By Illinois Teacher and NEED Teacher Advisory Board Member, Constance Beatty
When the invitation to write for the ESP grant came across my Facebook feed, I immediately thought of extrasensory perception. I know, not very creative but true. But, I was intrigued and looked in to writing for the grant. It turns out that even though ESP actually stands for Energizing Student Potential, not extrasensory perception, both of these acronyms’ meanings have a lot to do with each other.
I knew from the beginning that the ESP grant was going to change the lives of Illinois students. I did write for and receive the grant this past October. In fact, it was not only a vital part of the science curriculum for three classes in my school, but the grant was also received by over 40 other applicants and so experienced by many other teachers and students as well. The grant gave teachers: 3 days of hands-on professional development, NGSS and Common Core aligned curriculum, science kits for the classroom and cash grant money to fund many of the other extras to teach this energy based curriculum well. STEM and STEAM were implemented as our students learned the material, asked critical questions, explored ways to take that knowledge and broaden it, experimented and brainstormed new solutions to existing technologies, appreciated the fact that many careers options are open to them in the energy field, and presented these to others in their communities through an Energy Carnival.
As I watched the students from my class join their peers to present their findings and knowledge to younger students and then families and friends I could feel the students’ perceptions about themselves change as they gained confidence speaking to groups, handling situations and seeing the adult reactions to their presentations. Students who did not normally think of themselves as academic successes were successful. Parents who were more accustomed to hearing concerns about their children saw them take leadership roles successfully. Administrators supported the out-of-the-box thinking and creativity that took place and appreciated the long hours that went into making the curriculum provided by the grant a success. Each of these processes were building to the culmination of the Energizing Student Potential grant success in my building.
Administrators, teachers, students, and parents from all of the schools that participated in the grant as well as representatives from the sponsoring energy companies, gathered at the Field Museum in May for the ESP Celebration. The excitement was palpable as the group watched video submissions of the completed projects, were interviewed on camera, and called to the platform to be appreciated for their diligence in fulfilling the requirements of the grant. Parents were amazed at the fact that their children and their peers were the ones presenting in the videos and on stage. Administrators enjoyed the kudos that the students brought back to their districts, and specifically their schools. The teachers and students reveled in the spotlight, (one of my students was interviewed on camera by Exelon’s film crew and that was all he talked about for three days afterwards). The Sponsors’ representatives repeatedly gave compliments to the grant winners and their students.
The funders of the grant, The Exelon Foundation, Com ED, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas, Peoples Gas and BP, needed extrasensory perception as they partnered with the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) to cast the vision of these successes because of their financial support. I am sure that their companies have and will continue to see the results of this financial support as they participated in energy carnivals, special speaking invitations, the final submission of the grant paperwork, the ESP Celebration held at the Field Museum in May, and as they continue to mold more energy literate consumers.
Thank you, ESP grant funders and especially NEED, who administered the grant and was the educational partner for a truly ESP year.