Geography students mentor local high school students in intensive learning program

SIUE Geography seniors and graduate students mentored 25 Edwardsville High School students in AP Geography. Professor Randy Pearson arranged the program. Photo provided by Pearson

For the first time this year, SIUE geography seniors and graduate students mentored Edwardsville High School (EHS) students on a volunteer basis in “real-world” group projects, according to geography professor Randy Pearson.

The purpose behind the program, according to Pearson, is “to enhance the high school students’ education” and capture for them “the real breadth of geography.”

“This was set up as a mechanism of trying to educate people in the high school—teachers, administrators, everybody–what geography really is,” Pearson said. “It’s not just names and places. It’s not just countries and capitals. It’s about so much more.”

Pearson for the past three years volunteered time interacting with AP Geography course students at EHS bringing them to campus to provide lectures.

AP Geography teacher Kevin Paur said Pearson’s student mentors have been able to sit down with his students to explain the computer modeling programs and help them with their hypothetical site selection assignments.

The 25 EHS students were divided into five groups to determine the best location for a freshman center for Edwardsville High School, a drive-in movie theater, a Metro Link expansion into the Madison County and Edwardsville area, a wind turbine factory and a soda bottling factory.

Once the student groups identified the project they wanted to address, Paur said Pearson and he were able to “step back” and let the SIUE students and high school students figure out the problems themselves.

“They really enjoy the independence of the projects. We appreciate the fact that the students are independently figuring out the solutions to the problems on their own and embracing the challenges,” Paur said.

The level of AP students’ presentations will be comparable to SIUE senior presentations for their senior projects, according to Paur.

“It benefits the high school students because it shows them college-level learning and the academic expectations of college work,” Paur said.

Paur said he thinks the collaboration between SIUE and Edwardsville High School is great.

“These mentors in the [SIUE] geography program have been very generous with their help. The mentors have been very professional and helpful to our high school students,” Paur said. “They’re extremely intelligent on the [use of] Geographic Information Systems (GIS).”

Senior geography major Kelsey Maves said she thinks it is important to pass their knowledge onto high school students.

“You don’t get exposed to technology like this early on, and it’s rare for high school students to be exposed to geography at such a high level,” Maves said. “So in order to advance our field or discipline it’s important to pass on our knowledge to the next generation of geographers,”

Maves is among 20 volunteers from the SIUE’s geography program and said she “really just likes helping kids understand that there’s more to geography than just maps, and exposing them to all geography has to offer.”

Maves said she feels the mentorship program is successful.

“I think that when I talk to the kids it seems like they’re learning a lot and moving along and getting exposed to a lot of important topics that geography has to offer,” Maves said.

The AP students will present their findings before the SIUE mentors and high school administrators in mid-May.

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