Learning to love the planet
Not only has the Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts received new students and teachers this year, but additions have also been made to the courses. Among these additions is an advanced placement (AP) class: environmental science, taught by Doreen McDowell.
This is the first year that this course has been available to MCAA students, and many feel that it is long overdue. AP classes are recognized by the University of California systems as "college-level courses" and, if a student receives an affirmative score on the mandatory end-of-year examination, this greatly improves the chances of him or her being accepted into many public and private colleges across the state. There seems to be a general consensus concerning the exam: Students are dreading it.
The number of students enrolled in the class thus far totals at eight 12th-graders. Anastacia Makris, a senior at MCAA, said one of her favorite things about the course is the size. "It's personal," she said.
Another member of the class, senior Kelsey Cena, explained that " it's easy to have very in-depth discussions about the issues that affect the environment."
The overall pace of the course can be challenging for students not accustomed to a rigorous workload. Mrs. McDowell has been teaching for nine years. She spoke about the demanding nature of the subject: "You have to be willing to work hard, and I suggest that you have a passion for the environment."
Rebecca Baker, another senior, describes the lessons in the class as "very useful knowledge." So far this year, students have learned about the poor air quality in the Mid-Valley area due to agriculture and the most common forms of renewable and nonrenewable energy.
One of the more popular ongoing assignments requires students to collect news articles concerning the environment and summarize them. These summaries are then shared with the class every day. This creates a melting-pot effect for ideas and concepts throughout the class, which stimulates the textbook curriculum.
Anastacia Makris said that the class, only eight weeks into the semester, has already "made (her) more aware of everything" that is really happening in the world.
Mrs. McDowell expressed an appreciation for her students who have, as she described, "jumped in with both feet." Field trips are being planned for the students to test the water quality in Ellis Lake in Marysville and local rivers.
Mrs. McDowell is also organizing a trip to the summit of the Sutter Buttes to test air quality later in the year. She said, it's "such a relevant class. It's part of our everyday lives."
Environmental science is different from traditional science subjects because, as Kelsey said, "It is more about current issues and not just a subject matter that's being taught." The field of environmental science grows and evolves every day as more information is compiled and technology is advanced.
As the environment changes, we must adapt with it. Students of the AP environmental science course are already preparing themselves for the future, and the education is priceless.
T.J. Scott is a senior at the Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts. Her column appears every six weeks in Education.