Energy for Everyone: Elementary and Secondary School Students Emphasize the Eminence of Sustainable Energy


With each passing day, the realities of climate change on Earth become less and less deniable. From devastating flash floods in coastal cities to infustructure-crushing sinkholes in southern swamplands and alarmingly frequent wildfires along the northern west coast, it is clear that our planet as we know it will not be able to sustain the environmental malpractice of human-made institutions in the near future. The need for a sustainable future is clear, and it all starts in the classroom. 

This year’s Energy of STEM Camps provided students with the valuable opportunity to explore the concept of green energy, its costs, benefits and significance in our future. Recognizing the urgency of teaching renewable energy to the next generation, the 2021 virtual camps included three session tracks each varying with age-appropriate programming for first and second grade, third through fifth grade, and high school students.

Throughout the weeks, elementary and high school students were able to follow along with hands-on projects and demonstrations using K-12 STEM Center-provided materials. Activities spanned from paper windmills and potato batteries to 3-D printed windmills and live snap circuits for elementary-aged and high school-aged students respectively. Participants were even able to engage in group work, peer-bonding and guest speakers all over Zoom.


High school session leader and K-12 STEM Center Co-Director, Darin Gray, says “Oftentimes people hear about green energy and only hear the plus sides. I wanted [the students] to take a scientific and engineering approach to looking at the entire green energy spectrum so they have a better understanding of what works, what does not work and what still needs to be developed.”

For nearly two-weeks Gray led high schoolers through experiments aimed to demonstrate the strengths and limitations of generating solar/wind electricity or alternative battery sources before their own eyes. For example, they looked at the carbon footprint of a windmill from inception to conclusion, incorporating the impact of employee transportation to the factory and potential waste material all the way to the day the windmill is actually deployed. “The idea is to help students get a total sense of the cost of green energy to make more informed decisions and even come up with their own solutions,” Gray added.  

While they took a more simplified approach to sustainability, this sentiment was also extended to the younger Energy of STEM pupils.

“These kids are going to grow up to be the future in a world dependent on successful sustainability initiatives, '' says elementary session leader and Center Associate Director, Mary Bonaparte-Saller. “We need to engage them in these conversations early on so they are not only literate about what is going on, but hopeful; hopeful that they have the power to make a change.”

Thank you to SoCalGas for looking ahead to renewable energy and sponsoring this year’s sessions of Energy of STEM.


Written by Annenberg junior, Anita Tiara Holman

Published on September 27th, 2021

Last updated on March 24th, 2022