The environment is a hot topic these days. On one side there are the groups warning that the sky is falling, and the seas are rising, and the polar bears are dying. On the other side there are the groups that argue that the environment is fine, that the climate is cyclical, and that there’s nothing to worry about. As an adult it’s difficult to sift through the rhetoric of both sides to come to a balanced understanding and find a wise path forward. Teenagers today, who are increasingly environmentally minded and rightly concerned for the state of the planet, have it even harder.
My fifteen-year-old son has always been fascinated by all things nature and has a heart for the environmental movement, so when the opportunity came for him to take a full-credit, online course in Environmental Science through True North Homeschool Academy, I jumped on it. I am pleased to offer this review!
Environmental Science From True North Academy
My kids have never taken an online course before, mostly due to cost and inadequate internet speed. However, because True North’s prices are so reasonable, and thanks to “Internet 1000!” being available in our new residence, I simply had to take advantage of it. I am so glad we did! It was a definite learning curve at first – I’m not going to lie – but that was mostly due to our own inexperience with how online classes work, and we quickly caught on (my son faster than me, of course!).
The first couple of classes were rough with technical glitches, time difference confusion, and straight up bad attitude on my son’s part, who did not want to drag himself to the computer at 6:30 in the morning to meet with a bunch of strangers, but as the students familiarized themselves with one another, and as the teacher, Mr. Nehring, found his groove, it improved exponentially. Very quickly my son shooed me away, insisting he had a handle on things, which he did. He diligently got himself up every Thursday morning, made himself some coffee (don’t judge me, my kids don’t drink soda or juice and they must drink it black or not at all) and settled in without complaint. In fact, there were many Wednesday nights when I heard him say, “I need to get to bed. I don’t want to be a zombie in class because we’re going to be talking about (whatever the assignment had been that week).
Mr. Nehring chose to use Environmental Science, by Karen Arms, a text published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, in 2000. We were able to find a very reasonably priced one online, and though it was a bit dated, I appreciated that it wasn’t heavily biased towards the extreme environmental movement. It went straightforwardly through fourteen chapters, beginning with what environmental science is and working through ecosystems, water, atmosphere and climate, land, food, biodiversity, and more. The pictures were plentiful, and the writing was engaging. My son loved it.
Mr. Nehring assigned work for every chapter, which helped my son to read carefully and answer concisely – always a good thing! The chapter work prepared the students for discussions on class days, which were always interesting and thought-provoking for my son. The accompanying slide shows that Mr. Nehring used each class were especially appreciated, and prepared the students for the final projects, which was to present their own slide show on an environmental issue of their choice.
Real World Assignments
One thing I loved about this Environmental Science course was the “real world” assignments that Mr. Nehring gave the students to do. My son and I had some amazing conversations about the Biosphere projects, invasive species and man’s attempts to manipulate ecosystems (for good and bad), biodiversity, pollution – you name it!
One assignment in particular sticks out to me because of how challenging it was for my son – in a good way. Mr. Nehring had them study a famous picture of a forest shaped like two lungs with half of one of the lobes cut down. It’s a fascinating picture and the artist is obviously trying to persuade the observer to a certain conclusion, but it took my son, who is just entering the rhetoric stage of learning, a while to really “see” it, but when he did, wow! Lightbulbs!
That assignment, and my son’s struggle to interact with it, really reinforced to me what I stated in the first paragraph of this review: that if adults find it difficult to navigate through the rhetoric, how much harder it is for our teenagers, and how intentional we need to be as parent/teachers to help our kids “see” the arguments being tossed around so easily, and guide them into wise interaction with them.
The only critique that both my son and I have is that Mr. Nehring could have communicated with the students a little more effectively, and he could have given out grades and feedback more consistently throughout the semester. Overall, my son and I give this class an enthusiastic “thumbs-up!” and definitely recommend both True North Academy as a company, and Mr. Nehring as a teacher. My son just finished the class last week and when Wednesday night rolled around he actually lamented that he didn’t have class to get up for. I’d call that a win!
Nicole Henry is the Executive Director of Invictus Classical Press, a start-up company whose mission is to create unique classical curriculum for use by private schools and homeschools. Nicole’s first passion is teaching the Bible, which dovetails nicely with her love of history, geography, art, and literature – she’s a humanities girl through and through! When she’s not writing curriculum, homeschooling, running (or attempting to), and trying to keep her four kids fed, she can be found merrily reading through various books, listening to podcasts about all kinds of things, and teaching herself to draw.