Report on the 2019 VEEP/NHEEP Summer Institute by NHEEP's Aubrey Nelson
There was an audible buzz in the room during this year’s VEEP/NHEEP Summer Institute at Lake Morey Resort in August. As we dug into the many new activities and fun
hands-on materials, or ‘recharged’ by paddling around at the end of a long day of learning on the beautiful Lake Morey, I couldn’t help but notice a metaphor between the energy in the group and some of the electricity storylines we were exploring. Just as electrons move through the powerlines, questions, ideas and support were flowing amongst these educators. Although perhaps not true examples of magnetostriction or coronal discharge phenomena, there was definitely enough excitement to cause the air around this group to hum.
Throughout the week, our fearless “System Operators,” Deanna Bailey and Laura MacLachlan, helped us to see how the three strands of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were all connected: how practices and cross-cutting concepts can be interwoven with content to transform lessons so that the students make the switch from “learning about” to “figuring out.” Together we all practiced seeing the (often hidden) processes and systems that connect what might initially seem like disparate phenomena. For instance, we were able to discover that cats’ appreciation for lying in sunny windows might be able to tell us things about electromagnetic energy, and even earth’s climate. But rather than just trust our “System Operators” to tell us how things work, we conducted experiments to provide evidence of how they’re related. Other VEEP/NHEEP staff came “on-line” to contribute their expertise and supplies, but this was just a trickle of information when compared with the collective knowledge the teachers conveyed to each other throughout the week. By Friday, each intrepid educator had drawn on all of the activities, discussions and collaborations in order to produce powerful new units for their classrooms. One teacher is going to explore with her 7th grade life science class how transportation choices to and from school might be connected to the spread of ticks and Lyme disease. Another is tying erosion questions and weather patterns into discovering why the playground at their school keeps flooding. But this is just a small sampling. There are so many more projects, with topics ranging from electricity to trout habitat to green roofs, and they all connect to energy and climate in age-appropriate ways.
And, even more impressive, all of these educators will deliver more than content or practices. Their lessons are wired to do WORK! To empower kids to generate meaningful action and positive impacts in their communities. And this is where the electrical metaphor fails, because unlike the grid, which loses efficiency over time and distance, the work these fine folks did during the Summer Institute will be amplified. We’re so excited-- dare I say “energized”- by their commitments to spark new questions, investigations and actions. Thank you so much to all who participated, and please continue to check in and use VEEP/NHEEP as a resource for whatever you may need to support your efforts!