Friday, September 29, 2017

For Immediate Release

Teachers Energize Their Curriculum During
MITS Southeast Summer Institute

Dartmouth, MA – In the Southeast region of Massachusetts, grades 3-8 educators explored alternative energy sources, including wind and solar power, through “hands-on, minds on” experiences. During Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS) Summer Professional Development Institute, “From Solar to Polar: Designing Sustainable Solutions,” educators made new connections between their curriculum and energy technologies.

Participants began their week-long investigation of energy at Massachusetts Maritime Academy where they toured a wind turbine and learned about sustainable building practices, including solar photovoltaic systems, a vertical-axis wind generator and geothermal power.  At Battleship Cove, educators learned about the self-contained energy systems aboard WWII ships, and compared modern and historic methods of energy production. With the 2016 revised Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks in mind, teachers brainstormed ways to incorporate engineering design into alternative energy projects with their students.

At the Lloyd Center for the Environment, teachers participated in inquiry-based energy activities that gave them first-hand experience using the Science and Engineering Practices.  Participants engineered solar powered fountains and crafted blades for wind turbines, tweaking their designs for maximum efficiency. During one content-based game (an adaptation of Pitch It), participants engaged in argument from evidence as they “sold” biofuels to other groups (corn, algae, manure, soybeans, etc.), prompting energetic group discussions that reinforced their learning about the value of renewable resources.

Teachers considered the consequences of human energy consumption as they examined how fuel sources can contribute to environmental contamination and climate change. Using the ocean ecosystem as an example, participants assumed the role of marine animal rehabilitators and performed a mock sea turtle rescue with the guidance of Kathy Zagzebski, Executive Director at the National Marine Life Center.

At Round the Bend Farm, teachers explored sustainable practices and engineering solutions to energy use problems. They were fascinated by the tiny houses, composting toilets and windmill on site.  They discussed the agricultural techniques employed by the staff, including rotational grazing (livestock forage in a specific spot for a short time and then move on), growth of multiple types of crops (as opposed to monocropping), and transformation of waste products (even from the composting toilets) into safe, nutrient-rich fertilizer for the plants.

Teachers wrapped up their week-long experience with a “Survivor Challenge”, during which they applied their knowledge of sustainable energy to design and engineer solutions to three challenges: move water, purify water, and power systems on a desert island. They also shared resources and ideas for classroom applications, and reflected on the Science and Engineering Practices. These teachers have returned to their classrooms energized and ready to excite their students about sustainability, technology, engineering and math!

“This was time well spent. It was exactly what I needed to get me thinking more about inquiry-based learning, and it helped me to be a more effective team leader.” – teacher participant

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The Museum Institute for Teaching Science specializes in providing hands-on, minds-on, inquiry-based STEM professional development for formal and informal educators.  For more information, visit www.mits.org or call 617-328-1515.