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Energizing Students’ Interest in Learning: Crawford County

Students in Lisa Andresen’s middle-school science class at North Crawford School got their hands dirty learning about energy and biodiversity thanks to UW-Madison–based programs.

July 22, 2016
Lisa Andresen

“They loved every minute,” says Andresen, who took advantage of two UW-Madison educator institutes focused on energy and a UW Arboretum program focusing on the environment.

An 11-year teaching veteran, Andresen trekked to the campus’s Wisconsin Energy Institute for the five-day Bioenergy Institute for Educators — hosted by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center — and the three-day Energy Institute for Educators.

“I signed up for it, not knowing what I was getting myself into,” she says. “I left after the two weeks with enough materials — top-quality lessons on energy — to teach science to my seventh- and eighth-graders for an entire year.”

And much of that curriculum was hands-on, with her students making floating wind turbines and biomass briquettes.

Direct instruction isn’t the best way for students to learn. They really got into the hands-on projects.

They also designed solar ovens and built them with ordinary materials, including cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and reclaimed glass panels from old aquariums. They performed temperature testing and then melted chocolate and caramels for class treats.

“Direct instruction isn’t the best way for students to learn. They really got into the hands-on projects,” she says.

Andresen also linked the energy content with learning about the environment through a grant from the Earth Partnership, run by the UW Arboretum. Students tested the biodiversity of a lawn, a roadside, and a prairie behind the school to learn more about prairie plants and grasses.

Andresen is living the Wisconsin Idea: she’s a proponent of using UW-Madison’s resources to bring science to life for students in her part of the state — and of making her own home more earth friendly.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is great — and not just for school use.’ My husband and I have tossed around the idea of going with solar energy,” she says.

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