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Pontiac students in the know with U.N. project

(MCT) — PONTIAC — Even people in the United Nations care about what Pontiac Township High School students, known for starting a drug disposal program and raising endangered turtles, think about the environment.

About 240 science students from the school have been asked to submit their thoughts for the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. To get the project started, Wayne Talbot, an education consultant for the Volvo Adventure and U.N. Environment Programme, traveled from Cambridge, England, this week to mentor students.

 “I am impressed with their reasoning. They came up with the major issues I’ve heard and they have thoughtful insights,” said Talbot, who returns to England Friday. When Pontiac students finish their contributions, he will compile the information and send it off to the U.N.

The students recognized the “interrelated” nature of the environment and the need to keep everything “in balance,” he said.

Students benefit from Talbot’s different approach, said science teacher Brian Hitchins. Where teachers often encourage students, “he’s here to get things done,” Hitchins said.

It gives students more of an understanding of what a boss might expect in the real world, he said.

Instead of just talking about what they read or learned in class, Talbot challenged them to think on their own. “It’s not what you know but how you use what you know,” Hitchins said.

Such opportunities help students become global thinkers and responsible citizens, the teacher said.

Braxtan Thweatt, 16, a sophomore, said her group talked about pollution and disappearing species. “There are easy things we could do,” she said, noting people can raise money to help support a species in trouble.

Pontiac students already are raising alligator snapping turtles to release into waterways in southern Illinois.

Freshman Cody Dermain, 14, focused on how draining rivers and lakes to irrigate crops can affect wildlife. His presentation for teacher Nate Nollen’s biology class will be graded for school and compiled for the U.N. report.

Talbot learned about the Pontiac students when their Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2) program was recognized in Sweden as part of the Volvo Adventure award competition — an international environmental problem-solving program created by the carmaker in partnership with the U.N.

Science teacher Paul Ritter said connections the school has made through previous projects have brought other opportunities for Pontiac students. “New things arise and we’ve been able to be part of them,” he said.

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