It wasn”t the familiar lecture last night at Rackham Amphitheater. There were no notes taken, no discussion on any texts and no newspapers open in the back of the room.
But there was a man who had the whole train scene from the Music Man memorized. And he did take time out of the lecture to take a bite out of a juicy golden apple.
All eyes were on ecology Prof. Burton Barnes, the 2001 Golden Apple Award recipient. And all ears were perked, listening to his ideal last lecture, “What on Earth is Environment?”
“You gotta know the territory,” Barnes told a laughing audience.
“What is important today is to change our understanding of the world, to focus on ecosystems rather than the individual species that are a part of them,” Barnes said.
The Golden Apple Award honors teachers who “treat every lecture they give as if it were their last and … inspire and engage students.” The award was created in 1990 by a group of University students called Students Honoring Outstanding University Teaching.
Throughout the lecture, Barnes emphasized the interconnection of organisms.
People and plants are so interconnected to their place in the environment that if you take them to a different place, they behave like they would at their home, Barnes said.
SNRE senior Kim Pierce was one of hundreds who attended the lecture.
“Everything he teaches you really sticks with you. He takes you into the field and he tries to give you the bigger picture. You really take that with you,” Pierce said.
Barnes used his prized find, the largest organism in the world, a forest of Aspen Clone trees near Fish Lake in Colorado, to demonstrate interconnections in the environment. The forest of aspens derive from the same genes and are connected through their roots, weighing a total 13 billion pounds.
The “professor being honored is in a class of his own,” said S.H.O.U.T. Director Jordan Goodman, who read from one student”s nomination while introducing Barnes. “I feel a drive in his class to perform as well as possible, not only for myself, but so I don”t let him down,” the letter read.
Jamie Katz, Hillel program associate and staff advisor to S.H.O.U.T., saidpreparation is what separates Golden Apple professors from their colleagues.
“Students walk into a classroom one day. They find a teacher who turns them on like they”ve never been turned on before,” Katz said.
SNRE graduate student Ryan O”Connor said Barnes” classes carry a reputation of being both challenging and fun.
“Everyday I found myself wondering what new method he would unveil. Barnes is an excellent and inspiring teacher, but he is also a friend and mentor to the students,” O”Connor said.
SNRE senior Hanna Wingard values the time Barnes spends with his students.
“He takes us to the Smokey Mountains. I don”t know another professor who takes time out of his weekend time to take his students out of the classroom,” Wingard said.