Energy industry and Solar Oregon step up to meet need for science education
by Morgan Mulkey
Solar Oregon Curriculum Specialist
The K-12 Renewable Energy Education Program is in full swing with ten classrooms already served and another forty scheduled for the remainder of the school year. The program supports teachers in providing meaningful, hands-on science education while exposing students to possible careers in the renewable energy fields. The curriculum explores the trade-offs of renewable and non-renewable energy sources, how electricity is produced and used, and wind and solar technology. Students use inquiry and engineering design principles to solve current, real-world energy problems. The program helps teachers meet Oregon State Science Standards and provide lab-based science lessons that otherwise might not be possible because of class size, lack of supplies or teacher knowledge.
The goals of the program are to facilitate hands-on science lessons and to increase students’ exposure to renewable energy principles and careers, particularly populations that are typically underrepresented in science, technology and engineering fields. Through a grant from the Nike Employee Fund and generous sponsorships from the PGE Clean Wind Fund and Energy Trust, we were able to fully implement the program for the 2012-13 school year and will be serving over 1080 kids in fifty classrooms through Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties.
In the Portland area, the current school year has presented unique challenges as budget cuts force teachers into areas they have not taught before, increase class size and deplete funds for supplies. The teachers participating in the program have expressed concerns about their ability to overcome these obstacles in providing hands-on science experiences for their students. One teacher from Portland stated that she only teaches science two days a year because she does not have the time or supplies to do more. If a student is sick those days, they do not receive any science at all. Two of our Beaverton teachers are career librarians that were placed as science teachers after their positions were cut last summer and are now trying to navigate a completely new job with no notice or training. Furthermore, none of the teachers are currently covering renewable energy. Our program provides everything teachers need - supplies, support and training - to implement authentic science experiences in their classroom while teaching kids about renewable energy and showing them possible careers in the field.
The program was built on a foundation of volunteer and community involvement with the intention that the more people that are available to help kids in the classroom, the better their learning experience will be and the more exposure they will have to renewable energy careers. If you or your employees would like to get involved please contact Emily (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she will help match you with a school.