia, and find out about the Ada Hayden online exhibit and digital collection. When we met in the library the second day, we briefly talked about the university library and what the digital initiatives unit does. Lori Bousson, our web designer, put together a nifty wiki (using MediaWiki) for them to enter information they found about their assigned plant – and created a guide to help them navigate the wiki.

A screenshot of one of the Wikipedia pages that the 4-H'ers created

An example of one of the Wiki pages the 4-H’ers created. Incidentally, the lantern slide above is
arranged in a similar way as the plant specimens we saw at the herbarium – in a way that fits all
necessary parts of the plant within an often small area compared to the size of the plant!

At the end, they were able to share what they had learned from their experience, and we ended the workshop with a visit to the library’s Grant Wood murals. The initial mural, “When Tillage Begins,” contains a combination of prairie and woodland plants. At least one of the plants depicted in the mural had been used in the workshop, so it was nice to be able to both introduce the 4-H’ers to the murals and have the 4-H’ers use what they had learned over the course of the past two days in a different context.

We all had a lot of fun, and hope the 4-Hers did as well!