2012-2013 Energy Education Program
Solar Oregon’s Energy Education Program creates a new generation of informed citizens about energy issues by teaching kids about energy consumption and renewable energy technologies. It aims to instill a new level of knowledge about renewable energy among the next generation of energy consumers and excite kids about energy technology as a career. Our curriculum includes student-led projects such as measuring household energy use, designing and building solar cars and batteries, and using real-time data from local solar installations. The curriculum can be used in conjunction with Solar 4R Schools as well as other resources such as Portland General Electric or National Energy Education Development. All activities are inquiry-based, meet current Oregon State Science Standards and relate directly to real-world energy issues affecting students in the greater Portland metro area.
What sets the Solar Oregon program apart is the extensive support available to teachers participating in the program. The Curriculum Specialist will actually go into the classroom and model or co-teach the lessons with the teacher. In addition, knowledgeable volunteers from solar or related industries will assist students with each of the lessons. They also serve as guest speakers and solar experts.
Need for Energy Education in our Schools
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 18 percent of US high school seniors are proficient in science and a mere 5 percent of current US college graduates earn science, engineering, or technology degrees. In order for kids today to be able to solve the growing energy crisis they will inherit as adults, we must improve the scientific and technical literacy through education and exposure to fields in renewable energy.
Development of the Curriculum
Solar Oregon began a discussion with educators and community members in 2010 to revamp the existing Solar Oregon K-12 curriculum. We constructed a professional learning community of teachers from multiple grade levels, professors, solar professionals and community members as well as observed in science classrooms and conducted teacher surveys. We repeatedly found a need for an up-to-date renewable energy curriculum with a high level of built-in teacher support. Teachers told us that they needed lessons that could be quickly and easily accessed, used as a unit or individually, and adaptable to multiple grade and literacy levels. They also wanted hands-on labs focused on the inquiry process and engineering design.
Using the suggestions we gathered, we modified the Solar Oregon curriculum into a set of inquiry labs and engineering projects with multiple supporting lessons for each. The lessons meet current Oregon State Science Standards, which lay out what each child is expected to be taught by grade level. The lessons are taught using a mentor model where a curriculum specialist and two to three Solar Oregon volunteers teach the curriculum with the classroom teacher. The Solar Oregon staff also provides training, and help with needed supplies and background information for the teacher.
During the 2011-12 school year, the thirteen-lesson curriculum was piloted at four elementary schools in Clackamas County through a partnership with 4-H and OSU Extension Service. A total of 342 students in grades 3 through 6 participated in the program, representing twelve classrooms. The lessons were taught by twelve specially trained volunteers and an Oregon State University 4-H instructor, with the support of twelve classroom teachers. The program was also piloted in a 4-H after-school project in Multnomah County involving fifteen 4th grade students over a nine week period.
Based on pre- and post-survey results, the pilot program:
● Increased student ability to problem solve the engineering design process
● Increased student awareness, knowledge, and understanding of energy issues, potential solutions and potential careers
● Increased student proficiency in Science Inquiry
● Addressed Oregon Science Standards and Benchmarks
● Was fun and engaging for students
Expanding the Energy Education Program
In the 2012-13 school year, Solar Oregon plans on expanding across the tri-county area to include 28 classrooms in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. We are excited about partnering with Bonneville Education Foundation’s Solar 4R Schools program to specifically target schools with solar installations and/or access to data on the installations’ productivity.
The upcoming school year will present unique challenges as budget cuts force teachers into areas they have not taught before, increase class size, and deplete funds for supplies. Partnering with Solar 4R Schools will allow us to reach more schools and provide additional supplies and lesson options, when teachers need it most. We will continue to provide teacher training and in-class support through our volunteers, Program Coordinator and Curriculum Specialist.
The Program Model
The Curriculum Specialist will meet individually with teachers that have expressed interest in participating in the program. She will work out a unit plan with the teacher based on the teacher’s knowledge of solar principles, comfort level teaching inquiry-based science and required state standards. After a plan is in place, the teacher will have the opportunity to attend a group training session with Solar Oregon staff and be given time to work with the Curriculum Specialist while a substitute teacher covers her classes.
The Curriculum Specialist will provide all of the needed supplies or help the teacher obtain them. She will also assist with any handouts or presentations that need to be made.
On the days that the lessons are actually being implemented, the Curriculum Specialist along with two to three trained volunteers will be present in the classroom. The Curriculum Specialist will either model the lessons by teaching them with the classroom teacher present or co-teach them with him, depending on what the teacher’s preference is.
After the initial year, the classroom teacher will continue to teach and build on the curriculum with decreased support from the curriculum specialist. Solar Oregon will provide volunteers, if the teacher desires, as well as replace consumable supplies. Eventually the teacher will be able to implement the energy education curriculum independently and potentially train other teachers in the program.