Energy Education and Curriculum Development
2014 marks CEE's 35th year promoting energy efficiency and clean energy. Our programs have always taught their participants about building energy use and how to reduce their consumption. In this guest post, Energy Challenge Coordinator Emma Shriver and Program Coordinator Helen Booth-Tobin describe CEE’s more formal education work over the past ten years.
As a part of our corporate statement, CEE strives to “advance education and science in the field of energy.” With this in mind, throughout the past decade CEE has worked to enhance youth energy education and curriculum development in Minnesota. There has been a lack of energy conservation education in the state, and few curriculums or programs focus on the importance of energy conservation. To help fill this void, CEE has partnered with several organizations to support and develop energy education programs.
CEE’s first educational partnership began in 2005 with Girls Excel in Math (GEM), a program run by the University of Minnesota for fourth through seventh grade girls who are interested in math. The goal of GEM is to further develop girls’ math skills, encourage enthusiasm for the subject, and empower girls to continue in the fields of math and science. Sheldon Strom, CEE’s president and founder, convinced the board to fund the program because he wanted to see more girls interested in pursuing careers in math and science.
One of CEE’s largest educational programs is the TOLBY® (Turn Off Lights Behind You) program. The TOLBY program grew from the Minnesota Energy Challenge, CEE’s online action guide for reducing energy waste, which began in 2006. In addition to the online platform, the Minnesota Energy Challenge also serves as an educational tool for workplaces, congregations, schools, and families. In 2009, a Minneapolis teenager who had learned about the Minnesota Energy Challenge at school came up with the idea of TOLBY as a way to remind his family to Turn Off Lights Behind You. His story inspired CEE to create a TOLBY character to represent the Minnesota Energy Challenge and energy efficiency actions. TOLBY is a firefly with a compact fluorescent bulb for its light who teaches youth what they can do to save energy. CEE quickly expanded the program, bringing energy conservation to elementary schools in the metro area with an interactive presentation and a visit from TOLBY himself!
“Coinciding with the “191 Battle of the Buildings,” TOLBY and Emma visited several of our elementary schools. Through their educational and enthusiastic presentation they inspired students not only to do their part in the competition, but also to take energy savings practices home. TOLBY has helped to make energy conservation fun and understandable, giving our students powerful tools to do their part in helping to save some green. Thank you TOLBY and Emma!”
- Jothsna Harris, Minnesota GreenCorps Member at Burnsville Independent School District 191
In the first year, TOLBY reached over 2,500 students around the Twin Cities metro. Now in its second year, TOLBY has already presented to over 3,500 students. The program identifies sources of electricity and helps students make the connection between energy sources and their own energy consumption. Best suited for kindergarten through fifth grades, TOLBY offers a 40 minute in-class visit as well as pre and post visit activities, all of which align with Minnesota State Science Standards.
CEE also worked with the Will Steger Foundation to further advance energy education in Minnesota. The outcome was Experience Energy, a curriculum for grades three through eight. Experience Energy features six lessons that cover everything from the basic definition of energy, to the relationship between climate and energy, to energy conservation and renewable sources.
“As an an organization focused primarily on addressing climate change through education, the Will Steger Foundation recognizes that a comprehensive climate change education, includes energy literacy. This includes an understanding of the connection between our energy use and consumption, the resulting impact on our climate, and energy solutions that mitigate its impact. Our Experience Energy curriculum aims to increase the energy literacy of Grades 3-8 students through hands on, standards based lessons that emphasize energy concepts and solutions.”
- Kristen Poppleton, Director of Education at Will Steger Foundation
Experience Energy was released in 2013 and is available free of cost to all Minnesota teachers. CEE has continued to support the Will Steger Foundation this year as they refine their curriculum through teacher evaluations, align it to match new state standards, and promote it to a wider audience throughout the state.