At BEF, we believe education plays a critical role in solving the world’s most pressing energy challenges. Solar 4R Schools fosters educator leadership focused on integration of renewable energy science and technology into STEM education. Our innovative approach makes our program uniquely able to address critical issues around climate change, energy generation and national security, STEM workforce development and teacher preparation. Solar 4R Schools leverages the emergence and growth of distributed energy solutions to demonstrate a real-world example that facilitates interactive learning experiences for students while increasing energy literacy and preparing them for STEM related careers.
In response to evolving distribution systems and energy needs, the U.S. is deploying renewable energy technologies that will continue to require skilled talent, which currently is at a deficit. Today’s teachers have the daunting task of ramping up to more rigorous standards while preparing students for future challenges and addressing opportunity gaps – particularly in under-resourced communities.
Our Goal: The next generation of clean energy leaders is a diverse, creative group of intellectually prepared people motivated to lead the development of energy solutions that replace fossil fuel based energy generation with resilient, innovative, and renewable energy solutions.
Solar 4R Schools:
preparing the next generation of clean energy leaders
The occupations projected to grow most rapidly over the next decade are in science, technology and engineering fields, yet in 2013 the U.S. ranked 49th globally for science and math education. As a result, there is a conspicuous and growing illiteracy around STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and energy topics in our nation’s schools. Recent studies indicate that less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders showed proficiency in mathematics and science.
“STEM education will determine whether the U.S. will be able to solve immense challenges in such areas as energy, health,
environmental protection and national security.”
—PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
When teachers have the right mix of educational tools and engaging classroom activities they can bring energy topics to life for their students while preparing them for the jobs and challenges of the 21st century. Unfortunately, these tools are often expensive and difficult to find, or worse, they are challenging for educators to efficiently integrate into existing science requirements. Cutbacks to education budgets have made it even more difficult for teachers to access and utilize STEM curricula that include renewable energy education.
“Perhaps no ecological issue is more urgent than
the need to shift away from our reliance on fossil fuels.”
—ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ, PH.D., NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
At BEF, we believe education plays a critical role in securing a clean energy, low-carbon future. As interest in solar energy development continues to expand, we recognize the potential to turn every solar array into an interactive educational tool—and in so doing build a nation of energy literate citizens who understand the science and benefits of renewable energy. With the help of our corporate, foundation and utility partners, our mission is to inspire a new generation of clean energy leaders with the insight and innovative thinking needed to solve the world’s biggest energy challenges.
To get there we’ve developed one of the most comprehensive, teacher-driven renewable energy education programs available to K-12 teachers nationwide. Our customized teacher trainings, teacher-generated classroom activities, cutting-edge online Energy Exploration Center, and hands-on science kits bridge the gap between a demand for STEM education, teacher skill development and seamless integration of these interactive STEM resources into the classroom.
In addition to directly supporting education and solar energy development, our school projects provide funding partners with an exceptional opportunity to engage students, school administrators, media, community members and other stakeholders. Through a range of engineering challenges, interactive kiosks and co-branded educational displays, our funding partners authentically connect with local communities of interest, creating an invaluable platform to share their broader sustainability story.