While it’s become ever more common for high school students to take advanced courses and concurrent enrollment classes which give them a leg up on college, most classes aren’t nearly as comprehensive — or fun — as the advance placement biology class at Sulphur Springs High School.
This marks the first time the class has been offered at SSISD. The coursework is taught by Joy Doss, who prior to this year taught at the college level and still has a good working relationship with the faculty at Paris Junior College and Northeast Texas Community College.
The class not only meets high school course requirements, but students who opt to take the exams after completing the AP biology class have the potential to receive credit for two college biology classes, general biology I and II. For the students who pass, that means enrolling in college with additional classes under their belts as well as saving $1,500 to $2,000 -- the approximate amount it would cost the students to enroll in the classes at college, Doss noted.
These students are also “going green,” learning lessons they can apply to their daily lives.
This year’s class is relatively small, consisting of Blake Wheeler, Mallorie Taylor, Courtney VanVleet, Andrew Gregory, J.R. Rivera, Kayla Phillips, Lyndsi Bible, Cole Cable, Morgan Meade, Zack Mahand, Alysha Meehan and Danyelle Carter.
AP biology covers everything from ecology to anatomy. The class is very hands-on, and includes a semester-long project helping spruce up Hopkins County Regional Civic Center pavilion. The project is designed so that it can continue to be developed and expanded next year, Doss explained.
The students researched the soil around the facility and which plants would be best to plant around the pavilion to brighten up the place. They also had to learn about habitats of animals and creatures native to the area.
Once they came up with ideas, they pitched them in Power Point presentations, showing the horse barn, plant and soil types and other factors. They utilized ideas and designs from various students and formulated a project which would best suit their goal while keeping costs as low as possible.
The main limitation of the class, like most public school courses, is funding for equipment, supplies and materials such as more microscopes, animals and parts to dissect or study, and seeds and plants.
But they didn’t let that deter the project. The class hosted a few fund-raisers to earn money for supplies ad employed resources such as the Hopkins County Master Gardeners, who donated wildflower seeds. They were planted on the south side of the pavilion, where they should help stop erosion.
The first bake sale in October raised for the purchase of “knockout roses,” an older type more durable in dry conditions, to place on the east side of the pavilion, which faces Gerald Prim Stadium.
The bake sale was “really successful,” according to SSHS student Danyelle Carter.
“We raised $170 in 1 1/2 hours,” Carter said. “We hope our others are as successful. It helps out a lot.”
The students were able to get 20 rose bushes, thanks to Summerhouse Lawn and Garden Shop, which donated potting soil for the project.
“Summer House helped greatly with this project along with the Master Gardeners,” said Doss. “We also want to give credit to the Civic Center for allowing us to do this project and doing the actual planting of the roses and the trees to come.”
An agreement was drafted which outlined responsibilities for upkeep of the plants and additions at the Civic Center. While the class will start the project the Civic Center will have to help maintain it. The contract was an agreement between Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, Civic Center Manager Dottie Ford and Marketing Director Pansy Bell, SSHS Principal John McCullough, SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton,
The class recently held another fund-raiser to purchase trees to help color the front of the building. They are eyeing glory maples, Bartlett pears and red oaks. If funding allows, they plan to try two big Bartlett pear trees, and to add either glory maples or red oaks, which should both produce a splendid splash of color with their fall foliage.
The class project wasn’t restricted to plants. After research and approval from Civic Center officials, the class worked on a feral cat project. After researching the matter, they constructed a shelter on the hill next to the pavilion. Not only does the project give feral cats protection from the elements in the form of “tunneled out” PVC pipe, it also helps the staff with rodent issues — feral cats make good “mousers,” according to Bible.
They’re also trying to work in accord with the environment, with “green” controls for other wildlife, and would like to secure some bird houses for an additional attraction on the grounds. Of course, that brought new fields to research.
Doss said she’d like to see the class continue to expand the Civic Center project each year, possibly tackling nearby Peavine Pinion Pond, perhaps even conducting research to attract certain types of migratory ducks and water fowl.
Just getting the students together for fund-raisers or outdoor activities is sometimes a challenge, as the class is filled with juniors and seniors, many whom are involved in extracurricular and academic activities that limit time spent outside the designated class hour.
Still, the students all seemed to enjoy the hands-on challenge.
One student noted the class was “not as much work as I expected,” while another clarified that they in no way “expected it to be a blow-off class.” They also said AP biology has certainly been an “excellent learning tool.”
And while only one student indicates a desire to be a veterinarian and another is considering becoming a doctor, for the most part they’ve all enjoyed learning things that they can apply to their daily lives, skills and information that can be utilized later in life.
Even parents and other members of the community have contributed to the learning environment. A meat locker company donated cow lungs and hearts for the students to study and get a first-hand look at anatomy, another aspect of the class. One student’s father is a taxidermist and sent deer heads, eyes and brains in a cooler to school one day. Both had learned the class was unable to afford specimens, so they made the donations. Even though the class didn’t have formaldehyde to preserve the items, Doss was able to rework the class schedule so the students could use the donations.
“We try to utilize the community, anything people can offer or help with,” Doss said. “ Community help is appreciated. We have this nice new building and facility, but don’t have enough microscopes for everyone to have in hand. Several share.”
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