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Going A.P.E.S. for environmental education

Joyce Stark is teaching A.P.E.S., as she has aptly titled it, or Advanced Placement Environmental Science at Sunnyside High School. This is the first year that the year-long class will be taught and has sparked much interest amongst students, with 32 enrolled.

In order to receive college credit for the class, students have to score a three, four or five on a national test.

"The class is unique from other advanced placement classes in the aspect that it can be tailored to fit the environmental science to the area," said Stark.

Stark said she will incorporate environmental issues from the community into the class. She has plans for the students to learn about Mabton farmer Ted Durfey's program dealing with bio-solids and bio-fuel.

Students will learn about the different plants that can be made into bio-fuels, which will in turn provide a study about alternatives to gasoline, such as electric vehicles, according to Stark. A project is planned that will enable to students to calculate how much carbon monoxide is being emitted by cars.

The bio-solids aspect of the study will give students a chance to see how left over materials, such as grape or potato skins, can be used as fertilizer.

"I want to take the kids on tours to test different types of soil, some being farmed, some not being farmed," said Stark.

She is also hoping to work with DeRuyter Dairies on its project to take solid waste from cows and use it to produce methane gas.

Stark also has plans for the students to compare bodies of water from around the area and measure levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

"We will look at different bodies of water, irrigation, the Yakima River, ponds and the Puget Sound," said Stark.

An oceanography trip is planned to test the water in the Puget Sound on Oct. 7.

The class will take a look at alternative forms of energy as well. Stark explained that she will be bringing in guest speakers to discuss the windmill energy farms in Bickleton and nuclear energy at Hanford.

Students will learn how this area uses nuclear energy, waste management and prevention of ground water pollution.

A section will be taught about pests, pest control and the spraying of crops. Alternative methods to using pesticides will be taught, said Stark.

There will be a large section of study devoted to population and the eco-system. Stark has planned an activity where the students will go to local cemeteries and see how many people have died in different decades.

Debates will be held as part of the program that discusses wildfires. There will also be tests conducted to measure the amount ozone in the atmosphere.

Being a combination of earth science, chemistry, biology, physics and social studies, Stark said, the class encompasses many areas of study, giving the students a better understanding of how everything ties together.

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