E-Inc. Offers New Renewable Energies Curriculum

By Marianne Salza

E-inc., an environmental learning and action center located in the Charlestown Navy Yard, provides programming in 30 schools and community centers in Cambridge and across Boston. The non-profit organization has been implementing a new, Renewable Energies curriculum in Charlestown’s Warren-Prescott School since September 2022. Students of all ages are learning about deriving energy from natural sources to cultivate a more sustainable future. 

Shown are students enjoying the Renewable Energies program.

“Energy is the biggest issue we have. How are we going to save the planet? How do we get energy in new ways,” proposed E-Inc. Founder and Executive Director Dr. Ricky Stern. “It’s a massive thing we’re trying to undertake. The whole idea is to get rid of fossil fuels in as many ways and as quickly as you can.”

Educators teach students about alternative energies through understandable, hands-on activities, adapting material to suite various age groups. During the day school program, each grade spends eight weeks delving into a specific topic one day a week. In each lesson, students create a piece of machinery to demonstrate how each form of renewable energy is implemented, its challenges, and benefits.

“In the fifth grade, we invite children to support lowering energy,” said Dr. Stern. “They have a week to write a composition. The top 10 meet with teachers once a week at lunch and start talking about things we could do to make what they already do more modern and renewable. It’s their plan that they create. I think it’s great to give kids something special to do.”

E-inc. defines renewable energy during the first week of the Renewable Energies curriculum. Students begin writing in their science notebooks and are presented with individual tasks. A student may be responsible for turning lights off when the class leaves a room, lowering window shades, or gathering debris from the schoolyard during recess.

Students build a waterwheel while discovering how hydropower generates energy through flowing water. During the lesson about solar power, students use solar panels to activate toys. While studying wind power, students learn how wind is formed by the rotation of the earth; and enjoy harnessing wind through turbines to generate energy.

“Science is something you do, make, and test. It’s not something you just read about,” Dr. Stern asserted. “We try to put three-dimensionality into all our topics. Lessons are hands-on in that students recreate the process of renewable energy.”

Students also study geothermal power, heat energy sourced from deep within the earth, biofuel, produced by the breaking down of organic materials, and nuclear energy, generated from the center of an atom.

“They also really like the debate at the end for each energy source,” added Education Director Annabeth Gausepohl. “They enjoy thinking critically about how practical it would be in Massachusetts. They have a lot of fun, and like the competitive edge.”

E-Inc. has been teaching Warren-Prescott School students about the planet for over a decade; and Dr. Stern hopes to recruit 10 schools to her program starting in February.

“Science in elementary schools is limited. Kids don’t know as much as they should,” revealed Dr. Stern. “But the Warren-Prescott School has a spectacular science teacher. We have had a collaboration with the Warren-Prescott forever-and-a-day.”

Doctor Stern is gathering interest and support to form an afterschool youth program for middle and high school-age girls at a local community center in Charlestown. She hopes to build relationships with students, encourage them to set goals and direct their own meetings, have fun with science, and discuss how they can positively impact their community.

“The pandemic made it hard. Post-pandemic, there is always a little anxiety about letting folks into buildings. We have a lot of sites now, but it’s still a long and investing building process,” shared Dr. Stern. “Everything we do is interesting, exciting, and committed.” Visit www.einc-action.org to learn more about E-Inc.’s day school, after school, and summer programs.

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