The U.S. Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) took a novel approach to bioenergy education and outreach by targeting 4th-6th grades. BESC developed lesson plans to educate and inform students about the basics of energy production and utilization. BESC utilized a novel hub-and-spoke approach of working through regional science centers to maximize the direct hands-on access and adaptation to local conditions. These included basic concepts such as the carbon cycle, lignocellulosic biomass as a substrate for the production of biofuels, as well as technical and economic obstacles to a biobased fuel economy. Lessons were piloted in schools in Georgia and Tennessee and were made available to schools nationwide beginning in the spring of 2010. A series of Science Night programs offered to students and the general public through local schools, museums and community centers have reached nearly 175,000 thousand students, teachers, and parents in face-to-face interaction. The Creative Discovery Museum (CDM) biofuels website includes
BESC and CDM partnered with regional science centers and museums around the country to create biofuels hubs, providing equipment, supplies, and training to the staff at each regional science center hub. At least 18 museums in 15 states used the Farming for Fuels curriculum and activities. In 2015–2016, more than 50,000 students went through alternative energy/biofuels curriculum and hands-on distance learning activities. Pre-service teachers were taught about the science of bioenergy and biofuels and trained to teach the outreach lessons in the schools where they serve as student teachers. This approach, which featured hands-on science outreaches instead of "show" type outreaches, enabled BESC to steadily increase hands-on science contacts. It is a method of sharing best practices for science education and a model of STEM/STEAM-oriented activities for children and parents. It maintains the integrity of the initial lesson but, provides flexibility to participating science centers and museums to adapt to their individual markets. And, ultimately, it encourages interest in careers about science, engineering, and mathematics fields. Other museums have used this model for other grant applications to bring better science education methods to informal education centers. A more detailed description was published in Robinson, W. 2014. "Farming for Fuels," Dimensions, 16(2), 46-48.
Family Science Nights are portable experimental work stations, which are presented as part of parent-teacher organization meetings, school open-house nights, gatherings at community centers, town libraries, and other local venues to inform the general public about biofuels and bioenergy. Nearly 200 Science Nights were presented nationwide and reached more than 65,000 students, parents and teachers.
Dr. Janet Westpheling (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Activity Lead for BESC Education and Outreach activities
Genetics Department, University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30622
Dr. Wayne Robinson (email@example.com)
BESC Biofuels Coordinator