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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

A Day at the Fair Print E-mail
Written by Christopher M. Wickern   
Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Educating the Public about what we do and how we do it is one of those rare subjects upon which nearly all Land Surveyors agree. It is a problem. Efforts to educate the public are carried out by all of us, one client at a time. How do we expose the public at large to our Profession? The public is not going to come to us except as individuals, and then only when needed. You know what is said about the Mountain, and it is not coming to us.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Land Survey, has had an outstanding display at the State Fair for several years. They have a 2 story building and grounds leased for their use. In recent years, the department has taken a display consisting of a marker, a sign, pictures of a witness tree and posters of surveyors past and present. Last year, the department added a full-color, life-size standee of the State Land Surveyor, suitable for photo opportunities. However, the department was not able to staff the exhibits to answer questions or to draw interest. 250,000 attended during the 10 days of the Fair last year. Over 24,000 of our survey illiterate brethren stopped by the building. They viewed displays, and listened to presentations by Department volunteers and staff at the Fair.

This seemed to be an opportunity where the mountain was coming to us.

Questions were asked and the Division graciously offered to partner with the Society, make room, and assist us in an effort to take one step along the road of educating the public. A call for volunteers from the Missouri Society of Professional Surveyors went out. Professional Surveyors were needed to be proactive, make themselves available to generate interest and answer questions. Who knows, that kid a Surveyor talked to at the Fair just might get a spark ignited and be the Surveyor of tomorrow. Our volunteers were not prepared in that, no script or spiel was created or handed out for them to follow or use. Our goal was not to direct the surveyor. It was simply to make the professional available to the public. Each group of volunteers was simply asked to do what they are comfortable doing, relaxing the Professional and the public making for a cordial and fun event for all. Volunteers were simply reminded that this was a Society function. Volunteers received a shirt with the Society's logo to wear and keep, and reminded that this was a function to promote the profession, and not a place to conduct business.

The Society worked 7 of the 10 days over the course of the Fair, and our partners counted 21,500 folks who passed through their exhibits. If they went through the building they went by our booth. Hundreds of folks were just looking for give a ways. Then there were others with very real concerns about the boundaries of their property. Folks from every area of the state who need to at least speak with a local surveyor about their issues. They were provided a directory from the Society, shown the county listing of Surveyors for their county in the directory. I have no doubt some surveyors will get a call, and land owners will be contacting them. In addition there were Scouts who had some interest from earning the surveying merit badge, a Registered Nurse who is tired of working with patients, an Engineer who minored in surveying at Purdue and wants his LS, School teachers and guidance counselors, and County Recorders. These are among many, many others who didn't identify themselves.

Our volunteers are the folks who made this work. They came from every corner of the State. Some drove in the morning they were scheduled to work, and others chose to drive in the evening before and stay overnight in a nearby town, all at their own expense. They showed up, and accomplished what many others would never attempt. They brought their equipment for the public to look at, through, and touch. They brought chains and chaining pins, robotic total stations, and GPS Rovers working real time with the Department of Transportations VRS system. It was their enthusiasm, professionalism, knowledge, and desire that made this effort a success.

This is but one effort to educate the public, based on an idea, and a few questions being asked and answered. Efforts like these generally have no immediate impact. They need to be combined into a broader plan. Even though there were 250,000 attendee's at the Fair, there are many more who would never attend the Fair. I look forward to reading about efforts from other areas.

I hope someone will read this, see an opportunity, have an idea, ask a few questions, and the effort will grow. We can no longer afford to educate the public one client at a time.

Christopher M. Wickern
Engineering Surveys & Services
Sedalia, Missouri 65301

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