Fourth Graders are energy system engineers
“I recommend adding wind turbines to your city,” advised Michael, adding that the energy source is renewable, free and doesn’t produce greenhouse gases.
“Even though solar panels are very expensive, it’s worth the money,” Sasha suggested. “They are way better for the environment and for us!”
These are excerpts from just some of the letters that Increase Miller Elementary’s fourth graders sent to the mayor of Ergstown, a fictional town that was experiencing frequent blackouts. The students also created maps indicating recommended locations for key utilities.
They were no longer elementary school students, they were energy systems engineers, tackling a real-world problem.
Map of Ergstown
Proposing solutions was the last part of a science unit on energy
Before they proposed solutions, the students took a deep dive into energy systems with their teachers. They explored different methods of energy generation and their effects on the environment and living things, as well as how electrical systems work.
To cap it off, the fourth graders also had a visit from very personable energy consultants—the students in Jim Panzer’s Environmental Physics class at John Jay High School!
Talking over energy options
collaboration augmented both grades’ study of energy
“My students have also been studying energy conversion,” said high school teacher Panzer. “They researched and prepared stations on eight different forms of energy production including solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectricity.”
“The fourth graders circulated through all stations learning about different ways of energy generation,” said Emig, the fourth-grade teacher who set up the collaboration with Panzer. Both are sustainability Integration leaders in the district, and always on the lookout for ways to create engaging and relevant learning experiences around sustainability.
“It was fun to learn from high school students,” said one of the fourth graders, after the visit. “It was cool to realize that high schoolers are also learning about energy and the environment.”
Writing persuasive letters to the mayor of Ergstown also folded in skills the students had been learning in writing workshop.
“As you probably know, your town is having too many blackouts,” Nicholas wrote. “This is bad because when you have a blackout, kids have a lot of days off school. When you don’t go to school you don’t get smart.”
What’s next? Each student will receive a response from the mayor … with the return address of John Jay High School Environmental Physics.