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Austin one of 12 chosen for environmental program

By Bayne Hughes · 340-2432

Educators said many of their students don’t recognize what nature does for them.

Austin High School teacher Richie Simon is getting help making studies more relevant to his biology and environmental science classes.

Austin is one of 12 schools selected as part of the pilot “Project Community,” a program that provides professional development and instructional materials.

The Alabama Association of Conservation Districts, Alabama Public Television’s “Discovering Alabama” and Austin held a press conference Tuesday to announce the project. The state Department of Education is also involved. State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and state Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, attended the press conference.

Noopie Crosby said the Association of Conservation Districts, a group that helps farmers and landowners wisely use and manage their land, water and air resources, is providing a $126,000 grant. It will be divided among the 12 schools in the project.

Executive Producer Doug Phillips said his show, “Discovering Alabama,” would provide DVDs of about 100 shows featuring Alabama and its natural resources. He said that students don’t realize how rich in natural resources the state is.

Phillips said students, particularly those from urban areas, don’t get into the outdoors. He said he took a group of seventh-graders into the woods.

“They could not tell me where the sun comes up,” Phillips said. “They’d never been up when the sun comes up, or they didn’t notice where it came up from.”

Beth Stevens is a Vestavia Hills High School teacher overseeing “Project Community.” She said the schools received topographic maps, posters of endangered species, a learning lab with a hand-held global positioning system, a microscope, a digital camera and a field guide.

Simon said he is trying to integrate his training and materials into the curriculum and his lesson plans.

He plans to use them in conjunction with visits to the Wetlands Edge Environmental Center.

A former science teacher, Austin Principal Don Snow said the aid will allow students to experience what they might not otherwise.

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