An outpouring of shared ideas and questions from many excited voices within the crowd could be heard through microphones in the room at the March 18 workshop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. About 90 Allegheny County K-12 educators and administrators were gathered to discuss shifts in science education and receive background knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics as a part of the CE – Clean Energy. Bright Futures. program, which aims to accelerate an equitable clean energy future by increasing the awareness of STEM education in underserved school districts.
Operating in 26 states, CE’s mission is to transform education for the next decade through local engagement led by educators serving as Clean Energy Fellows in their communities. Becoming a Fellow consists of on-site training with local education partners, utility professionals and other industry experts to provide them the resources to successfully transfer their knowledge and training to students in the classroom.
Fellows are given classroom lesson plans, innovative science learning materials, and engaging STEM enrichment activities for students. Customized through a collaborative planning process with local educators, training ranges from conference sessions and full-day instruction to a year-long curriculum development lab. Fellows work with CE and community mentors, such as industry representatives, to build knowledge about local energy systems and career pathways. They receive stipends for their time and effort.
In order to determine which communities to serve, CE conducts preliminary analyses and contacts a variety of entities in the local STEM community. The key contacts are usually people responsible for curriculum development, such as associated non-profit organizations, school districts, and STEM networks. CE relies heavily on local expertise in education and energy, and consulting with local leaders to best understand the needs of each specific community.
Once Clean Energy Fellows are active in their school districts, there is ongoing curriculum consulting done by CE to ensure effective assimilation into the existing education framework to achieve long-term autonomy over STEM education for all students.
With newly introduced state science standards, Pennsylvania teachers have shown a strong interest in gaining additional exploratory science education resources for their classrooms. Pennsylvania’s updates to the K-12 science standards are similar to that of the nationwide effort, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This, along with prior community outreach, made the Pittsburgh community a key candidate for implementing the STEM skills training.
CE led interactive breakout sessions at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s (AIU) Kickoff Event entitled, A New Vision for Science Education: Shifting from “Learning About” to “Figuring Out.” on March 18, 2022. Attendees received a keynote presentation from a science education researcher and professor at Penn State on the shifts required to transition to NGSS. In the breakout sessions, elementary-level teachers examined how to build a small wind turbine that would power an LED light, while middle- and high-school educators analyzed a video of a fallen branch on a powerline. This led to interesting conversation and hands-on learning to develop a deeper understanding of the science behind the events. The lessons emphasized the importance of using science education to solve problems.
“You provided a wonderful introduction to what is embodied in our soon-to-be-released PA Integrated Science Standards. Not only did teachers and administrators learn about energy and energy transfer in a way that is grade-level appropriate, they also learned a bit about the idea of exploring before explaining.”
-Allegheny Intermediate Unit Math & Science Collaborative Crew
Energy Empowerment for All
CE seeks collaborative partnerships with organizations whose mission is to expand equity and access for students from groups traditionally excluded from STEM opportunities. CE and its partners center their efforts around fostering equity and justice in STEM with emphasis on addressing racial injustice, gender inequity and other barriers to success for minority identities in STEM fields. Some of the program benefits include:
- Long-term, sustained impact in traditionally excluded communities
- Amplified local STEM teacher and student leadership
- Engaging all students in clean energy opportunities (regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, geography or socioeconomic status) in the science field
- Chance at equitable access to family wage, wealth-building careers in energy
- Showing students how to become educated energy consumers, creative problem solvers
Quickly evolving and highly volatile, the energy sector is one of the fastest growing industries, and its workforce needs talented individuals from diverse backgrounds. To succeed in an equitable clean energy transition, all students need to be set up for success, and CE is doing just that by closing the opportunity gap one school district at a time.
How We Helped
Clean Energy Bright Futures works with corporate sponsors, like 3Degrees, to support the program. 3Degrees provided a $60,000 grant to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, who runs CE, for the Clean Energy Fellows’ Pennsylvania Cohort.
Sponsors fund the program and collaborate with local STEM leaders to build curriculum, educator capacity, resources, and connections to real-world projects. Partners help transform education through supporting CE’s networks of educators in developing wealth-building STEM skills for the next generation who will lead an equitable clean energy transition to a low carbon future. Continued support is provided to help guarantee the program is self-sustaining for years to come.
The CE program relies on the support of funding partners to extend the reach of these hands-on STEM education resources to classrooms nationwide. If you would like to get involved in supporting this project, please contact us today.