A “biorenewable” is a resource from the biosphere that is limitless. However, how do you teach biorenewables to a large group of energized middle school students?
This summer, Nevada Middle School teacher Karen Niblock was one of 12 middle school teachers from across the state participating in the Summer Academy for Middle School Teachers and learning about biorenewables through professional development with fellow teachers. Iowa NSF EPSCoR and the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) are the sponsors of the program.
Twelve teachers participated in the three-week program, held at Iowa State University on July 7-25. They attended Iowa State University faculty presentations, participated in lab activities and visited biorenewable-related facilities. While in the lab, teachers worked with many different materials. They learned how to record biomass properties, ferment ethanol for bioenergy and produce bio-plastics.
The teachers also developed materials for their own classrooms to teach their students about biorenewables and careers in the field. While participating in the program, teachers learned about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula and applied it to the Iowa Core Curriculum and standards set for middle school science. Karen Niblock said, “I’m excited to be able to add biorenewables to my earth science curriculum. Students are interested in how to positively impact their environment and my work this summer will make that futuristic learning possible.”
Eric Hall, lead teacher for the summer academy programs, explained the benefits of the program. “I like this program because it has a content focus, but at the same time we spend a significant amount of time on pedagogy and making it applicable for middle school students. It’s a good blend of both.”