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Monday, Sep 01, 2014

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Energy Days

An Energy Days instructor teaches Athens students the process of composting.

Photographer: Grace Austin

Energy Days

Students watch intently as an Energy Days instructor teaches distinctions in water wheels.

Photographer: Grace Austin

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Energy Days teaches local students about sustainability


Enraptured eyes stared down into the bucket of soil, hands wriggling deeper and deeper in the moist earth. It was hard to tell who was more excited - the instructor or the class of fourth graders observing the wonders of worm compost.  

The spectators were among more than 800 elementary students from Athens City Schools, who filled Baker University Center Sept. 29-30 for Ohio University’s ninth annual Energy Days. Hosted by the Office of Sustainability, the interactive program instructs third through sixth graders on alternative energy and sustainability through scientific stations led by OHIO staff, students, and representatives from local community organizations.

According to Athens City Curriculum Director Tom Parsons, the program is particularly valuable in terms of supporting Ohio’s science curriculum.

“Being able to work with college students also provides [children] with role models and certainly helps motivate them,” he added.

Under the direction of site supervisor Debra Shaw, an instructor of teacher education, the partnership also offered benefits to 25 OHIO education majors.

Students from Shaw’s Intro to Teacher Education class led many of the Energy Days learning stations, gaining an early hands-on instructional experience.

“Normally, freshman students don’t get to teach lessons or go out to schools,” Shaw explained. “[During Energy Days], the students get to work with kids, and the kids interact with college students they can relate well with. It truly benefits everyone.”

The Energy Days learning stations included lessons and demonstrations on solar energy, potential and kinetic energy, chemical energy, soil erosion and PH levels.

This year, a new station on composting developed by junior chemistry major Jill Carlson further enhanced the program curriculum. One of Carlson’s goals was to teach the students about the university’s innovative composting facility – the largest in-vessel composting system at any university or college in the country. The learning station also addressed the environmental risks associated with anaerobic decomposition of food waste in local landfills, including the production of potent greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am very passionate about being able to educate children and [being involved in] educational opportunities with children in regards to sustainability. It’s very fulfilling teaching,” said Carlson.
 
"Energy Days brings out the best of what Ohio University has to offer our community - engaged students, exciting projects, outstanding curriculum and motivated volunteers,” said Sustainability Director Sonia Marcus. “We bring all these people together to address a critically important topic with the next generation of scientists and activists. It's truly inspiring."

To hear graduate student Kim Criner, a program assistant in the Office of Sustainability, speak on the value of Ohio University's Energy Days program, click here.