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ana anthony/daily globe Rob Graef (left) receives a $2,090 check Thursday from Cargill-Miloma CSR Tammy McLevish and plant manager John Steiman.

Heron Lake teacher will start GPS project

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HERON LAKE --Southwest Star Concept Elementary School teacher Rob Graef is finding a new way to preserve history in the Heron Lake-Okabena area.

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Graef hopes to have a website ready by spring using portable GPS units that will be funded by a donation from Cargill-Miloma. He said the idea started when he heard about usage of GPS units in classrooms from multiple workshops he'd attended.

"There was a teacher in Nebraska who had a project to save history in the area using GPS," he said.

Finally, Graef decided to take what he'd heard and implement it in his history class.

When he started thinking of the potential project, Graef shared his idea with his daughter's fiancé, an employee at Cargill, Savage.

"He talked to his boss at work who said they may have extra grant money," Graef explained.

One conversation led to another, and eventually Graef was directed to Cargill-Miloma, Heron Lake. After submitting a letter detailing his project, Graef said he was notified that Cargill-Miloma would be presenting him with a check for $,2090.

Currently in the planning phase, Graef's idea is for sixth-graders to interview Heron Lake and Okabena residents, and conduct research on older buildings and century farms.

"We'll take pictures and put them on the website," he explained. "A lot of them (students) have families who've been here for generations."

Using the GPS, Graef and his students will map out historical locations to show coordinates.

"I would like to reach local people in the area," he said about one of the goals he envisions. "A teacher once said that when a person moves away or dies, the history is gone, and oral history is really big nowadays."

A California native, Graef has been teaching at Southwest Star Concept Elementary School for 34 years.

"I'm not very technology savvy," he added with a laugh. "This is my first foray into technology (related equipment)."

As for his sixth-grade students, they are not aware of what Mr. Graef has in store for them this school year.

"It'll be a surprise," he said.

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