STEM deficiencies amongst Alaska’s students hamper the impact of any well developed clean energy curriculum. Most recently the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) published Alaska’s Education Challenge Report; a series of proposals and recommendations produced by survey and stakeholder meetings that address the STEM achievement gap. Teacher retention, poverty, language and cultural barriers have long been conjectured to be root causes of the achievement gap. Based on conjecture, a myriad of strategies have been suggested to address the performance gap, the efficacy of which are unknown.
- There is some consensus amongst Alaskan educators regarding the need for objective analysis of the state’s educational system and performance shortfalls. 8 Current political leadership in Alaska has ruled out the level of investment such analysis requires.Advocacy for a comprehensive, expert study seems warranted. Until then, a survey of other analyses and actions taken by states facing similar STEM achievement gaps is recommended.
Clean energy curriculum in Alaska incorporates STEM on a more conceptual basis, as opposed to the application of STEM based computations and skills.
- Develop and make available clean energy problem sets to STEM classroom teachers for incorporation into established curriculum. The problem solving, analytical and computational skills required to determine if and where Alaska clean energy projects might work – could be a rich resource for exercising core STEM competencies.
Rural Alaskan students are not being reached in equal proportion to their urban or road system counterparts with clean energy curricula. This is due in part to the lack of compelling clean energy curriculum designed specifically for distance and E-learning recipients, i.e. rural school districts.
- The Alaska Network of Energy, Education and Employment (ANEEE) is well placed to leverage existing networks (such as Alaska Staff Development Network, T3 Alliance, Lower Kuskokwim School District Summer Academies, EXCEL, ANSEP, CODE.org, etc.) that serve this demographic and facilitate convenings comprised of rural Alaskan educators, administrators and clean energy curriculum experts with the express purpose of exploring avenues for the adaptation of existing traditional clean energy curriculum toE-learning and distance learning environments.
- In conjunction with REAP energy educators, ANEEE might invite select teachers to develop place-based clean energy classroom curricula by facilitating introductions and interviews with clean energy industry experts and field trips to clean energy projects that are positively impacting the teacher’s region.
- The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA), in partnership with REAP, developed the Renewable Energy Atlas of Alaska. Alaskan energy educators are well positioned to develop lessons that point to specific rural Alaskan renewable energy projects within this atlas. Existing online clean energy curricula might be leveraged to create innovative and enriching place based lessons that can be utilized by classroom teachers working within particular rural Alaskan regions.
- •Explore opportunities to utilize rural school buildings as object lessons in clean energy. The fact that school buildings themselves are increasingly being built and retrofitted with clean energy technologies make energy literacy relevant and conspicuous within the daily lives of teachers and students. AHFC has recently installed an open source internet dashboard and sensor based Building Monitoring system (BMONs) throughout the school buildings in the Mat-Su Valley District. REAP and AHFC are exploring the possibility of expanding the AK EnergySmart curriculum to include BMONs as a learning tool that allows students to measure and monitor energy use within their own school building.
- These are the sort of curricular innovations that lead to widespread engagement and encourage behavioral adaptations.
The food security/clean energy nexus is attracting great interest in Alaska, yet there is little in the way of subject matter curricula.
- Recently published by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, the BiomassGreenhouse Handbook serves as a how-to guide for school districts interested in growingtheir own food with a biomass heat source. This guide, along with the various other solarand heat pump based greenhouse projects around the state might serve as the basis forcurriculum that is highly relevant and useful in addressing the food security/energynexus.
The ability to reach as many students as possible with hands on activities is often limited by the resources needed to deliver “kits” such as those utilized by the Wind for Schools curriculum and the heat loss/insulation lesson, Snug House, from AK EnergySmart.
- Use efforts such as assembling inventory/vendor lists and fund raising strategies to facilitate the purchase of clean energy kits might include for school districts, parent groups or other associations that might be interested in increasing their capacity to deliver clean energy lessons.