October 10, 2007 | By: Laura Skillman

The Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment at the University of Kentucky has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to train middle and high school teachers and students to use remote sensing and three-dimensional modeling technology to study natural resource problems in their communities.

Ten multidisciplinary teams of five teachers and four student project leaders from each school will participate in a yearlong program, said Carol Hanley, the center’s director of education and communications.

“Educating Kentucky’s youth in environmental policy is key to the mission of the center,” said Tracy Farmer, horseman, entrepreneur and founding benefactor of UK's Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment. “By making a difference in communities, the center can help Kentucky understand and promote sound policies. We are proud of this nationally competitive grant and the recognition that goes with it.”

The three-year National Science Foundation grant will allow the Tracy Farmer Center to build on its current list of community-based education and outreach projects.

“The college of agriculture considers promoting science-based environmental education one of our most important activities,” said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research and director of the UK Agricultural Experiment Station. “We are grateful that the schools have confidence in Dr. Hanley’s leadership and are participating in this prestigious National Science Foundation program.”

The Information Technology through Community–Based Natural Resources program includes a two-week summer institute for teachers and selected student leaders, yearlong teacher professional development, yearlong community-based explorations for students, yearlong support by information technology professionals, presentations by participants at conferences, integration of IT professionals into schools and workshops for guidance counselors and parents. 

The students and teachers will work with researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and IT staff from the Interactive Digital Center at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The program uses the collaborative skills of these professionals to integrate geospatial, remote sensing and 3-D computer visualization technology to bring timely and relevant research to the classroom, Hanley said.

It uses information technology to excite Kentucky students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers and brings multidisciplinary teams of teachers together to investigate community problems using technology, she said. The program’s goal is to increase student and teacher knowledge of remote sensing technology and 3-D computer visualization. Participants will develop and use 3-D models and GIS maps and disseminate them statewide.

“We are partnering with Commerce Lexington to bring IT professionals into classrooms to make career connections. Guidance counselors will create career albums of local opportunities that might be of interest to the students. This program will increase all participants' understanding of community natural resource careers that demand IT skills,” Hanley said.

The broader impacts of this project include a lasting collaborative partnership among teachers, IT instructors at KCTCS’ Interactive Digital Center and researchers within UK’s College of Agriculture, and the integration of innovative technology and research into schools’ curricula.

The Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment is the University of Kentucky's focal interdisciplinary center for the comprehensive integration of research, education, and public service that advances understanding of environmental systems. The center also works to develop sustainable technologies and solutions to these environmental problems and issues, and to successfully transfer and disseminate technologies and solutions to all levels of government, private organizations, businesses, corporations and individuals.


Carol Hanley, 859-257-3780