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Renewable Energy in the Classroom

One of the many indications a nascent technology is making the steady transition from a fringe industry to mainstream acceptance, is when educators choose to teach it to school children.

Tiburon, California – January 28, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Renewable energy just made that leap in California when the state’s Energy Commission doled out a competitive grant that led to the recent publication of the school textbook, Energy For Keeps: Electricity from Renewable Energy. The 233-page textbook is designed specifically for the California public school system, and aims to educate children in grades 6-12 about renewable energy technologies like solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, ocean energy, and hydrogen, “if made from renewables”, the accompanying bookmarks say. And what better group to educate about renewable energy than children, who may bear witness to paradigm shifts in how energy is sourced, produced and distributed in their lives. They could be part of a new generation that will usher the nation’s energy needs away from polluting fossil fuels, to cleaner, more sustainable energy. Energy that doesn’t cause alarming rates of childhood asthma, fill lakes and streams and freshwater fish with mercury, and contribute towards global warming. “At long last, a crucial issue for the survival of our society – electricity from renewable energy – has received comprehensive and clear treatment,” said California State Librarian, Dr. Kevin Starr. Its no surprise California would be the first state to promote such a textbook either. California leads the nation in terms of installed wind and solar capacity thanks to both generous incentives, rebates, and a generally progressive attitude towards clean energy. Energy for Keeps is published by Educators for the Environment, led by CEO Marilyn Nemzer. Nemzer, director of several environment-oriented nonprofits. Nemzer said to insure objectivity and accuracy, the group consulted over 75 technical and educational experts from all over the U.S. The group hopes to develop different editions of the book to broaden its appeal. “Our next step is to publish a shorter version – one without the extra information for teachers — as a sort of handbook for everyone who uses electricity; then we’d like to publish a version that includes energy data for all 50 states,” said Nemzer. Renewable energy experts from around the country were consulted heavily on the book’s content. Nemzer said the Acknowledgements page in the book reads like a Who’s Who of engineers, scientists, educators and historians from state and federal agencies, national laboratories, utilities, schools and universities, and the result reflects that input. Reviews of the book have been overwhelmingly positive, according to Nemzer. “This is awesome! Nobody covers all the bases in one package as well as this book,” said Matt Kuhn, Education Programs Manager, at the nation’s premier renewable energy research facility, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Some have suggested the book should be integrated into other state’s education curriculums. “I am very impressed with the book and would love to see it included in Hawaii’s curriculum,” said Jacqui L. Hoover, Administrative & Projects Manager for Hawaii’s Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. “It truly is a landmark publication.” Perhaps some of those difference editions will be tailored for just that.