AP Environmental Science promotes education about the environment

April 22, 2019

With only 12 years left to change the course of the environment on earth before irreparable damage is done, education surrounding the environment has never been so important.

AP Environmental Science focuses on the scientific principles, concepts and methodologies necessary to understand the environment we live in today. These principles are developed throughout the course in order to create solutions and prevent issues before they can occur.

In his first year teaching APES, Graham Hegeman has utilized a fresh perspective in order to improve the course. Hegeman is able to utilize his knowledge from when he took the course as a student in order to teach it.

“I brought a focus on institutional change rather than personal change,” Hegeman said. “The sad reality is that climate change can’t be solved by individuals all making personal commitments.

This course has been a learning process for both the students and Hegeman.

“Solutions require large scale investment and intervention,” Hegeman said. “I have certainly learned that [this] generation as a whole is very interested in the outcomes, which makes sense as our actions on climate change will define your lives.”

Despite the common belief that APES is a traditional science class, many students taking the class say that it is more of an interdisciplinary class. Throughout the course, students study several disciplines such as economics, environmental science and government and learn how they affect the environment.

“We do a lot of little collaborative projects which point students towards interesting environmental questions, such as ‘Could SJS feasibly run on energy generated here on campus?’” Hegeman said.

One project APES students conducted was attempting to find a solution to food deserts. Food deserts are populated areas in cities where healthy, organic food is hard to come across. One group decided to tackle the Third Ward, an area of Houston that has experienced this problem.

With obesity on the rise in the Third Ward, the students knew they needed to find a cheap and useful alternative to the fast food populating that sector. After one member suggested using food trucks, the others in the group were dubious, but after considering spacing limitations and efficiency the of the trucks, the students found food trucks to be the best solution.

“This is actually one of my favorite projects we have done because my group was able to get extremely creative,” group member Natty Crain said. “We made sure that the food was sourced locally, produced locally and did not have all of these additional fats that are leading to increased obesity in those areas.”

Hegeman designed the curriculum to be mostly project-based in order for students to learn how to identify and analyze environmental problems, their trends and potential risks.

“I love project-based learning because personally, I have always struggled with sitting in a class and being lectured for an hour,” Crain said. “I have to get involved in a project to actually learn anything. APES is such a fascinating class because we do something different every time.”

One goal of this class is to encourage students to take care of the environment with their new knowledge.

Although many eco-friendly practices have already been implemented at St. John’s, such as paper straws and water bottle filling stations, Hegeman says many changes still need to take place, and APES students can help lead to a greener campus.

“Students should be the ones advocating for change,” middle school science teacher Kelly White said. “It’s really easy for me, a teacher, to say what can be done, but it’s going to have a lot more weight if a unified body of students start to advocate for solar panels or green printing practices.”

Several teachers and students such as White argue that APES should be a required course, as it teaches material pertaining to our home planet.

“When we walk out of here, we are going to be members of planet Earth,” White said. “We have to have an understanding, at least a respect toward the environment, and we all need to be informed citizens.”

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