With offshore oil drilling emerging as a hot topic in the U.S. presidential race this fall, one thing that all sides have been able to agree on is that alternative, renewable sources of energy must be found to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. High school students across the country have joined the energy debate through Working Toward Sustainability, a new curriculum on alternative energy developed by EDC’s Ford PAS program.
“The scenarios in the curriculum present the type of real-world decisions that have to be made regarding energy, which is why it is so important for kids to learn the pros and cons as well as the scientific concepts behind each different form of energy,” says EDC’s Ilene Kantrov. The curriculum will be available at no charge later in the fall on the Ford PAS Web site.
Each of the curriculum’s four modules focuses on a major scientific concept related to the use and storage of energy. The modules are geared towards ninth graders and can be used as a unit or independently. “We All Run on Energy” introduces the concept of energy and how stored energy is released in the form of fuel. Three additional modules—“Energy from the Sun: Biomass,” “Is Hydrogen a Solution?” and “The Nuclear Revolution”—each focus on a particular fuel source.
Each module features hands-on experiments that bring natural phenomena to life for students. “The modules take abstract scientific concepts that are difficult to learn and make them meaningful by putting them in context,” says EDC’s Rebecca Lewis. For instance, the “Is Hydrogen a Solution?” module discusses chemical reactions and how the energy generated from these reactions can be used to power a car.
No single form of energy is promoted over the others, and it is left to the students to decide whether each method might provide a good solution to meeting different energy needs, says Kantrov. The Ford PAS Web site offers additional resources for students.
Ford PAS is an educational program developed by Ford Motor Company Fund and EDC that integrates academically rigorous, standards-based curriculum with real-world applications. The program is currently being used in 300 sites across 26 states. It engages students in the areas of engineering, business, technology, science, and math, while teaching key skills needed in today’s workforce, such as team building, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and communication.
“Ford is excited to introduce a learning resource that is generating great interest among students and that will have a clear impact on their futures. Working Toward Sustainability is an example of how classrooms can make a real-world connection, in which students offer solutions to the problems we face as a country,” says Cheryl Carrier, program director for 21st century education programs at Ford Motor Company Fund.
Originally published on January 21, 2009