NEED offers workshops across the United States and in some regions, thanks to the support of great sponsors, several workshops are offered to reach more teachers each year.  In the greater Chicago area, ComEd (the local electric company) supports teacher training and classroom materials for over 700 classroom teacher a year.  This means a lot of workshops and a lot of great things for local teachers.  Over 15 workshops are included in the ComEd series – hosted all over northern Illinois.  Special workshops are set up for specific grades of teachers and also for Career and Technology Teachers to learn about the science of energy efficiency in buildings.  If you are a classroom teacher (teaching grades K-12) and haven’t yet attended a day-long teacher workshop, you really need to go to one!

All NEED workshops cover the fundamentals of energy:  the forms of energy and energy transformations, energy sources, electricity, and energy efficiency and conservation.  At ComEd sponsored workshops, so many more topics are included – even providing instruction on residential energy conservation – so that teachers and their students can share information with families about using energy wisely at home.

ComEd sponsored workshops, like all NEED workshops, begin long before the day of the workshop.  Lots of work goes into the planning, recruitment, and execution of the workshops.  Jana Jones, NEED’s sponsor at ComEd, considers the service area and makes recommendations for communities in which a workshop would be a welcomed experience. Wendi Moss, our Program Coordinator, creates the registration materials, sets up the online registration, find venues that are convenient and comfortable, makes sure that the teachers are fed, watered, and treated professionally during the day.  Wendi, along with Pam Seader at NEED, make sure the 14+ boxes of materials and hands-on kits get to the workshop site – so that our facilitators (like Caryn Turrel who is writing this blog) are ready, prepared, and can focus on delivering the great instruction and experience that teachers can expect from NEED workshops. Without Wendi, I’d be standing there in a hotel parking lot in the cold Chicago winds, hungry and all by myself.  The next time you call the office, tell Wendi how much you appreciate all her hard work!

Now, on to the workshop day itself:

If I was able to set up for the workshop the day before, I will arrive at the workshop site around 7:45.  If I still need to set up, I’ll get there between 6:45 and 7:00.  That makes for a very early rise and shine time!  As the teachers filter in, I’ll say hello, answer all the questions people have about parking, sub forms, all off the tiny details that make people nervous.  I’ll chat a little here and there, and help Jana distribute the great stuff she brings for each teacher.  At 9:00 it’s show time!  A little personal introduction, then it’s on to playing Energy Efficiency Bingo.  Teachers who attend NEED workshops seem to really enjoy getting up and talking to other teachers.  Playing Energy Efficiency Bingo is always fun for me and I enjoy hearing what each teacher hopes to get from the workshop,or how he or she uses NEED materials already or plans to use what he or she learns at the workshop back in the classroom.

After Bingo, Jana presents about all of the great things ComEd has to offer teachers, and I drink another cup of coffee.  Remember, it’s a long day!  We often have sponsor representatives attend workshops and other events, but few are as involved and engaged as Jana is.  She really enjoys the workshop activities and getting to know the teachers who attend.  I really enjoy working with her. Jana believes in community relations and ComEd having a partnership with each of the teachers involved in the program.  Like NEED, ComEd believes in that partnership and does a lot to make their teachers, who are also ComEd customers, well-prepared to teach about energy in the classroom. 

Next, it’s on to [insert trumpet fanfare here] SCIENCE OF ENERGY!  At this point, I must warn you – when we get into the meat of energy – the science – I really geek out.  As I say to my daughters, the geek-o-meter goes off the scale.  When I was still a classroom teacher I absolutely LOVED Science of Energy, and my students did, too.  I’m very passionate about science education, especially energy, and my enthusiasm for the subject gets a little crazy sometimes.  The first 20 or 30 minutes are spent with me explaining basics about energy.  Many teachers appreciate the basic background refresher this time provides and ask me some really tough questions sometimes!  I don’t mind – it keeps me on my toes.  Once teachers start rotating through the stations, and see how fun energy education really can be, I can almost literally see the gears turning in their heads as they are already planning how they will adapt the unit to their specific teaching situation.  This is one thing that I loved about NEED materials as a teacher, and continue to emphasize as a facilitator – NEED materials are very adaptable.  The following photographs show teachers learning to use the Science of Energy kit:

After Science of Energy we move on to learning about sources of energy.  We talk briefly about renewable sources of energy, and when teachers see that 91.9% of our total energy (as of 2009) comes from nonrenewable sources, a point is driven home.  We play Energy Roundup and Electric Connections to learn a little more about energy sources and how they play into providing our electrical power.

Next, it’s one of the best parts of the day – LUNCH!

Shortly after lunch we often get to learn about Lights for Learning ( who is a ComEd partner providing schools the opportunity to sell energy efficient lightbulbs as a fundraising experience.  If we’re lucky, the Lights for Learning representative will have the energy bike that they use in school programs so teachers can experience the dramatically greater amount of power that is necessary to light a traditional, incandescent light bulb as compared to a compact fluorescent light.

The Lights for Learning introduction to energy efficiency in the types of lighting we choose is a great introduction to our next workshop activity, Saving Energy Expo.  Here, teachers create exhibits about a different topic in energy efficiency just as their students would, but they get less than one-third the amount of time!  Teachers who attend NEED workshops can’t just sit back and soak it all in – they work hard!  The pictures below show teachers working and some of the exhibits that teachers have created in just 45 minutes.

Nearing the end of the day, we have just one more activity – Carbon Cycle Simulation.  In this activity, teachers represent individual carbon atoms and are assigned to various “reservoirs” where carbon atoms can be found on earth.  The activity demonstrates very well how the amount of carbon in living systems remains reasonably constant, yet the concentration of carbon in the ocean and atmosphere increases as we burn fossil fuels.

Well, we’ve made it – time to wrap up and go home!  Teachers fill out a post-assessment, a couple of evaluations, and their order forms for their materials.  Then it’s time to say goodbye, and send them back to their classrooms, energized and enthused to develop an energy unit of their own.

I pack up and clean up, then head out between 4 and 4:30.  Next stop will be a shipping facility to get all of the evaluations and order forms back to Wendi Moss at NEED headquarters before I can relax and reflect on what a great day we had.  Facilitating a workshop is hard work, and the hours are long, but it’s so much fun and I get to meet such great people I don’t even notice how tired I am until I’ve sat down in my hotel room for the evening.  I really love presenting workshops to teachers and working for NEED.  When you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work.  All of us at NEED “like” this work!