Teacher Spotlight: Alex Harris

May 6, 2019

Authentic Learning Experiences

Alex Harris is in the spotlight this week for the way he partners with our local community and embeds real-life authentic experiences for students in the classroom. Collaboration with professionals in the community and problem solving local environmental challenges are two Global Outcomes that Mr. Harris has recently provided for students in his classes.

Zero Waste Program & Internship

The Environmental Club at EPHS has been working hard on several zero waste projects. They are trying to decrease the waste produced at the high school. The problem that the club is trying to solve is how to create composting at a large scale for the school. Some of the challenges they face are that large-scale composting can be expensive and they need manpower and routines to keep this going and make it sustainable in the school for the future.

The club researched and reached out to neighboring organizations and partnered with the Community Garden to develop a plan for composting. The City of Fort Collins is in the process of upscaling their compost equipment to increase the city's composting capacity, and donated two industrial composters to the school to assist the club with the zero waste project.

Next year, the composters will sit outside the new CTE (Career Technical Education) building (read about the new CTE Building here). To make the project sustainable they have created a position for a high school student to oversee the project, turn the compost, and manage the recycling efforts for the school.

Students can apply now for the Zero Waste Intern position, and this student will earn credit and receive a stipend for managing the zero waste program. This club continues to come up with great ideas and this project has raised the global awareness throughout the school on waste and recycling.

Collaborations in the Community

Throughout the year Mr. Harris's AP (Advanced Placement) Environmental Science class has collaborated with Rocky Mountain National Park to get scientists in the classroom or get students out in the field. His students traveled to RMNP and participated in collecting data with scientist Chris Kennedy by electrofishing. Electrofishing is the use of electricity to stun the fish and bring them to the surface for data collection. (Don't worry, the fish are not harmed in this process). Students helped the scientist gather inventory on what trout are populating the streams and pools in RMNP. The students learned about the challenge RMNP is having reintroducing the native species of greenback cutthroat trout and learned about the invasive species of trout in the streams and the history of how they were introduced. This is a great example of how Mr. Harris connects students with relevant examples of ecology in their backyard.

Studying the Elk Herds

For the last 2 years, Mr. Harris has been the Teacher in Residence continuing his own professional learning in the sciences, and has made partnerships with RMNP employees and expanded the resources available to students in his classroom. One of those partnerships includes working with wildlife scientist, Hanem Abouelezz from Rocky Mountain National Park. He brought Abouelezz into the classroom and shared information with students about his night ops flyovers in the National Park.

He uses military night goggles to observe the herds of elk in hopes to help gather more accurate data on the populations in RMNP. He took students through the process of how do you develop a scientific question, and then develop a way to collect scientific data to answer the question.

Jellyfish Proteins and Insulin

In Mr. Harris's AP Biology class they have partnered with Front Range Community College, who supplied the materials for our students to do genetic engineering in the classroom. The students used the equipment to model the same process that scientists would use to make human insulin using e. coli to produce that protein. The students created their own lab to solve the challenge of producing an isolated gene by inserting it into a bacteria plasmid. The students took a phosphorescent gene from a jellyfish, created their own procedure, and were successful in producing the protein. When they were done, the students made a video of what they did so future classes can attempt to replicate their experiment.

Thank you Mr. Harris!

Though it's hard to believe, this list of great global outcome experiences barely scratches the surface of the work that Alex Harris is doing in our schools. (We also hear he's a pretty great cardboard regatta builder!)

We thank him for implementing Global Outcomes into the classroom and providing students with authentic learning experiences!