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Appalachian part of project to improve natural resources educational outreach

geography_t.jpgBOONE—Appalachian State University’s Department of Geography and Planning is partnering with the University of Georgia and Virginia Tech to help improve educational outreach related to natural resources.

Ben Riddle, left, Assistant Professor Saskia van de Gevel, center and Emily Morris, right.jpgGeography students Ben Riddle, left, and Emily Morris, right, participated in a weekend workshop for individuals planning natural resources careers. Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grant titled Ambassadors for Conservation Education (ACE) Program, the workshops provided training designed to excite high school students and the general public about their community’s natural resources. Also leading the workshop was Assistant Professor Saskia van de Gevel, center, from the Department of Geography and Planning.

Virginia Tech students, Caleb Price, left, and Steve Eaheart.jpg
Virginia Tech students, Caleb Price, left, and Steve Eaheart analyze a soil sample made with a soil auger. They participated in last year’s Ambassadors for Conservation Education Program at Appalachian State University designed to improve natural resources educational outreach. (All photos courtesy of Assistant Professor Saskia van de Gevel)

Virginia Tech student, left and Locust Grove High School student.jpgA student from Virginia Tech, left, and a student from Georgia’s Locust Grove High School work on a tree leaf identification activity designed to improve natural resources educational outreach.

Locust Grove High School students.jpgGeorgia’s Locust Grove High School students measure tree diameters at Indian Springs State Park.

The partnership is supported by a U.S. Department of Agriculture High Education Challenge Grant titled Ambassadors for Conservation Education (ACE) Program.

Undergraduates and master’s-degree seeking students from Georgia and Virginia Tech come to Appalachian to learn ways to excite public school students about the natural resources in their communities and better communicate with public school students and other audiences about science.

Very few college campuses have environmental areas like Camp Broadstone and the nature preserve on campus where you can host 30-40 people for a weekend focusing on natural resources,” said Dr. Saskia van de Gevel, an assistant professor in Appalachian’s Department of Geography and Planning. “That’s a large asset for our university.”

This is the second year Appalachian has hosted the program. College students learn about and are videotaped giving presentations related to soil profiles, understanding native tree species, and information that can be learned from studying tree rings.

“The goal of the ACE program is to have everyone who works in the natural resources field better communicate the excitement of science and the excitement of natural resources to a general audience,” van de Gevel said. “People in the workforce can become uncomfortable when asked to give a presentation to a public audience because they have had little practice in college. Through this program, whether they are working for a government agency or a nonprofit group or a business, they will have some comfort level giving public speeches about natural resources or giving guided tours.”

After their weekend at Camp Broadstone, a 55-acre year round outdoor adventure and retreat center, the students will take what they learn and present outdoor and natural resource programs to high school students either at Indian Springs State Park in Georgia or Mason Neck National Wildlife Preserve in northern Virginia.

“Science tends to be an indoor laboratory experience especially in junior high and high school,” van de Gevel said. “The ACE program will help students see science outside, see the natural world around them and better understand some of the processes that are discussed in the classroom. They come away from the experience having a great time and learning scientific techniques in a forest environment.”

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