By Sascha Zuger
Most students today are taught the
importance of environmental responsibility
before they’re taught to tie
their shoes. These lucky kids don’t just
“turn to chapter seven” to get a sense
of how alternative energy works. They
can look out their classroom window.
A Breath of Fresh Air
The Wind for Schools (WfS) program
in Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Montana,
Nebraska, and South Dakota helps
coordinate the installation of small wind
turbines at K–12 schools to demonstrate
how wind energy works. Instruction
for educators in developing hands-on
STEM projects that involve the tech
helps bring lessons in alternative energy
home. Kids not only perform interactive
research but also actually assist
in the installation, in assessing the local
environment, and in designing their
school’s wind-energy system.
“It motivates students to apply
real-world science to learning in the
classroom,” says Anne Seifert, K–12
STEM coordinator at Idaho National
Laboratory in Idaho Falls.
Here Comes the Sun
East Side Union High School District
in San Jose, California, in cooperation
with Chevron Energy Solutions, just
completed the largest K–12 solarenergy-
efficiency project in the country.
Estimated to save the funding
equivalent of the jobs of 30 teachers
in the first year alone, the venture
has benefits that reach beyond the
financial. Educators are taking part
in professional-development courses
so they can create STEM-based curricula
and renewable-energy experiments
involving PV (photovoltaic)
panels and monitors that will make
students more energy conscious.
“The class projects offer an understanding
of what solar energy is so
they can value it and see how it helps
the school help the community,” says
Dan Moser, superintendent of East
Side Union. “They can measure it, see
it, and experience the benefits.”
Fuel Cells Itself
Students on the Hamden (Conn.) High
School swim team don’t revel in the
July heat. Thanks to the new UTC
Power 400-kilowatt fuel cell, the water
in their pool is just right all year long.
The electrochemical device converts
hydrogen into electricity directly, and
the sole exhaust is heat and water.
Ninety percent of the high school’s
annual electricity requirements are
covered, as is heat for the school all
winter, via by-product thermal energy.
An energy cost savings of more than
$800,000 over ten years is predicted.
Whichever alternative is choen,
combining renewable energy with
classroom STEM curricula adds up to