Danica Hendrickson, curriculum director at Facing the Future, introduces curriculum units to high school teachers. Photo courtesy of MOSS.
Danica Hendrickson, curriculum director at Facing the Future, introduces curriculum units to high school teachers. Photo courtesy of MOSS.

Research performed by NARA members contributes to an understanding of how to develop a sustainable wood residual-to-biojet fuel and co-product industry. Sustainability in this case refers to economic, social and environmental sustainability. Techno-economic, biomass supply and logistics, and community impact analyses are being developed to gauge economic sustainability; a community asset assessment model and outreach activities evaluate social sustainability; and research relating to soil, wildlife and air emission impacts contribute to evaluating environmental sustainability. The triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental sustainability research was highlighted last fall at NARA’s annual meeting.

Presentations relating to NARA’s sustainability research can be viewed here.

NARA’s Education team develops tools and experiences to help prepare a future workforce to participate in a biofuels industry. The programs and lesson plans designed for K-12 students not only include traditional topics on energy use and efficiency, but also feature elements that encourage students to consider the social, economic and environmental considerations involved with energy choices. A journal article recently published in the Journal of Sustainability Education, describes curriculum units produced through Facing the Future (FTF), a NARA affiliate organization, that promote global sustainability education. The journal article also demonstrates how these curriculum units are incorporated into present day K-12 classrooms.

Read Global Sustainability: An Authentic Context for Energy Education here.

Curriculum units developed through the lens of global sustainability

The curriculum units described in this journal article are titled Fueling our Future: Exploring Sustainable Energy Use. Two editions are available to accommodate either middle or high school students. Each edition features nine lessons that progress from fundamental energy science to a study of global energy issues and case studies reflecting NARA’s research. Since the first publication in 2014, educators from eleven countries purchased over 270 curriculum units. The lessons contained within these curriculum units focus on global sustainability and encourage critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and the integration of multiple concepts and views.

The final test, or performance-based assessment (PBA) for these curriculum units, has students work independently and collaboratively to answer the driving question: What are the most sustainable biofuels that can be produced in the Pacific Northwest? To answer this question, students evaluate the sustainability of the entire supply chain used to produce biofuels and consider the perspectives of the multiple stakeholders affected. The students conclude their lessons by writing a personal position paper on biofuel development in the Pacific Northwest.

The curriculum units were developed and tested with contributions from multiple sources including education and content experts, many were NARA researchers, as well as an international set of teachers who specialize in varied disciplines like history, social studies and science. Another NARA affiliate, University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS), pilot tested the curriculum and contributed valuable feedback for the development.

Future work

Further curriculum refinement is underway. Facing the Future plans to use the bioenergy assessment tools developed by NARA to gauge the bioenergy literacy gains made by those students who receive the lessons. This assessment should identify lesson segments with the greatest literacy impact and help shape the production of further lessons.

Initial feedback is promising. While using FTF’s curriculum, 86% of educators reported that their students are more engaged and 91% of educators reported an increase in their students’ critical thinking skills. Of these educators, 93% reported an increase in their own knowledge of global issues. Listed below is a comment received by FTF from an educator who is using the lessons in her classroom:

“I love that this was so well integrated and there was such a variety of ways students learned about topics. The activities with visuals, extensions, and links to extensions and additional information were very helpful. Also, the PBA was excellent, my students really got into it especially because so many of them have family members that work for Boeing.”

Future curriculum units are being developed for elementary students.