Building Student Awareness of Societal Decision-Making Challenges about Energy through the Study of Earth System Data and Innovations in Energy-Related Materials Research

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Daniel R Zalles, SRI International Menlo Park, Center for Technology in Learning, Menlo Park, CA, United States, James G Acker, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States and Marcy Berding, SRI International Menlo Park, Materials Research Lab, Menlo Park, CA, United States
Energy literacy requires knowledge about the trade-offs inherent in energy alternatives, about how humans use energy and have choices in how much energy to use, and about what changes to the Earth system are occurring from energy uses. It also requires collaborative decision-making skills coupled with awareness about what values we bring to the table as we negotiate solutions that serve both personal needs and the common good. Coming up with a notion of the common good requires delineating how environmental crises occurring in other parts of the world compare to our own. We also need to understand criteria for judging what might be viable solutions. This presentation describes work that SRI International is carrying out to meet these awareness-building needs. SRI educational researchers created a curriculum that immerses students in studying regional climate change data about California in comparison to global climate change. Students ponder solution energy-related strategies and impact analyses. The curriculum will be described, as will a collaboration between SRI educational researchers and materials scientists. The scientists are designing and testing technologies for producing biofuels and solar power, and for sequestering carbon from coal fired power plants. As they apply principles of science and engineering to test materials intended to meet these energy challenges, they understand that even if the tests prove successful, if there is not economic feasibility or environmental advantage, the technology may not stand as a viable solution. This educator-scientist team is using the Essential Energy Principles and Next Generation Science Standards to articulate milestones along a trajectory of energy learning. The trajectory starts with simple understandings of what energy is and what constitute our energy challenges. It ends with more the types of more sophisticated understandings needed for designing and testing energy technology solutions.