Learning & Growing at Research Triangle High School

By Julia Sargis

How first-year environmental science teacher, Mr. Slusser, enhances his students' learning experience with nature and mindfulness.

Stepping into Room 205, you are likely to find students in a class like any other at Research Triangle High School -- watching instructional lectures on their laptops, taking notes on tablets, and texting on phones. However, there is an air in the class of something beyond the technology that students here are so focused on.

To Mr. Slusser, the environmental science teacher who inhabits this room on weekdays, it is vital for students to create strong connections with the natural world while they are more and more removed from its wonders. After all, he natural processes and resources that we often overlook are exactly where luxuries like laptops and tablets come from. That is where the sense of curiosity comes from in Room 205 -- in the growing plants near the windows, the environmental books lining the shelf, the dinosaur figurines on the filing cabinet, the "Stop Global Warming" poster high on the wall; the room is filled with nuances of nature, hand-picked by the first-year teacher to enhance the learning of his students.

Engaging his classes with activities like mindful journaling, hands-on labs, and bordering-on-art-class presentations, Mr. Slusser has created an environment in which exploring the environment is fun and educational for his students. They take away lessons that are critical to understanding some of the world's most pressing issues in the 50-minute intervals he has the high schoolers' attention.

These photographs explore the days spent inside and outside of his classroom and show how Mr. Slusser is making a lasting impact on his students in his very first year teaching.

Working with Tommy on this project has been a pleasure. I think we were both nervous at the start of the semester -- him because he was dealing with the stress of figuring out how to be a mentor for so many young people, and me because I was figuring out how to be a photographer for the first time! I really appreciate how welcoming he was to me despite the transitional circumstances and that we were able to go on this journey together. I am so grateful for the conversations we have had and getting the chance to befriend such a genuine person (and caring teacher!). Thank you, Mr. Slusser!