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Earth Day!



Established in 1970 to celebrate Planet Earth on the 22nd of April each year. 

To celebrate, here are a few exciting advances that have recently been made to help protect our environment:

Animals No Longer on the Endangered Species List:

  • West Indian Manatee

  • Louisiana Black Bear

  • Giant Panda


Ocean Protection:

  • Saltwater Brewery located in Delray Beach, Florida created the first ever edible six-pack rings to help combat the major issue of sea animals being harmed by ingesting the plastic six-pack rings that end up in the ocean. They are 100% biodegradable and compostable.

  • September 2016, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Colombia worked together in a deal to protect the ocean wildlife near the Galapagos that includes 10,000 square miles.

  • 24 countries worked together in October 2016 to establish the Earth's single largest protected area in a deal to protect Antarctica's Ross Sea, which is home to a vast array of whales, seals, fish and penguins.


Renewable Energy Advances:

  • Advantages in technology have helped to decline the costs of wind and solar power

  • In the United States, 22GW of clean energy was added to the grid last year

  • For the third consecutive year, additions to the power grid came from renewable technologies

  • More states are expanding and extending their mandates for renewable electric generation.  New York, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. aim to reach 50% of each state's total electricity generation with renewables (New York's goal is by 2030).


Earth Day is a wonderful reminder of the efforts being made to save the planet, but also a reminder to recognize there is still much to be done!

Be sure to check out NEED's FREE curriculum resources. Organized by topic, subject, and grade level and designed with state standards in mind.  Includes Energy Infobooks, a great resource containing fact sheets that introduce students to energy, and describe energy sources, electricity, consumption, and conservation.

Resources:
http://www.saltwaterbrewery.com/community/?rq=edible
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/ross-sea-marine-protected-area-antarctica/
http://time.com/4662116/renewable-energy-fossil-fuels-growth/
https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=29492

13 Years of EISP

Some consider 13 to be unlucky, but we at the NEED Project and Department of Energy know better, as this was the 13th year for EISP! 

Each year, Energy Information Administration (EIA) employees are invited to join a program partnered with The NEED Project called Energy Industry Study Program (EISP) and gain insight into various facets of the energy sector. This year's attendees were especially exciting to have participate in the program because all of them had been working with the EIA for less than a year. 

Below are the highlights from our 10 weeks together!


October
  • October 13th, 2016, Kevin Galligan from Cape Light Compact, kicked off the first get together by discussing energy efficiency and energy infrastructure. The participants took an energy myth buster quiz and engaged in a discussion of how policy and clean energy/energy conservation tends to be easier to pass and excites communities when costs are up, but when costs are low, it can be much harder to do so.  Kevin also shared how Massachusetts has edged out California as the most energy-efficient state, thanks in part to grid modernization and shared with us some of the state's energy saving innovations. Participants also got to see a video of a behind the scenes look at pipeline construction. 

  • The first tour of the EISP Program had our attendees visiting Mount Storm, West Virginia to gain a better understanding of coal and wind.  They were given a tour at Mount Storm Power Station where they gained an overview of how coal plants work and also learned about the Mount Storm Wind Farm and the business of wind power.


November 
  • A tour of Possum Point Power Station to get a better look at electric power generation and coal ash.  The name is because the layout of the facility happens to be in the shape of opossum! Environmental regulations and precautions were discussed as Dominion Virginia Power no longer uses coal to generate electricity at the Possum Point Power Station and is in the process of draining and covering its five ponds with an impermeable liner.  After coal is burned to generate electricity, coal ash is the term for what is left over.  Attendees got to see the coal ash ponds and the removal process in person.    


December
  • Charles Hendricks with Gaines Group Architects was the guest speaker to kick off the month of December and discuss architecture, sustainability, and building science.  Charles discussed common housing mistakes and EISP participants also got many of their own personal questions answered regarding how they may save energy in their own home.   

  • How many people can say they have been on top of 195+ feet of garbage? EISP participants have! Tom Smith gave a very informative presentation on some basics of landfill management and opportunities for recapturing energy from waste before our tour throughout parts of the 1,000-acre Prince William County Sanitary Landfill located in Manassas, VA, which included a capped landfill, seeing the trucks in use dispersing the garbage, wetlands area, and power station. 


February
  • BP America hosted our group for a day of presentations and discussion at their Washington, D.C. office.  BP representatives discussed their energy projections, methodology, goals and priorities of the company, and gave a better understanding of the upstream/downstream process. 

  • EISP attendees put their olfactory senses to the test on a tour of Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in Washington, D.C., the largest advanced wastewater treatment plant in the world, where they learned about the wastewater treatment process, the thermal hydrolysis process, and the biosolids program.  Digesters capture methane and burn it in a turbine to produce electricity that have lowered the facilities electric bill by one-third.  Biosolids recycle carbon and nutrients back to the soil and have been distributed to areas such as farmlands and forests. 


March
  • Jon Proffitt, with Sigora Solar, was the guest speaker to discuss solar, photovoltaics, and solar markets. He provided the group with excellent insight into the economics involved in the solar business!  

  • Jay Egg, of Egg Geothermal, changed gears to discuss another renewable energy market – Geothermal. Jay highlighted the many benefits of geothermal, especially in times of natural disasters such as recent hurricanes along the east coast, as well as policy and financial incentives.

  • Paul Loeffelman, from American Electric Power, was a guest speaker on Electric Power, the Electric Grid and Advancing Technologies. Paul highlighted on new BOLD technology that was developed to update North America's aging power grid, as well as economic decision making behind power technology and investments.   

                 
April
  • EISP ended with a tour of Penn State University's Breazeale Nuclear Reactor. Attendees learned about radiation and experimented with hands-on activities in the lab before taking a tour of the reactor itself.  The reactor sits under 24 feet of water and emits an alluring blue light caused by charged particles that travel through water at an extremely high speed. Being kept underwater creates a shield from the radiation and provides cooling for the reactor.  The water is kept so pure, by continuous circulation and de-mineralizing resins, that you could drop your phone into it and have no electrical malfunction (though, we took their word and didn't test this ourselves!). We then ventured over to PSU MorningStar Solar home, built in 2007, it is a 100% renewable-energy powered home that utilizes solar, wind, and geothermal energy systems. The day ended with delicious ice-cream from Penn State Creamery, mmm! 

A huge thank you to all our guest speakers and facilities that accommodated a tour for us. 

NEED certainly looks forward to another great year of EISP!

 

Resources:
Cape Light Compact: http://www.capelightcompact.org/
Mount Storm Power Station: https://www.dom.com/about-us/making-energy/coal-oil-and-gas/mount-storm-power-station
Mount Storm Wind Farm: http://www.mortenson.com/wind/projects/mount-storm-wind-farm-phase-i-and-ii
Possum Point Power Station: https://www.dom.com/about-us/making-energy/coal-oil-and-gas/possum-point-power-station
Charles Hendricks, Gaines Group Architects: http://www.thegainesgroup.com/
Prince William County Landfill: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/publicworks/trash/pages/default.aspx
Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant: https://www.dcwater.com/sites/default/files/documents/Blue_Plains_Plant_brochure.pdf
Sigora Solar: http://sigorasolar.com/
Jay Egg, Geothermal: http://www.egggeo.com/
American Electric Power (AEP) Bold Technology: http://www.boldtransmission.com/technology/development/
Breazeale Nuclear Reactor: http://www.rsec.psu.edu/
MorningStar Solar Home: http://sustainability.psu.edu/morningstar-solar-home

Library of Congress Blog Series, Spring 2017

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting https://www.loc.gov/education/.  This time we are featuring the list entitled, “School Gardens: A Guide to Selected Resources.” The list can be found by visiting: http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/schoolgarden.html.
 
Something on the minds of many is sustainability. How can we continue living the way we like without causing additional harm to the environment and ensure a sustainable future? As we continue to use fossil fuels to provide the bulk of our energy needs, energy sustainability seems to be something we ought to consider more closely. When access to clean water is disrupted for thousands of individuals as has happened in Flint, Michigan, and with large scale droughts in California, we turn our attention to water resources and how we can preserve what we have. And as large, corporate farms grow bigger and bigger, and our food supplies become more homogenous and processed, we start to think about making our food sources more sustainable. Organic foods, whole foods, local foods, and raw foods – these are common terms and concerns for those concerned about their food.  Many school communities have begun to include gardening in their science programming as a way to teach more about foods, sustainable practices, and energy while supporting life sciences content. The books and resources listed on “School Gardens” contain inspiration, stories, planning, and resources to help you start your own school garden project.
 
Agriculture is not something readily taught in most schools. It certainly is a part of the discussion in some social studies lessons, and the needs of plants are a paramount part of some science courses. But putting it all together, and understanding agriculture and meeting our food needs, is not a topic seen in most schools. However, one middle school in Berkeley, California, has changed their approach to include food. The concept is Edible Education and includes principles such as “Food is an Academic Subject,” “Schools Support Farms,” and “Children Learn by Doing.” Described with artfully interwoven emotion and good pedagogy, Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea by Alice Waters chronicles the evolution of the project she began at Martin Luther King Middle School. The pages are beautifully illustrated with photographs of students in the gardens and kitchen growing, harvesting, and preparing the food their garden has produced. The book is a quick read, and a great source of inspiration to begin your own school agriculture program.  80 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-6280-6
 
Once you've become inspired to begin your own Edible Education program, you may need resources to help you get started.  One excellent book to consider is How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers. Two members of the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle, are the authors and they have compiled a comprehensive guide to developing a successful school garden project.  The book begins by discussing why school gardens are a good idea, and continues to address gathering support, planning, fundraising, the actual gardening itself, and how to incorporate all of these into your regular classroom lessons and standards. This book has the appearance of a standard classroom textbook, with headings, sub-headings, and sidebar text in the margins. This is more a book for adults, but older students would be more than capable of reading and understanding its content. 223 pages including index, ISBN-13 978-1-60469-000-2
 
However, you frame your lessons on sustainability, we know that you will find these resources on school gardens helpful. NEED's energy efficiency and conservation curriculum units make great connection pieces to a gardening unit, or are great stand-alone pieces to address energy sustainability. Be sure to check out http://www.need.org/energyefficiency for more information. Sustainability is not just a concept for the future; it is a principle we need to teach our kids today. After all, aren't they our future?

Students build Solar Suitcases and deliver them to Kenya!

NEED is proud to work with teachers and sponsors that take their solar energy activities well beyond the walls of their classroom and borders of the nation.  Eric Johnson in Elk Grove, CA, for example, has been having his high school students build portable solar power generation sets for well over ten years now.  These solar suitcases include a solar module and battery storage that all fit in a suitcase.  Eric finds communities around the world that have no electricity and he and his students send the solar suitcases to them.

In 2015, our California partner, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, asked NEED to assist in designing a program to engage several high school classrooms in a similar effort: to build as many as 100 suitcases for distribution to developing countries around the world.  NEED assisted in the program design and school selection, then provided support for the construction teams throughout the program.

 
A Solar Energy Mission to Kenya
 
On February 17, three school teams consisting of one teacher with two students left for Nairobi, Kenya, with solar suitcases they assembled during the school year to deliver them to places without electricity.  Some 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and the health, education, and prosperity that depends upon reliable access to power.

The trip is part of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Solar Suitcase program that supports learning about the environment and sustainability through hands-on science and service learning opportunities at high schools throughout Northern and Central California.
 
Last summer, PG&E selected 19 high schools to participate in the second year of the program.  Each school was provided with more than $8,000 worth of equipment to build and test solar suitcases and professional development training in partnership with the nonprofit We Share Solar.  In all, PG&E supplied more than 100 suitcases to the participating schools.  The suitcases are all slated to be deployed to communities without power in various locations in Africa, Asia, and Central America.


Think globally, act locally

Schools agreed to also plan and conduct a local student-led sustainability action project that would engage and educate the public in a lasting way.   NEED provided training and support to the teachers and their teams and helped them complete the required two-minute video documenting their projects.   School teams developed a diverse range of initiatives, from water conservation to trash reduction.  Many of the projects included our favorite “Kids teaching kids” philosophy.  The 19 video submissions were scored and used as the basis to select three schools to send solar ambassadors to Kenya:

Independence High School in San Jose established a comprehensive on-site composting program.  Teacher Jordan Stone traveled with students Amy Hua and Kyle Mondina to represent their school and team.
 
Students Evelyn Ramirez and Isaiah Lucero joined teacher Juan Gomez as representatives of North High School in Bakersfield.  Their team conducted a water conservation campaign throughout their community.

Rio Americano High School in Sacramento made an extraordinary effort.  Schools were required to conduct just one local sustainability project, but teacher Joyce Dibble decided to put the task to all the students in both of her AP environmental science classes and this resulted in an impressive 17 projects, each with it's own video! The winning project raised community awareness about the importance of recycling not just aluminum but all recyclable and compostable items.  Matt Grossman and Max Glenn were selected to join their teacher on this exciting 12-day trip.

These are all terrific local service learning projects, but the bigger picture is about the solar suitcases school teams assemble and the distant communities that receive them.  Lives are changed when electrical power becomes available. New business enterprises pop up, like providing haircuts and charging cordless devices using solar power. Students are able to read at night, clinics are able to have better light and can operate medical equipment that would otherwise be useless. Some communities use their solar power to become connected to the Internet and better participate in their government and local affairs. The possibilities are endless.

 
A Cultural Safari for Visitors and Hosts
 
The mission to deliver and install solar suitcases to schools, clinics, and other was the backbone of a rich ten-day cultural experience for the travelers and included these features:
 
Two days included travel to Nairobi and orientation in advance of trekking out.
On day three teams departed for their camp in the Maasai Mara region, passing thousands of animals migrating through the Great Rift Valley.
 
Participants learned the basics of Swahili, took a water walk and played games with children at a local school.  Later activities included a lorry ride through the Mara watching for the “Big 5”—lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards and rhinos.
 
Later there was a medicine walk, Maasai warrior training, and teams worked on a community project unrelated to the solar suitcase.  Education programs related to health, economics, and other issues that impact Kenyans are provided throughout this comprehensive cultural experience.
 
To learn more about the experience through the eyes of teacher, Jordan Stone, read his blog here.
And visit this page to read about the program at PG&E Currents.
 

 
Teachers traveled from the Nairobi Airport to nearby Rosslyn, where the rested up and prepared for travel to the Maasai Mara the following morning.



 
After two days of installing solar suitcases, the group loaded up on this lorry to set out on safari!


 

This year's teams were able to visit with some of the recipients of last year's suitcases.  This group was very excited to show us the goats they were able to buy thanks to the income they received by charging people to charge their devices through the solar suitcase.



 
Maasai hosts provided our team members with lessons on the use of  the “Rungu”, a type of throwing club used for hunting game.  PG&E solar suitcase program director Emily White (third from the right) nailed her practice target on the first attempt.

 

 
Students at Pimbenet School greet our ambassadors on installation day!
 
 

Go Green for St. Patricks Day!

March 17th is a date typically accompanied by the smells of corned beef and cabbage, the sound of bagpipes, and a whole lot of green.
This St. Patrick's Day, find the money at the end of the efficiency rainbow!
Here are some easy ways to Go Green by energy saving choices you can make throughout the day:

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.

  • Turn the water off when brushing your teeth.

  • Bicycle, walk, ride the bus, or carpool to the office.

  • Still a bit chilly outside or in your office? Open the blinds and let the sunshine in. Layer up rather than raising the dial on the thermostat or turning on the space heater.

  • Bring a water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day instead of going through multiple plastic bottles.

  • Avoid plastic bags when shopping and bring along a reusable shopping bag.  Don't have one? Many stores sell them at an inexpensive price.

  • Take a few extra seconds to locate the recycling bin instead of tossing all your items in the trash.

  • Stop junk mail by calling to remove your name from the mailing list or go online to unsubscribe.

  • Heard of a phantom or vampire load? Many appliances and electronics consume energy when not in use simply by remaining plugged in.  Unplug them or invest in a smart power strip.

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED's, which not only last for years but use less energy and produce more light.

Going green is more than just the Luck O' the Irish – it's about making smart energy choices.  Be sure to visit NEED's Energy Efficiency & Energy Management page for curriculum and activities to inspire being green all year round.

Library of Congress Blog Series Jan 2017

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting https://www.loc.gov/education/. This month we are featuring the list entitled, “Snow: Flakes and Crystals.” The list is found at https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/snowflake.html.
 
No two snowflakes are alike. We say this all the time, but is it true? Of the literally billions and billions of snowflakes on the Earth at any given time, can no two anywhere at all ever be alike? It's difficult to imagine the number of snow crystals present on Earth right now. Wilson A. Bentley, one of the first known photographers of snowflakes, was a man fascinated by snow, weather, and the water cycle. After looking at many of his photographs, you may come to the same conclusion that no two snowflakes are alike.
 
A book that will help you do just that is Snowflakes in Photographs, by W. A. Bentley. A more recent compilation of Bentley's famous snowflake photographs, the book is page after page of black and white images of snowflake crystals and some images of dew drops, frost, and other dihydrogen monoxide representations. Looking at these images may lead you to wonder about the man so devoted to snow that he was given the nickname, Snowflake Bentley.  72 pages including introduction; published by Dover Publications, ISBN-13 978-0-486-41253-5
 
A good biography of Bentley is The Snowflake Man, by Duncan C. Blanchard. It's very detailed, going into depth about his family's history and origins in New England, and includes a small set of photographs of Bentley's childhood home, some of his family members, and a few snow crystal photographs. This book is definitely an adult read, and is particularly interesting if you are like early American history or genealogy. 237 pages, published by The McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, ISBN 0-939923-71-8
 
For younger readers, a great choice would be Caldecott Medal winner, Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin with illustrations by Mary Azarian.  The book gives children highlights of Bentley's childhood and early interest in all things frozen and illustrates well the sacrifice made by Bentley's parents to buy an expensive camera and microscope to fuel Bentley's obsession. Interjected among the biographical prose are additional facts that older or more curious readers will want to know, such as an explanation of the magnification capabilities of the camera and microscope. 32 pages, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, ISBN 0-395-86162-4
 
And finally, there's a beautifully illustrated book about the object of Bentley's passion, the snowflake. The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story, by Neil Waldman, follows a fictitious droplet of water from snow crystal in the sky, through its multiple forms and reservoirs on Earth, and back to crystal in the sky. Laid out as a seasonal or calendar progression, each page represents one month in the droplet's cycle on Earth. The illustrations look and give the feeling of the Northern Hemisphere season associated with the months listed.  For example, in March, the droplet is part of a mountain stream flowing down through a crack in the Earth beneath a frozen pond. The colors are warm above, representing the warming days, and cool and blue beneath, illustrating the still-frozen ground. 32 pages, published by Millbrook Press, ISBN-13 978-0761323471.
 
Whether you want more snow, or less, whether you love it or hate it, snow is a part of our life as residents of North America. It has been present in every US state and Canadian province at one time or another and is here to stay for the time being (sorry, warm weather lovers). The list of resources published by the Library of Congress can help you and your students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the intricacies of snowflakes.  Now, who has some hot chocolate?
 
Want to learn how to make a six-sided snowflake? Check out a step by step instruction sheet here!

How to Become a Solar Panel Installer

As companies become increasingly aware of their carbon footprint and look towards incorporating sustainability into their business practice and operations, it opens many doors into various sustainability careers. Vera Marie Reed discusses the career of a solar panel technician in her blog below. 



With the perceived vulnerability of the traditional power grid and the increasing cost of heating and cooling homes, alternative power sources are becoming more and more popular.
 
The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has, since it came in force in 2006, given the sector stability as well as growth. In fact, the industry, over the last 10 years, has achieved a compound yearly growth rate of just south of 60%. Also, consider that close to 209,000 Americans are employed in the solar sector, which more than doubles the number reported in 2010. That figure, meanwhile, is projected to double to north of 420,000 workers by 2020.
 
One of the jobs in the sector that is experiencing plenty of growth is that of solar panel installer. Read on for a look at the industry, the job duties, and the education and skill requirements.
 
Solar Industry
 
The U.S. solar market is set to grow by 119% this year, says GTM Research in its latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review, published in conjunction with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Elsewhere, SEIA says that the expenses involved in installing solar has declined in excess of 70% over the last decade, which has allowed the sector to expand into further markets and to install thousands of systems across the country.
 
The SEIA adds that California has traditionally accounted for the bulk of the solar market in the U.S. -- with a market share of 44% last year -- but that other states such as New York, Massachusetts, and Texas are starting to experience more growth -- not only from residential customers, but also from commercial customers. The organization further notes that falling costs, more competition, better consumer awareness, and a wider array of financing options to help people and companies get solar panels installed are helping to fuel growth.
 
What all of this means is that there are opportunities in the solar panels market as well as in other eco-friendly niches that offer greener options.
 
Day to Day Responsibilities
 
Solar panel installers are tasked with installing panels onto the roofs of homes, condominiums, and commercial properties. These professionals might have to install either photovoltaic (PV) solar panels that turn the sun's rays into electricity or solar thermal panels that store the sun's rays so that they can use used for heating applications.
 
Problem solving skills are needed because installers must consider the best location for the panels -- which necessitates figuring out if the surface selected has, firstly, enough space for the required number of panels and, secondly, enough durability to accommodate the weight of the panels.
 
When installing PV solar panels, the installer needs to connect the panels to the right wires and then connect the wires properly to an inverter box, which will change the energy produced by the solar cells into what is called an alternating current of electricity that people can use for their power requirements. The wiring portion of the job must be completed by a licensed electrician, so installers that have such a designation will be ahead of the game.
 
Requirements
 
While a post-secondary degree and certification aren't necessarily required as far as starting a career in solar panel installation, people who want to get into the industry will increase their odds of success if they seek out relevant education and certification. JobMonkey notes that the hourly wage can be in the $15 to $20 range. However, people who take a relevant course and pursue certification can make more than this range.
 
Having a construction, electrician, or mechanics background will definitely prove useful for those desiring to get into solar panel installation. In fact, JobMonkey notes that those with construction skills, specifically in the roofing segment, will have a bit of an advantage since the job often requires installing panels on rooftops. JobMonkey adds that candidates who have an electrical work degree will also open up career advancement opportunities for themselves.
 
Even though some previous experience in construction or other trades can be beneficial, much of what the job of solar panel installer entails can be learned on the job -- and some of those skills are relatively easy to learn. For instance, those in the industry need to know how to use hand tools and power tools, have basic math skills, have some electrical knowledge, and be capable of lifting at least 30 pounds and 40 pounds -- the weight of many solar panel brands.
 


As the alternative energy industry experiences ongoing growth, there will undoubtedly be job opportunities for those prepared to take advantage of them. The position of solar panel installer is but one of the many job types available, and the demand for such services means that people considering a career as a solar power installer can potentially benefit from some job security.
 
 
Shutterstock 1 - https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-148095986/stock-photo-young-technician-checking-solar-panels-on-factory-roof.html?src=apsicQ2Mvb02ZuGKfJlolw-1-2
 
Shutterstock 2 - https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-521964769/stock-photo-solar-cell-clean-energy.html?src=apsicQ2Mvb02ZuGKfJlolw-1-20
 

"Green Innovations and Eco Friendly Businesses." Earn My Degree. N.p., 2016. Web.
Dec.2016.
"Raising standards. Promoting confidence." NABCEP | North American Board of Certified
Energy Practitioners. N.p., n.d. Web. Dec. 2016.
"Solar Industry Facts and Figures." SEIA. N.p., n.d.
"Solar Panel Installation Jobs - Pay, Job Outlook, and Solar Job Guide." JobMonkey. N.p., n.d.
Web. Dec. 2016.
"US Solar Market Set to Grow 119% in 2016, Installations to Reach 16 GW." SEIA. N.p., March
9 2016.


Vera Marie Reed is a freelance writer living in Glendale, California. This mother of two specializes in education and parenting content. When she's not delivering expert advice, you can find her reading, writing, arts, going to museums, and doing craft projects with her children.
 
Thank you Vera for contributing your article! You may also learn about other various careers in the energy industry on the NEED website at http://www.need.org/content.asp?contentid=68

Library of Congress Blog Series - Nov 2016 - Science Projects in Biology, Natural History and Agriculture

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting https://www.loc.gov/education/.
 
This month we are featuring the list entitled, “Science Projects in Biology, Natural History and Agriculture.”  The list can be found at http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/bio-agtb.html.
 
There are few word pairs that strike fear into the hearts of parents like the words “science fair.”  It's not that science fair projects are that difficult in and of themselves; the problem often comes in finding a project that is interesting and is within the scope and ability of the student and his family.  Nevertheless, teachers who want their students to understand how science works assign projects to kids, hoping that the next Nobel Laureate might be inspired to do great things as a result.
 
We have a great resource with some science fair project ideas ready to go. Entitled Energy Fair, the guide contains an example project, guidelines for completing a project from hypothesis to conclusion, and a set of worksheets designed to help your student choose a topic that is interesting to her. The guide ends with a page of questions about energy-related topics that might help guide your student into selecting a topic.
 
However, as shocking as it may seem, not all students are as excited as we are about energy. What can you do to help those kids find a science fair project about which they can be excited and engaged? The Library of Congress has a list of project resources related to life sciences. The list, referenced above, is a compilation of books, articles, project guides and bibliographies that you can use to help your student find a life science related topic for the science fair. There are other project lists, too, which can be found at http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/tbs.html.
 
One resource listed is Everyday Science Experiments with Food, written by John Daniel Hartzog. It is a short book of ten food-related experiments, with step-by-step instructions, that kids can do on their own. The book is not a science fair project book on its own, but the experiments can be easily adapted into science fair projects by helping kids find a question related to them. For example, one experiment, Calcium Makes Strong Bones, has students soaking a chicken bone in vinegar to dissolve the calcium and leave the protein behind. The activity could be turned into a project by asking “What animal bones have the most calcium?” and then measuring the mass of various bones from foods, such as from beef, pork, chicken, and turkey, before and after soaking in vinegar.  Grow a Potato could be adapted by changing up the growing conditions, or asking how large the potato chunk must be to grow a good plant.
 
The book is one in a series called Science Surprises and is written for students in approximately grades 2-5. However, older students could find the activities fun, too. The other titles are Everyday Science Experiments in the Backyard, Everyday Science Experiments in the Car, Everyday Science Experiments in the Gym, Everyday Science Experiments in the Kitchen, and Everyday Science Experiments at the Playground.  At only twenty-four pages including index and Internet resources, Everyday Experiments with Food is a very manageable book that would make a great holiday gift or addition to a classroom library.  Library of Congress number TX355.H295

We're Talking Total Turkey

Thanksgiving triggers thoughts of tables towering with turkey and all the trimmings. The images seem to transport us to happy times, with family around, football on the TV, and the only time all year when overeating is not only tolerated, it's expected. What are your Thanksgiving holiday plans this year? Are you hosting? Is it a pitch-in style meal, or are you doing all the cooking yourself?
 
Not to add more stress to your holiday plans, but have you thought about the total cost of your holiday meal? Yes, you need to purchase that big bird and all the delicious sides that go with it. But all that food will need to be transported, stored, cooked, and then stored again – and all of that requires energy. How much does the meal cost in total, from start to end? Have you thought about it? We have, of course (you knew where this was going, didn't you?). 
 
We're happy to announce that our holiday curriculum guide, Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal, has been updated, upgraded, uploaded, and is ready for your classroom or home use. The guide now includes ways to calculate the total cost, including purchase, preparation, storage, and cleanup, of your meal, whether you cook with gas or electric. Also included is a brief discussion of the transportation energy required to get your meal from farm to table. It can be a great discussion piece in your classroom or after dinner when everyone is in a carb coma and if you mention cranberry sauce one more time you're going to have a roll thrown at you. The guide can be found here.
 
All of us at NEED hope you and your family, however large or small, have a relaxing, enjoyable, blessing-filled Thanksgiving holiday. Being able to serve all of you makes us feel very thankful, indeed.


Science Project Ideas for Energy Conservation and Recycling

by Dolly Santos
 
These days, it's important to teach our children about the best ways to conserve energy, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by introducing them to science experiments. While some of these can be used for school, they can also be done at home, meaning you can benefit from this learning experience as well.
 
There are lots of ways to teach about energy, using wind, water, solar power, and heat. Here are some great experiments to try with your child.
 

Photo via Pixabay by WDnet
 
The Solar Panel Experiment
With this one, you can track the energy output of a solar panel by leaving it in a fixed spot in the sun. By not changing the panel's position with the sun's movement in the sky, you will be looking at the effects of the sun's heat on the panel to see whether it remains constant or if it wanes. You'll need:

  • Solar Panel

  • Multi-meter to measure Milli-Amps.

  • Graph paper and pencil

Set up the solar panel on a flat surface in an area outside that gets the most sunlight during the day. Connect the ammeter and set it to read in milliamps. Without moving the panel, record the meter readings every hour from 9AM to 3PM and graph the data. 

Recycling Project
Take a look through your garbage--or better yet, examine things before you throw them away--to see if they can be reused, such as milk cartons or jugs, coffee containers, and matter that could be used for compost. Cardboard boxes can be broken down and used for project display materials; in fact, try to make the entire project out of recycled materials. Containers can be cut and painted to be used as vases, pencil cups, or kitchen containers, while perishable waste like banana peels can be thrown into compost for a garden. The best part of this experiment is that it costs very little--just enough for your supplies, such as paint, glue, glitter, and scissors--and can be done with just about any age group.
 
Cleaners
This experiment requires a dirty mirror or window, a bottle of store-bought cleaner, and a bottle of vinegar/water solution. With the store-bought cleaner, clean half of the mirror or window for one minute; let dry. Finish the surface with the vinegar solution for the same amount of time and let dry, then compare the results. Is a store-bought chemical any better than plain old vinegar and water? This experiment will show what we can do with natural products rather than relying on expensive--and potentially damaging--chemicals.
 
Pools and Water Power
Scientists have been watching certain fish and how they use changes in the water to conserve their energy while swimming. You can apply a similar principle to an experiment in a paddling pool in your own backyard, using a water hose, rocks, and a wind-up bath toy. Place the rocks in a straight line down the center of the pool with space between them and turn the hose on full blast underwater, recreating conditions similar to the spinning eddies that form in a lake or creek around stationary rocks. Wind up the toy and set it loose, recording the movements it makes as the force of the hose creates changes in the water. Move the rocks around and record any changes.
 

Dolly Santos enjoys writing about a variety of subjects based on diligent fact-checking.

 
We are always delighted when someone wants to write a blog for us that is relevant to energy education, teachers, and their students! Thank you, Dolores Santos, for preparing the above article about some science projects that can be done at home to reinforce the concepts of energy use and conservation as well as recycling.
 
We wanted to add to what she had to say by highlighting some things already in NEED curriculum units that you can do right now with what is already in your home, or with very little additional equipment needed!
 
Science Fair Fun – NEED has a host of science fair-ready experiments for your students to check out and begin very quickly.  Head to http://www.need.org/sciencefair to get started!
 
Facts of Light – In our energy efficiency and conservation curriculum guides, we provide a worksheet to guide students through calculating the entire life cycle cost of various styles of lightbulbs. Students first standardize to 25,000 hours of light, which is the life span of an average LED bulb, and then calculate the number of bulbs, their purchase price, and the electricity cost of old-style incandescent, halogen incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs for those 25,000 hours of light. Very enLIGHTening!
 
The activity is on our Monitoring and Mentoring Student Guide, pages 31-32, and can be downloaded by clicking here
 
Plug Loads – If your kids need practice using spreadsheets, this is a great activity that will help them learn to use the software, as well as teach them about how much energy common machines use. Students can read the power rating right off each of the devices, or if you have one available, can use a Kill-a-Watt meter to measure the actual consumption while the device is running. We have a spreadsheet ready to be downloaded with formulas and everything!
 
The activity includes a discussion about phantom loads, too. The curriculum unit is located here
And the spreadsheet is here
 
Museum of Solid Waste and Energy and Talking Trash – Let's face it, we live in a throw-away culture. Phone starts acting up, we replace it. Dishwasher not running right? Buy a new one. And don't even start with disposable plates, cups, flatware, … the list goes on. How much energy could we save if we really understood what is involved in taking care of all this garbage? 
 
These two curriculum units are designed to help students get a firm grasp on all the energy consumed, not to mention resources and landfill space, when we so easily throw things away without a second thought.  The activities within are a little more involved but can be a fun way for your kids to learn, and can make a useful, informative community project that can be displayed in a library, shopping center, or another public place. 
 
Museum of Solid Waste and Energy is designed for middle and high school students
Talking Trash is geared toward elementary-age kids
 
Renewable Energy Fun – Want to learn a little about renewable energy? How about building a model wind turbine with our Wind Can Do Work activity? Using paper, straws, pins, tape, and a cup, students learn that wind can truly do useful work!
Experimenting with UV beads and Nature Print paper can help young students understand how solar energy can cause things to change – and result in a great craft project. 
 
The Wind Can Do Work activity is available on page 19 of Energy from the Wind Teacher Guide and page 22 of Energy from the Wind Student Guide. You'll need both pages to complete the activity. 
You can obtain a set of solar energy consumables from our online store
 
 
References:
7 Wind Science Experiments for Kids to Learn Wind Power | iGameMom. (2016). Retrieved

November 02, 2016, from http://igamemom.com/wind-science-experiments-for-kids/

Angle of Sun on a Panel. (n.d.). Retrieved November 02, 2016, from

http://www.makeitsolar.com/science-fair-ideas/02-angle-light.htm

McElrone, A. B. (2013, January 8). Reusing Your Trash. Retrieved from

http://www.education.com/science-fair/article/reusing-your-trash/

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