A guest blog by Barbara Lazar, Bosque School, Albuquerque, Member, NEED Teacher Advisory Board

Earth, Wind, and Fire was a week of energy and fun for 5th-7th grade students participating in the Bosque School Summer Program in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Led by Robert and Barbara Lazar, middle school teachers and a part of the NEED Teacher Advisory Board, students learned more about the energy story of New Mexico through lab activities and a variety of field trips, as well as doing a field study of the roadside geology of the Sandia Mountains.

Beginning with the essential question: What is energy and where does it come from? NEED’s Science of Energy kit was used to explore and teach each other about the basics, then students moved on to Energy Round-Up to learn more about renewable and non-renewable sources. To reinforce the understanding of how to generate electrical energy, the students toured the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s gas-fired Reeves Power Plant in Albuquerque where they saw first-hand: boilers, the control room, turbines, and generators, as well as cooling towers; the plant produces approximately 150 megawatts of energy that supplement Albuquerque’s summer power consumption. Then students developed design concepts to create wind turbines, testing the models for maximum electricity output. Another of the field trips was to the ABQ Water Authority Wastewater Treatment plant where students learned that methane gases, the bi-product of microbial waste, are being used to generate electrical power. The exploration for more energy sources had students explore how electrolysis and hydrogen fuel cells work, and how solar energy both active and passive are used in New Mexico. With the help of the “Energy on the Move” trailer they studied PV and wind energy; they made solar ovens out of pizza boxes and Pringles cans, baked cookies, s’mores and hotdogs with solar energy, and constructed and raced model solar cars.

During the week, students were also introduced to some of the geology that makes up the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande Rift.  Investigating selected sites along the route, students began to understand the forces that have created the Sandias, and were able to recognize and describe some of the geological features from Tijeras Canyon to the Sandia Crest. Throughout this field study, participants could appreciate the geological features that compose the Sandia Mountains.

By the end of the week-long camp, students began to develop an understanding of the New Mexico energy story and came away with a greater appreciation for the complex issues their generation will confront in their energy future.