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New AP Environmental Science Class At RHS
Alice Poulson
Riverbank High School Biology Teacher Alice Poulson created and will be teaching a new AP Environmental Science Class that is now offered to students this new school year. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

For the past several years Riverbank High School (RHS) Biology Teacher Alice Poulson has been trying to create an AP Environmental Science Class to offer students to encourage environmental literacy. Finally she has made her plan a reality and new this 2017-18 school year, students at Riverbank High can take the AP Science class for the first time.

The class currently has about nine students, however, Poulson has high hopes for the new course and as word of mouth spreads around campus the class should start filling up.

“I had hoped to get this one going for a long time but it took a lot to get the ball rolling and all those hoops you have to jump through,” said Poulson. “When I look at the community and I see the school, one major thing that I see missing is environmental awareness. Environmental awareness is extremely limited here and our world is in a state that we just can’t play that game anymore. We can’t play, it doesn’t matter what I do.”

This year will be Poulson’s fifth year at RHS teaching Biology and before that she spent time at Modesto High School. A large part of her career was spent with the United States Forest Service in the Stanislaus National Forest where she held various positions in different areas for about 11 years. The forest service career began with aquatic surveys for frogs and amphibians and then researched owls.

“I can hoot very well,” Poulson said with a chuckle. “I did that for a long time but I wanted something more. I feel I had gone as far as I wanted to go in that so I started going to school.”

With help from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program she was able to complete the credentials program at CSU Stanislaus.

Poulson explained that each year we use more resources than the world can produce. As a result she believes that at some point we are going to run out of those critical resources that are a necessity. She added that the world recycles about 10 percent of the plastics that are used.

“So I want to bring environmental literacy to this community and the goal is we are starting with some, who will build it, then they will spread the information and hopefully we will get some actions going and get some more community involvement. Riverbank has a wonderful recycling facility. It takes plastics that no other places take. It takes everything. It is wonderful but yet most of the stuff we have goes in the garbage.”

The Science Club has started a recycling program on campus and she plans to create more labs and experiments with this new class, such as an outdoor candy experiment. The class will be a bit challenging with thinking, writing and processing information but there will also be a lot of hands on experiments like focusing on a tree outside because it will encourage observation skills, Poulson said.

“This is not your average class,” added Poulson. “The kids that are in the class are really special. They are great thinkers and they aren’t afraid of something they have never seen before.”

The teacher added that when the students are done with this class, she hopes they are going to have a very different view of this world.

“This class opens your eyes and opens your minds,” Poulson said. “So that is what this class is about, raise awareness to hopefully get some action going.”