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County: Essex

Town: Haverhill

The Energy Project in Germaine Koomen’s Hill View Montessori Charter School classroom combines social responsibility, community partnerships, place-based learning, science, and history. The use of service learning provides opportunities for student initiative and ownership as well as opportunities for students to develop as engaged citizens.

This program:
 Engages students in science instruction related to renewable and nonrenewable resources.
 Teaches new social skills that will help them work together with others.
 Helps students engage in a service-learning project in the community that is selected and developed by the students themselves as they:
o Learn about the importance of civic engagement
o Discover energy and resource needs and problems in their daily lives
o Research solutions and decide on a service project to make an impact on their chosen problem.
o Plan a timeline and be assigned roles and responsibilities
o Implement their project and evaluate its impact.

The twenty-four students in this class learned about energy, renewable/nonrenewable energy sources, and how an electric circuit works, and applied this knowledge to the needs of our school and community. They completed an energy audit of the classroom and voted on whether they would prefer to upgrade the lighting and drafty windows, convince the school to mandate new energy policies, or directly educate the community. After interviewing the school’s business manager and custodian, they learned that direct action was not feasible. Based on this information, they decided to create a program to educate the community on energy conservation. Although the program is based in one classroom, its goal is to reach the entire student and parent body. One unique aspect of the program is that it is student-centered.
The program is based upon the Connect Science curriculum, which is being developed by the University of Virginia & Harkins Consulting with funds from the U.S. Department of Education, provided free materials, training and coaching. Additionally, the Parks for Every Classroom program, a program developed by the National Parks Service and Essex National Heritage Commission, provided training materials and coaching.

Germaine’s class used this information as a launching point to extend the energy project to the history and biology of the Merrimack Valley. Students worked with Jeff Esche of the Northeastern Urban Forestry Advocacy to create an inventory of the trees on the school property and calculate the energy savings they provide. Student volunteers chose to extend this program to survey of the trees on their own properties. Under Jeff’s guidance they established a school Tree Committee and learned civic participation by researching, advocating and actively caring for trees on our school ground.
Last year, Germaine worked with the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and participated in both Teachers on the Estuary: Investigating a Changing Environment (for grades 6-12) and Teachers on the Estuary and the Wampanoag Circle of Life (for grades 3-5) courses. These opportunities provided resources on the role of animal and plant life cycles and adaptations, coastal processes as well as modern and traditional Wampanoag culture. She shared key lessons on cultural respect of our resources, the carbon cycle and the importance of our local wetlands in carbon sequestration. Students explored the Merrimack River history, geography and geology and learned to value the river and Great Marsh. This year’s project focused on the carbon cycle and its connection to global warming.

The class also partnered with the Covanta Energy Corporation to see how waste can be turned into an energy source. National Grid provided educational material. Germaine benefited from the advice and visits of Maryann Zujewski, a National Parks Ranger, and Beth Beringer of the Essex National Heritage Commission. Each of these representatives visited the school and spoke to students about our local history and provided advice to both students and adults in the classroom. Students engaged with the Tsongas Industrial History Museum to explore the role of immigration and industrialization in our area. They were able to integrate American History studies with the history of energy usage and the labor movement.

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