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Bob Jones science students, UAH professors collaborate on environment

Published 11:36am Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Madison students are visualizing, questioning and correlating earth and water samples with support from professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

These students are enrolled in Ben Johnston’s advance placement (AP) environmental science class at Bob Jones High School. UAH graduate student Eric Anderson contacted Johnston about the partnership between professors in atmospheric science department and Bob Jones.

In the AP environmental science class, students learn about ecology, human population and renewable and non-renewable resources, including fossil fuels. Other units cover renewable energy, air and water pollution, water resources, land resources and degradation and environmental policies and laws.

To supplement their unit on water, Bob Jones students are incorporating GIS (Geographic Information System) technology into the curriculum.

With GIS, students “visualize, question, analyze, interpret and understand data to reveal relationships, patterns and trends,” Johnston said. They now can examine water flow and soil permeability.

Anderson will visit Bob Jones several times. The class will go outdoors on campus to collect data and return to in the classroom for computer work with GIS software from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).

“ESRI has an education branch that is very supportive of GIS in high schools,” Johnston said. “ESRI has given Bob Jones free access to GIS software in the past.”

Johnston met with UAH department chair Dr. Sundar Christopher, GIS and remote sensing professor Dr. Robert Griffin and Anderson “to discuss how both UAH and Madison City Schools could benefit from this relationship. Lecturing at Bob Jones or James Clemens High School is definitely a possibility,” Johnston said.

UAH professors agree. “We all hope to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of our environment, introduce students to a very powerful analyzing technology (GIS) and expose the students to opportunities for education and careers in environmental science through our UAH partnership,” Johnston said.

During spring semester, Anderson and Johnston will work closely with Denise Adkison, AP environmental science teacher at James Clemens. “Mrs. Adkison and I are envisioning students from both high schools collaborating on a joint GIS project,” Johnston said. “All parties involved are very excited about this project with UAH, which hopefully will translate into an enhanced student learning experience.”

Johnston also teaches AP biology and is a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT).

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