A guest blog written by Rachael Spencer, Youth Awards Staff
For one weekend in June every summer, teachers and students from all over the country gather in our nation’s capital to celebrate their achievements in energy education. These teachers and students worked hard all year long, creating energy related projects that increase awareness in their communities and take strides toward a more sustainable society. The most impressive projects are selected as state and national winners and are invited to share their accomplishments and formally receive their awards at NEED’s Youth Awards Program. With over 700 participants and guests in attendance, this year was the largest in program history.
This year, I had the pleasure of helping coordinate the 32nd annual Youth Awards program. Preparing a fun-filled weekend for over 700 people was no easy feat, but my co-coordinator, Ian Munn, and I managed to pull it off with the help of some great NEED staff and youth volunteers. We kicked off the weekend with an Energy Carnival and a High School reception- where older students were able to present their projects to one another.
Later Friday evening, everyone enjoyed an Opening Ceremony Banquet and an ice-cream social, which was the perfect way to end a long day of travel.
The fun really kicked off on Saturday with a full day of touring in Washington, D.C. The Parade of States dinner on that evening was a great chance for participants to meet other students from all across the country and trade goodies that represented their home states. Touring and trading were a blast, but the highlight of Saturday was definitely the dance. DJ Jeff got the party started, and it was not long before students (and even some parents) were showing off their dance moves.
Sunday was filled with more touring and a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. The Hawaiian themed cruise is always a participant favorite, and an excellent opportunity to see Washington D.C. by night from a beautiful new point of view.
Monday was the big day we had all been waiting for- the awards ceremony! The ceremony had many fantastic speakers; among them were Diane Lear, chairman of the NEED Board of Directors, and Dr. Franklin Bertley, Vice President of Science and Innovation at the Franklin Institute.
Over 40 school groups were recognized at the ceremony, each one with a different and creative project. The end of the Awards Ceremony marked the end of a fun-filled and exhausting weekend. As students prepared to head back to their hometowns, I was overcome with a sense of accomplishment. When these students arrived in Washington they arrived with suitcases and anticipation. When they left, I am confident they also carried home new ideas for energy projects, and a higher respect and admiration for their fellow students all across the country.
Youth Awards exemplifies the “Kids teaching kids” ideal, giving students the opportunity to share their projects and inspire one another for future projects. Recognizing the achievements of over 300 bright young students is a truly rewarding experience. The 32nd Annual Youth Awards ceremony was undoubtedly a success, and I feel so fortunate to have played a part in it.
A guest blog written by Matthew Inman, U.S. Department of Energy
What We’re Doing & Why
To better educate Americans, The U.S. Department of Energy is leading a collaborative effort, the Energy Literacy Initiative (ELI), to define and promote energy literacy. If more people had a basic understanding of energy, energy resources, generation and efficiency, families and businesses could make more informed decisions on ways to save money by saving energy. More broadly, people would better understand the energy landscape, allowing them to better understand local, national and international energy policy. Current national and global issues such as safeguarding the environment and our nation’s energy security highlight the need for energy education.
The Energy Literacy Guiding Document
Central to the effort to promote energy literacy nationwide is the guiding document, Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education. This document was released in March of 2012 and is available for download at:
Energy Literacy presents energy concepts that, if understood and applied, will help individuals and communities make informed energy decisions. The guide identifies seven Essential Principles and a set of Fundamental Concepts to support each principle. The guide does not seek to identify all areas of energy understanding, but rather to focus on those that are essential for all citizens.
The Energy Literacy Community
DOE’s energy literacy efforts bring together stakeholders from federal agencies, universities, community colleges, professional societies, national labs, power utilities, museums, community organizations, business and industry, interested members of the public and more. Through public meetings and online collaborative tools, stakeholders contributed a great deal, informing the guiding document and demonstrating a passion for energy education. Stakeholder input helped create a thoughtful, measured approach to energy literacy and a quality document.
What’s in the document? – The document provides context, background and definitions, along with identifying the essential principles and fundamental concepts that underlie energy literacy. An inherently interdisciplinary topic, energy education involves civics, geography, social studies, history, economics, sociology, technology, engineering, and the natural sciences. Energy Literacy addresses all of these subjects. The guide highlights what is essential for all citizens to know.
The guide identifies seven Essential Principles:
- Energy is a physical quantity that follows precise natural laws.
- Physical processes on Earth are the result of energy flow through the Earth system.
- Biological processes depend on energy flow through the Earth system.
- Various sources of energy can be used to power human activities, and often this energy must be transferred from source to destination.
- Energy decisions are influenced by economic, political, environmental, and social factors.
- The amount of energy used by human society depends on many factors.
- The quality of life of individuals and societies is affected by energy choices.
Who and what is the document for?
Although everyone is encouraged to read and use Energy Literacy, it is specifically intended for the energy educator. The document is intended for use in multiple contexts and as a guide for energy education at all age levels. For example, formal educators such as K-12 and university educators will use it as a resource for curriculum design, and for standards and assessment development. Community, museum and library educators will use it as a resource when designing education and outreach opportunities specific to their venues and audiences. Ultimately, the goal of ELI is to foster a culture of smart energy decisions in business, at home, and throughout our communities on a national level.
We have the document, now what?
Because Energy Literacy is not a curriculum, a second phase to the project is essential. This phase is focusing on the development of education and outreach materials to accompany the guide, helping lay a foundation for energy education nationwide. DOE is calling on educators, academic institutions, federal agencies, industry, organizations, and beyond to increase support for energy education. Success in meeting the energy education challenge depends on the involvement and efforts of institutions and individuals nationwide.
Working with partners like NEED, this guide will continue to inform, guide, and provide a framework for future curriculum development. NEED’s substantial curriculum portfolio goes a long way toward the goals of energy literacy. NEED teachers and students are doing great work increasing energy knowledge in their communities.
A guest blog written by Amy Constant, Program Associate of NEED
The Project for Innovation, Energy & Sustainability (PiES) held the first annual Green Idea Factory Competition on April 14th as part of the 2012 North Carolina Science Festival. Students from Lake Norman area high schools presented a number of energy efficiency and other green project ideas. Scholarship Awards are awarded for First and Second Place, Honorable Mention and Most Popular.
Kathleen Rose did a wonderful job organizing and planning the activities. She invited me to the kick-off presentation in January to talk about the free curriculum NEED has on-line. The students were doing projects on a variety of energy topics, all of which NEED covers to some extent. I was invited back to be a judge for the students final projects – they made a lot of progress in four months!
From a teacher’s point of view, this was a wonderful contest for the students. They weren’t asked to reword someone else’s work – the groups had to be original and come up with their own idea. They had to communicate their idea with a poster, a one-page written summary and a ten-minute oral presentation. What a great way for students to use higher level thinking skills and creativity!
I was thrilled to see one group show their multiple prototypes, illustrating their design process and explaining the tests they had done and why they had decided to revise each model. One student did an amazing job making sure he covered everything on the scoring rubric the students had received. One pair used humor and a questioning technique to make their presentation more interesting. A couple of groups were focusing on others; one wants to help developing nations and another wants to educate elementary children. Another was trying to find productive uses of items in landfills. What a great group of kids!
The students didn’t stop impressing me…even after they left the presentation room. The majority stuck around to look at the other student’s projects. One young lady found partially full bottles of water that had been abandoned. Instead of leaving them there for some adult to clean up, she dumped the extra water on the plants outside (instead of just down the drain), then recycled the bottles. It was wonderful to see that the kids were actually interested in the science AND practiced what they preached about recycling and the environment!
And the winners are…
1st Place: Zachary Kennedy, a freshman from Hough High School presented the Solar Composter, an invention that through use of a solar panel heating system optimizes the composting process so that it can be used year round, while preventing weeds and parasites.
2nd Place: Austin Bruckner and Scott Krabath, sophomores from the Community School of Davidson created a unique prototype wind turbine, influenced by modern architecture, which harnesses wind energy to create electricity.
Honorable Mention: David Keener, a junior from Woodlawn School won Honorable Mention with his six-watt portable solar battery charger, providing clean, consistent, and convenient renewable energy.
Most Popular: Ashley Ernest and Bekah Conner from the Community School of Davidson won the most votes for their eco-friendly trashcan, a devise that needs no trash bags and therefore saves petroleum products daily.
A guest blog written by DaNel Hogan, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
The Tour de Energy Bike continued today at Lewisdale Elementary School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Lewisdale ES celebrated Earth Day today with a wide variety of hands on activities that, in NEED spirit, had the 5th and 4th grade students working as presenters for the younger students. Presentations included everything from pedaling for power on the energy bike to learning about birds and planting seeds to take home. The photos above were taken by one of the official 9 year old photographers for the event, Miguel Romero, of his teachers Ms. Rouget and Ms. Fiechuk. Another great energy bike outing!
At NEED, we love what we do. We are always honored that you love it too! So it’s always a real treat to hear how our curriculum and commitment to student leadership impacts students across the country. Recently, an Elementary School in Rhode Island shared a story that touched us and we wanted to share it with you.
I needed to share this story with you regarding our visit to North Scituate Elementary School. Shannon and I took students from our collaboratively instructed class and students from the high school’s NEED Club to visit North Scituate Elementary school on Friday afternoon. The students presented information to third grade classes on transportation fuels and announced our intention to use the raised garden beds we constructed to plant a garden at the school. The third graders worked hard preparing for our visit using the NEED Elementary Transportation Fuels Infobook. The presentations went well. As one of the special needs students was departing for his resource hour (this young man is autistic), he turned and made an announcement to our students. He said, “I want to thank you all for coming. You are role models to me and I want to be just like you guys when I get to the middle school. I am making a note of that.” He then left. The students were flattered, but it was not until the teacher came up to me with tears in hers eyes and said, “That young man has never spoken to anyone outside people he knew in that way. He has never reached beyond himself that way. Please tell your students.” Well, I did and now I am telling you both about our amazing students and about how this young man connected with students teaching students, the very goal of NEED. I can’t wait to return and plant seeds in the raised beds with this young man. WOW! This is a life changer.