Energy from the Sun in Space and on Earth (ESSE)

Project Name:
Energy from the Sun in Space and on Earth (ESSE)


Project Description:
In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in educating students about renewable energy. In California, utility companies are iIn recent years, there has been a surge of interest in educating students about renewable energy. In California, utility companies are installing demonstration solar panels on school grounds, and through teacher professional development workshops, are introducing curriculum about the Sun and solar energy. High schools are developing Green Academies which support learning in solar energy and technologies. Students at these schools are learning about solar energy, and are primed to engage more deeply with the science and adventure of NASA explorations of the Sun. Heliophysics E/PO Programs are uniquely positioned to provide teachers with the knowledge of and training in the use of NASA K-12 tools and materials to assure deeper science engagement. Teachers involved in solar-oriented schools have indicated a desire for greater scientific understanding of the Sun as an astronomical body as well as information on NASA’s most current solar research. It is in the context of student interest and teacher need that we are conducting the “Energy from the Sun—in Space and on Earth” (ESSE) project.


Through the ESSE project, UC Berkeley’s Center for Science Education at the Space Sciences Laboratory is bringing together experienced heliophysics professional development providers, scientists and engineers from heliophysics missions, practicing classroom teachers, ESSE teacher leaders, highly experienced solar energy educators and utility districts supporting their own robust solar-focused education programs. This team has identified NASA resources and programs that can be used by educators to provide students with:
1) a basic understanding of the Sun and its connection to us here on Earth,
2) the excitement of NASA missions that support heliophysics research, 3) knowledge of the many NASA satellites powered by the Sun, and 4) interactions with scientists and engineers to increase awareness of STEM careers. The ESSE Team has and continues to conduct a series of multi-day teacher professional development workshops throughout California, and is working to create a replicable workshop model to share nationally. Our model for professional development is based on the research of Loucks-Horsley, Love, Stiles, Mundry and Hewson as discussed in Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics. ESSE provides opportunities for teachers to build their content and pedagogical knowledge over an extended period of time and requires that they return for a one-day follow-on workshop to share with teaching peers how they have implemented ESSE materials and resources in their own classroom practice. Student work is an important part of the follow-on workshop experience. Our model supports teachers to serve in leadership roles within the project. Our ESSE Teacher Leaders play a key role in identifying classroom materials and resources; they are also workshop presenters providing exemplary implementation strategies of ESSE content. We engage teachers as adult learners in the learning approaches they will use with their students. The workshops provide a wide variety of hands-on experiences with both solar science and solar energy topics, including among others magnetism, circuitry and photovoltaics, models of the sun-earth system, earth’s seasons, shadows and angles of the sun.


Our key objectives are to:
1) train teachers in California using existing, high quality, standards-aligned heliophysics E/PO materials;
2) increase student interest in STEM careers through contact with undergraduates and scientists;
3) partner with utilities to integrate heliophysics content into utility-sponsored trainings and;
4) leverage solar school networks to bring NASA materials and programs to a new audience of educators. 



We contribute to SMD STEM goals for formal education at both the elementary and secondary level, by utilizing existing heliophysics E/PO materials to equip educators with skills, confidence, and competence in teaching. In support of SMD goals for outreach, we endeavor to increase student interest in careers in STEM.



Our key deliverable for ESSE is a model of teacher professional development that integrates solar energy with heliophysics content. This project comes at a time of increasing interest nationwide in solar energy, alongside spectacular successes in NASA Heliophysics missions. Our experience over the last two years indicates we have tapped into a deep interest among teachers in the combined topics of solar science and solar energy. Each workshop offering has been filled to capacity. Our recent workshop announcement yielded 162 teachers for 30 spaces. Our feedback from educators indicated that we have a winning workshop model.


Lead Institution:
Center for Science Education at University of California Berkeley

Partnerships:

  • National Energy Education Development Project (NEED)
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)
  • We Share Solar
  • The Center for Research, Evaluation and Assessment (REA), Lawrence Hall of Science


Effectiveness and Impact:
Evaluation findings and impact statements:
Findings taken from most recent ESSE 2012 Workshop Evaluation Report


Overall value of workshop:
97% rated the value of the workshop as a 5 (with ranking from 1 through 5 with 5 being the highest ranking)
97% of teachers attending the workshop intend to share information.


Teacher knowledge and confidence:
• 20% agreed or strongly agreed that prior to the day of the workshop they had quite a bit of knowledge about the workshop topics.
• 
At the conclusion of the workshop, 84% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that they felt they knew enough about the topics presented at the workshop to present them to their students.
• 56% agreed or strongly agreed that they knew enough about the topics to share with colleagues in a workshop-type setting.
• 100% agreed or strongly agreed that they were certain to talk with colleagues about their workshop experience.



Teacher Use of Materials:
• 
30.5% agreed or strongly agreed that prior to the day of the workshop they had used the topics presented in the workshop as part of their curriculum

• At the conclusion of the workshop, 100% agreed or strongly agreed that they will definitely present some of the topics presented at the workshop.



Teacher Use of Materials
:
• 30.5% agreed or strongly agreed that prior to the day of the workshop they had used the topics presented in the workshop as part of their curriculum

• At the conclusion of the workshop, 100% agreed or strongly agreed that they will definitely present some of the topics presented at the workshop.

Evaluation Summary

• Teachers plan to adopt a range of activities in their classroom. Activities that teach solar science to young students were most popular. Many teachers also plan to use the solar home activities and solar cells. Among other activities, the UV beads were very popular.


• Teachers reported seeing connections between solar science and solar energy. They felt that solar energy was a good way to make the solar science “real” and relatable for students. They also felt that the connections made in the workshop increased their confidence in teaching both subjects.
• Among challenges they expect their students to face, a lack of background in science was number one. Included in this is the need to make solar science and solar energy relevant to students. Most teachers felt that they could do this, but it one area that a few teachers felt would be a challenge.
• Some teachers anticipate beginning with solar energy and then moving to solar science because they feel that this will help motivate students to learn the abstract ideas about the sun.


• Lack of time was teachers’ biggest concern about implementing the materials. This subsumes lack of planning time, and the difficulties of connecting the materials to the curriculum (although the latter was mentioned by few teachers).

This serves as an in-progress evaluation. We are entering our final round of workshops and will provide a summative evaluation at the end of the project.


Audience quotes:


 “You provided a great overview with enough depth to increase my understanding of the Sun and solar energy relationships”

“This was one of the best professional development classes I have taken in a long time—You inspired me!”

" I now have a stronger knowledge base regarding magnetism, solar energy, transformations of energy, the sun, the earth’s magnetism."
“How neat to have NASA scientists here!"

 “I cannot wait to share all of this new information with my students! They are going to flip.”