In a milestone that marks the beginning of a new era for the national program, six middle and senior high schools were selected from a statewide application process to participate in the Illinois Wind for Schools (ILWFS).
The program, jointly administered by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University and the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, comes out of the Wind for Schools initiative that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched several years ago. DOE is currently not expanding its program funding to additional states beyond the original 12, and anticipates a future of more public-private funding partnerships for the program. The Illinois program is the first to be launched without DOE funding.
The 2012-2013 ILWFS partner schools include Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Chicago Public Schools #299, Cook County; Southwestern Middle and High School, Southwestern Community Unit School District (CUSD) #9, Macoupin County; Riverview Grade School, Riverview Community Consolidated School District (CCSD) #2, Woodford County; Galva High School, Galva School District #224, Henry County; Astoria Junior High School, Astoria CUSD #1, Fulton County; and Plano High School, Plano CUSD #88, Kendall County.
The ILWFS program incorporates wind energy topics into the classroom through on-site training workshops at each partner school, customized curricula and lesson plans, and lab equipment for hands-on activities. Continuing professional development units (CPDUs) are offered for all required teacher-training sessions. The Wind for Schools concept involves institutions of higher learning working with K-12 schools, sometimes even through the installation and monitoring of wind turbines at schools. Thus, both college-level and school students gain knowledge in the process.
“We hope to educate students with the knowledge of wind energy principles, to position the next generation of career and technical professionals to enter the growing U.S. wind industry,” said Matt Aldeman, senior energy analyst for the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University. “We will also be able to provide technical assistance to Illinois school administrators on renewable energy integration in school facilities.”
This fall, the ILWFS staff will install scientific weather instrumentation on the school grounds at each partner school. Teachers and students will then be able, using any Internet connection, to easily access data collected by the weather instrumentation. Wind energy lessons will be integrated into the existing curriculum throughout the school year.
The program will begin this summer with a teacher workshop held on site at each partner school. Topics of the workshop will include fundamentals of wind energy, principles of wind turbine operation and ideas for integrating wind energy into the existing curriculum. During the summer, all participating schools will receive a classroom set of experimental model wind turbines, equipment with which to build and test the model wind turbines, a pack of experimental weather balloons, a model wind tunnel and customized lab activities, and a comprehensive wind energy curriculum.