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Illinois Program Will Educate Students on Wind Power

A program designed to incorporate wind energy topics into middle- and high-school classrooms is coming to Illinois, slated to begin during the 2012-2013 school year.

Illinois Wind for Schools (ILWFS) — an initiative sponsored through a partnership with the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University, the Western Illinois University Department of Engineering Technology, the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, and the College of Education at Illinois State University — will offer curriculum development resources, teacher professional development, on-site technical assistance and instructional equipment to middle school and high school teachers across the state.

Through an application process, three to five schools will be selected as ILWFS partner schools for each school year. The ILWFS program includes on-site training workshops at each partner school for all participating teachers, curricula and lesson plans, equipment for hands-on activities and basic supplies. Continuing professional development units (CPDUs) will also be offered for all teacher-training sessions, which are required to participate in this program. All training, curriculum and equipment will be offered at no charge to schools selected for the program, made possible through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant funding.

The program will begin with an early summer 2012 teacher workshop held on site at each partner school. Topics of the workshop will include fundamentals of wind energy, principles of wind turbine operation and ideas for integrating wind energy into the existing curriculum. During summer 2012, all participating schools will receive a classroom set of experimental model wind turbines, equipment with which to build and test the model wind turbines, a pack of experimental weather balloons, a model wind tunnel and customized lab activities and a comprehensive wind energy curriculum, she added.

The program underscores how wind power can be a teaching tool that applies to standard school curricula. IIRA Wind Energy Program Coordinator Jolene Willis said the ILWFS program addresses specific Illinois Learning Standards goals in mathematics, including estimation and measurement, as well as data analysis and probability.

“It also encompasses specific science goals that include inquiry and design; concepts and principles; and science, technology and society,” said Willis. Participating teachers will be required to attend an on-site workshop and maintain communication with Illinois Wind for Schools staff, providing evaluation and feedback of the lab activities, curriculum and equipment throughout the 2012-13 school year.

Matt Aldeman, senior energy analyst for the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, said the program's purpose is to engage Illinois teachers and students in energy education, specifically targeting wind energy.

“We hope to educate students about wind energy principles, and position the next generation of career and technical professionals to enter the growing U.S. wind industry,” he said. “We will also be able to provide technical assistance to Illinois school administrators about renewable energy integration in school facilities.”

Applications and guidelines will be available later this month at the Illinois Wind for Schools website at www.ILWFS.org. Schools selected for the program will be notified by April 2.

Carl Levesque is the communications editor at AWEA. This article first appeared in the AWEA Windletter and was reprinted with permission from the American Wind Energy Association.

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