Uranium mining in the Black Hills is a divisive issue. And as the water permit hearing approach, groups on both sides of the proposed project at Edgemont continue to go back and forth. But some KOTA Territory students are getting some good out of the controversy. We go into a classroom where students have set the text books aside and are looking to their own world for lessons.
The freshmen in Nicole Uhre's physical science class are learning about the elements on the periodic table in a non–traditional way.
Uhre asks "What could be a fun way to bring it in to my students, make a real life issue, something that's going on right now?"
Her idea is to challenge the students to defend and support uranium mining in the Black Hills. Wednesday, Mark Hollenbeck, Project Manager for the proposed uranium mine at Edgemont is laying out his case. And in the coming weeks, mining opposition groups will be invited to the classroom.
Urhe hopes that this "real world" teaching style gives her students a chance to understand a topic happening in their own backyards. " It's not just something that's in a book, on a page or on a power point, it's something really happening" she says.
"We'll be looking at what is uranium the atom, the atomic structure, what is uranium used for, why is it different from other elements, what is radiation, just all the science, as much as science behind this issue as we could possibly get students say they are actually understanding the material better because it relates to their lives" Urhe says.
Fourteen year old student Octavia Engesser says "it keeps me more interested and I like it better because it's something that's like kind of like feel connected in a way."
Her classmate fifteen year old Camalita Ramirez says "because you learn about the earth and the mining and stuff about it and then if it wasn't in real life that you wouldn't know exactly what was going on and how it helped and how it didn't help."
Uhre says "Education is trying to educate on both sides of issues so we have empathy for everyone."
At the end of the term, the students will write two papers using the evidence presented: one in support and one in opposition. Ms. Uhre is also planning a debate on the issue, around the time when the uranium mining permit process comes to a conclusion.