Delta High School teacher Ben Graves has earned recognition from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT). He was named NAGT's Southwest Sections Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for 2017.
Graves teaches AP environmental science, ninth grade earth and environmental science, college biology and a solar energy class.
The solar energy class is a partnership with SEI of Paonia, which collaborates with Paonia High School and Delta High School to offer a Solar in Schools career and technical pathways program.
"In Delta, Ben really spearheads the effort," said Marla Korpar, SEI's development director. Having witnessed how Graves takes the program "to the next level," SEI nominated Graves for NAGT recognition.
Korpar said Graves has taken courses at SEI's Paonia campus, as well as online, to give himself a solid foundation in solar energy. One semester of instruction is devoted to solar energy; the other expands to biodiesel, wind and other forms of alternate energy.
"We've been very impressed by his work," Korpar said. "He's taking his knowledge to a lot of high school students."
Graves has been teaching high school in Delta County for just over five years. Before that, he was active in environmental education in the San Francisco Bay area. His undergraduate and graduate studies were in the earth systems science program at Stanford University. He felt drawn to teaching after volunteering for a number of years as a docent and ranger at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.
His teaching philosophy centers around engaging students with meaningful hands-on learning experiences that explore and build a connection to their diverse local environment. At Delta High School, this included starting a districtwide outdoor careers pathway program called the Youth Outdoor Network where students engage in science practices in the field with resource management agency partners. He developed a multi-year citizen science partnership with CU Boulder around air quality monitoring and initiated the solar energy training program where students can earn a vocational certificate in solar PV installation. His current focus of professional development is helping students develop skills in scientific argumentation and facilitating productive debate around controversial issues. He is in the fifth year of a Knowles Fellowship (kstf.org), a national teacher leadership program for early career science teachers.