Friday, December 18, 2009

UA Geography takes lessons to local high school

Dave Veazey teaches geography at Effie Kokrine Charter School
Students at Effie Kokrine Charter School are getting more than grades in their geography class. Thanks to a new partnership with the UA Geography Program, high schoolers are able to earn college credits for the course, “Local Places, Global Regions: An Introduction to Geography.”

The class, offered for the first time in a local high school this semester, was taught by instructor Dave Veazey. “The university has a responsibility to provide educational opportunities to K-12 students in the community,” he said.

Veazey teaches the students about essential concepts and approaches of geographic studies, exploring physical, political, economic, and cultural geography of major world culture regions and examining each region in relation to others, and in context of global economic, political and environmental change.

“We want to make geography a norm in this building,” the school’s early college site coordinator, Sue McCullough, said. “It’s important to know where you are on the planet. It’s good to get out the globe and talk about where you are in relation to other places.”

McCullough said that offering college courses to the students at Effie Kokrine can create “a pipeline of Alaska Native students to UAF.” She added, “It helps them see why they need to get an education.”

Effie Kokrine Principal Linda Evans is also excited about the program. “I like it; it’s good for the kids,” she said. The students like it so much that one fall afternoon when the school was hosting a volleyball match during geography, they opted to leave the gym and head to class.

Calling the project a new model, Veazey said it may be non-traditional but it works. “There are tenth graders in our school who are ready for college and we have a responsibility to provided that education for kids who are ready. Well-prepared students suffer by not being challenged if the university doesn’t step up.”

He hopes the program can expand to other high schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. “Going exactly through the steps of kindergarten to twelfth grade has no magic to it. We need to individualize education.”

Taking college courses in high school can be challenging for some students. “There is less hand-holding in college,” Veazey said. “Some are ready for that and some are not. Those who are prepared do exceptionally well. For the most part it’s a good experience for them.”

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