Polk County Energy Leaders
Polk County Renewable Leaders links teachers, students and a local utility-scale solar array through a series teacher professional development (PD) workshops designed to augment environmental science, STEM and CTE programs with renewable energy content, science kits & leadership support over a three-year period. Teacher leaders were selected by Districts and participated in renewable energy workshops, curriculum development and leadership skills training labs. The teacher leaders will in turn provide additional support and serve as leaders in this new content area in their districts.
The origin of the project began with the installation of the Steel Bridge Solar Project, a highly visible 2.4 MW array located in Willamina along Highway 18. OneEnergy, the developer for the project, allocated funds to leverage this project for educational purposes, with match funds provided by BEF. OneEnergy Renewables is developing utility-scale solar projects in the Oregon and across the nation. OneEnergy fully funded the Polk County Renewable Energy Inquiry and Engineering Training workshop through a grant to the CE program. OneEnergy actively supports local renewable energy educational programs and the advancement of future renewable energy leaders. In 2017, Gray Family Foundation also provided grant funds to add a teacher leadership component to the project and allow for small-group professional development with a group of core teachers.
During the regional workshop, teachers engaged in various hands-on projects in order to acquaint themselves with the contents of their science kits and model strategies for teaching renewable energy and grid related concepts aligned with Next Generation Science Standards. Teachers constructed solar ovens, engaged in circuitry challenges exploring electricity phenomena and grid dynamics, and built solar cars over the course of a 7-hour-long training. Particular attention was devoted to career connection discussions, as teachers noted a strong interest in exposing their students to new career pathways at the beginning of the workshop. From this day together, five teacher leaders emerged to continue working with the CE team to develop district-wide and regional curriculum in smaller labs moving forward.
The teacher leaders developed and began designing the roll out of rigorous renewable energy curriculum across their respective Districts. The group meetings consisted of a Curriculum Lab, focusing on district needs and activity brainstorming, and a Leadership Lab, focusing on moving forward and strategies to bring materials to the hands of their local teachers. Local teachers received solar car engineering kits and worked with their students in the classroom. Teacher leaders collaborated accross Districts and with CE to organize a multi-district engineering challenge for students in Spring 2020, which was postponned to a later date (TBD) due to COVID19 school closures and statewide stay-at-home order.
Feature image photo courtesy of Erin Berzel Photography.