Biorenewables Workshop Held for Elementary Teachers

On a white board in the front corner of a middle school science classroom a teacher has written, “Purpose: to get an overview of the course and participants to better understand the stuff the world is made of (matter).” That’s the intention of the Biorenewables Workshop for Elementary School Teachers, supported by Iowa NSF EPSCoR.

The Iowa State University hosted workshop looks to improve elementary school teachers’ knowledge about biorenewable energy so that their students better understand environmental issues. The event was facilitated by Lynne Bleeker, a science educator at Parkview Middle School in Ankeny, Iowa. The week-long workshop included a variety of activities such as visits to the Iowa State Bio-Century Research Farm and a Renewable Energy Group Inc. facility.

Teachers Learn from Hands-on Labs

[Image] Teacher stands in front of a classroom of teachers
Kindergarten teacher from Fellow Elementary, Robyn Reierson, listens in on a lecture by Lynne Bleeker, the lead facilitator of the workshop. Bleeker informed elementary teachers more about the use of biorenewables and the effect they have in making a more efficient environment.

Besides classroom activities including lectures, writing prompts, and tests, participants took part in lab experiments involving bioenergy. “My favorite part of the workshop has been doing labs,” Robyn Reierson, a Kindergarten teacher at Fellows Elementary School in Ames, Iowa said. “We were extracting oil, which was from the cream filling of a Hostess cupcake, so it has been really hands-on.”

Projects and Strategies Implemented in Classrooms

By the end of the workshop, teachers gained the skills and knowledge they need to implement into their classrooms. Meg Notch, a fifth grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa decided to create a project she calls, “Evolve,” threading her personal and professional relationship together to do her part in making a more efficient environment.
“The personal thread is going to focus on my own conversations with my colleagues, friends, and people at church about solving environmental problems,” Notch said. “The professional aspect is going to focus on taking the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and some of the knowledge I have gained from this workshop to connect those new standards in the classroom.”

Teachers’ Actions Awarded

[Image] Teachers stand and show off certificates
Some of the Carbon Footprint Heroes included (from left to right) Katie Naert, Alex Stucky, Anna Foley, and Breanna Bergstorm. Lead facilitator, Lynne Bleeker presented the awards.
 As the week progressed and teachers learned more ways to ensure an environmentally-friendly world, their actions were awarded. Carbon Footprint Heroes were announced towards the end of the workshop week for taking the initiative to carpool, watch what they recycle, as well as conserve energy. The main goal is to understand but also to take action and showcase those actions to their students.

“It’s eye-opening,” said Katie Naert, a fourth grade teacher at Lakewood Elementary School in Norwalk, Iowa. “We all just go about our lives and we don’t really think about all the stuff that’s going on and our students need to learn more about biorenewable energy.”