How was your last professional development day or meeting? The workshop I attended last week rocked (pun intended)! The “Energy Education Teacher Workshop for Grades 5-8” is funded by the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA). Initially I was intrigued when I saw the invitation via email – free Staples gift card and a collection of materials to take back to my classroom. But I was a little nervous about where the funding was coming from… was I about to sit through a full day of propaganda? To my wonderful surprise, the information and creative lessons I came away with were by far the most valuable part of the day (even above and beyond the Staples gift card). The instructor, Sue Gove, navigated the touchy drama surrounding natural gas in Pennsylvania and provided an organized, full picture of energy education. I’ve taught both ELA and reading at the middle school level, and I would be proud to add some pieces of this interactive workshop to my ELA or reading lessons with middle school students.
One thing Sue adamantly addressed was the need for students, teachers, and communities to become wise consumers of energy. In the pack of goodies I took home (shown below), PIOGA included an Electricity Usage Monitor that can be plugged into any outlet to test the Electricity Usage of appliances, chargers, and anything else that can be plugged in. An attendee mentioned we could use this little device to track how much energy we use in the classroom. If we develop a plan with our students (think about the variety of reading, writing, and research that would go into developing that plan!) to conserve energy in our classroom, it would:
1) engage students and build community in the beginning of the year
2) encourage math and science department teachers to collaborate with our lessons
3) give us opportunities to submit proposals to our school board for small grants (ex: “As a class, we’ve saved $405.30 in energy costs between September and December. We are submitting a proposal to use some of those saved energy dollars toward a project in Mrs. Opal’s Reading Room this year.)
4) give our students something to read about that is impacting their lives inside and outside of the classroom
5) be a starting point for authentic reading, writing, and research activities for students in our classsrooms
The workshop was organized by first giving us a Powerpoint overview of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania. We were given time to meet with representatives who answered all of our questions. They spent a good bit of time sharing about the career opportunities in this industry that are available right now for recent high school and/or college graduates. After that Sue walked us through a series of interactive lessons that inspire students to think about and discuss energy. What I liked the most was that we took time after each sample lesson to brainstorm ways they could be adapted for multiple disciplines. Even though this feels very much like a science oriented workshop, I found many useful ways to bring pieces of these lessons into my Reading and ELA classrooms. A sample of this process can be found on the Kids Get It website where they show a sample lesson and highlight ways of using that lesson in various disciplines.
Sue also talked about the need for people to be energy literate. Our students need to learn how to conserve energy, what careers are available, and how to develop and use new forms of energy that are renewable, clean, and safe. But they should understand the current and historical aspects of energy usage before they’ll be able to dig into those other areas. What a fantastic opportunity to create a multi-disciplinary unit at the middle school, elementary, or even high school level. A copy of all the state and Common Core standards for each discipline were also included in our take-away materials. We referred to them throughout the day to make sure we were staying aligned to the standards.
A recommendation at the end of this workshop has stuck with me – be an energy ambassador. So today’s Nourishing Nonfiction post is not a review of a book; rather, it is a challenge: read something nonfiction (and preferably non-propaganda) about energy today. It could be a newspaper article, something from the PIOGA Energy Education Program or Kids Get It website links below, the first chapter of a book you find on Amazon, or anything else that strikes you. But read something about energy today! Become energy literate and consider helping your students learn more about the impact energy usage has on all of us!
Allison, PCTELA Executive Director