Impact Series

Grad pupil ‘ambassadors’ supply free clean-energy classes and DIY photo voltaic kits to Ok-12 college students

Volunteering as a clean energy ambassador, UW PhD candidate Abbie Ganas led a virtual class via Google Meet with 25 middle school students enrolled in a south King County middle school. (Courtesy Abbie Ganas)

In a normal spring, dozens of University of Washington graduate students in science would be ramping up their visits to Seattle-area schools to teach K-12 kids all about energy, including solar power, batteries and smart grids.

The kids “actually get to see science in action,” said UW chemistry professor David Ginger. “They realize that it’s not just a dry textbook thing, that it’s living and breathing.”

But as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced education out of classrooms and onto the internet, the UW clean energy ambassadors are likewise making the shift to remote teaching. In response, a program out of the UW’s Clean Energy Institute (CEI) has bolstered its at-home, K-12 curriculum, which is available for free to teachers, parents and students. It includes:

  • Videos, lesson plans, information on DIY solar kits, and reading materials for upper grades
  • A sign-up for teachers to schedule free, virtual visits from UW grad students students that last 30-45 minutes
  • Teachers and parents can request free kits for building solar powered cars and pinwheel-like “solar spinners” for as long as supplies last
  • Links for buying your own kits, plus UW-produced videos that methodically walk kids through their assembly

“Kids are super cognizant about energy,” said Ginger, who is the CEI’s chief scientist. “Maybe it’s the Seattle environment. It gives me a lot of hope for the future. They want to know about renewable energy and clean energy solutions. It’s a hook to get them into science.”

David Ginger, UW Clean Energy Institute’s chief scientist and chemistry professor. (CEI Photo)

As the UW has ramped up its virtual instruction, only a few schools have signed on for the visits so far. Abbie Ganas, a PhD candidate in both chemistry and molecular engineering and nano technology, recently did a remote lesson with a Seattle middle school class.

Through a video conference, Ganas, who has been volunteering with the outreach program for three years, explained solar cells as well as their own research into making diamonds for quantum technology. In addition to teaching energy basics, Ganas is eager to show students that not all scientists fit the outdated stereotype of being older, white men in the image of Albert Einstein, but include young, queer researchers.

“It gives a face to who a scientist is,” they said.

Ganas was glad to find a lot of audience engagement during the remote visit, perhaps making it easier for shy kids to raise a virtual hand. On a personal level, they enjoy the insights and questions kids share during the lessons.

“I come away looking at my own research through a different perspective,” Ganas said. “It’s refreshing.”

CEI receives financial support from the state of Washington, which includes funding for the K-12 outreach program.

Erin Jedlicka, a UW Clean Energy Institute graduate fellow, teaching a live lesson on energy science before COVID-19 sent students home for remote learning. (CEI Photo)

Schools will be winding up classes for summer vacation in a few weeks, and Ginger is considering other opportunities for reaching kids. Seattle’s Pacific Science Center has been offering and selling out its virtual family camps, while the Seattle-based nonprofit Oceans Initiative produced a popular Virtual Marine Biology Camp that is currently on hiatus.

The UW program might create a Friday science day-camp or other sessions open to larger audiences.

“I’m not sure what form it might take,” Ginger said. “Like everyone else, we’re trying to learn as we go.”

Related Articles

Trả lời

Email của bạn sẽ không được hiển thị công khai. Các trường bắt buộc được đánh dấu *