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Highlands has offered A.P. Environmental Science for the past ten years and students pass the A.P. exam at more than a 60 percent rate. As a key part of the curriculum, Highlands has participated heavily in field learning opportunities and service projects: visiting a local creek, conducting an extensive watershed study, analyzing energy use at homes and businesses, planting a pollinator garden at Harlan Hubbard Studio, leading the school’s recycling program, creating and caring for the Highlands Rain Garden, leading Earth Day festivities at nearby Tower Park and distributing Milkweed at a booth to show environmental stewardship.
This year, Highlands has received a $250 grant from the KAEE to evaluate options for an outdoor learning space in the Crawford Nature Preserve behind the Highlands Fieldhouse.
“It’s just an awesome option for the students to be able to do this and engage in this kind of problem-based learning,” said Colleen Epperson, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Highlands who founded the program and taught the first APES class in 2010. “It’s so applicable and teaches our kids to become good community members and honor the resources we have.”
Highlands High School has also thrived at Envirothon competitions, sending two individual teams to the state competition this past year. The students must tackle 10-15 learning objectives in such key environmental areas as aquatics, wildlife, forestry, soil, and a current topic that is very much part of the environmental agenda. Students hone their public speaking skills with an oral presentation.
“Our students really learn to divide and conquer and really focus on what their specialties are in these competitions,” Epperson said.
Highlands High School credits the Campbell County Conservation District, the Campbell County Extension Office, and the Fort Thomas Conservancy as invaluable partners in guiding students through learning more about the environment.