Written by: Gemma Romano, Southwestern Ontario Coordinator
By nature, my teaching style is hands-on, so when we built our workshops for online learning back in the spring, I was nervous about how I would maintain my teaching methods of experiential learning. But, after a lot of team work and many hours, we included a lot of interactive elements into our workshops (check out our online tools in this previous post). I was also amazed at the new opportunities online workshops presented us with. Not only am I now able to teach in schools across Canada, but I also got to lead Relay’s first international workshop in New York State on December 10, 2020.
We partnered with EDF Renewables to co-host a virtual workshop about solar energy for families in Niagara County. Parents and children were led through the steps of how to build a model solar car by us over video. This workshop was offered to the landowners and their families who are working with EDF Renewables for a proposed 350-Megawatt solar farm located in the Town of Hartland, Niagara County, New York. The proposed project, called the Ridge View Solar Project, would generate enough clean, renewable electricity to power 75,000 New York households. New York state has a goal to be using 70% renewables by 2030.
It was an amazing opportunity to share our programs with people internationally. An important piece was making sure that our lessons were geared towards the audience. This is a practice we do all the time here in Canada (e.g. highlighting local renewable energy practices, making sure the content is appropriate for grade levels.) But, this gave me an opportunity to learn more about the history of energy in a different part of the world. For example, I learned that natural gas, nuclear and hydro-electricity are the biggest sources of energy in New York State. This workshop provided an opportunity for us to expand our market, but it also allowed me to expand my own knowledge about solar energy.
My favourite part of the workshop was when we got to interact with the participants through the solar car design portion. Both the adults and children would show us their cars on camera and I could feel the excitement through the screen. The participants were able to interact with the materials hands-on at home and engage in online learning with us. Families learnt how energy can be transformed into electricity using solar energy, which is a key and essential part in the fight to mitigating climate change.
Photo collage of the solar cars made by participants
While there have been challenges as an educator learning to teach online (e.g. not seeing the students, not being able to engage with them as easily, and making sure the view of my equipment is clear, etc.) there are many things that have opened my mind to the variety of different learning opportunities. I do hope to be face-to-face with students again, but for now, and until it is safe to do so, I believe that we are still teaching to the best of our abilities, and continuing to impact the children we are teaching.
For further information about the EDF Renewables Ridge View solar project go to: https://www.edf-re.com/project/ridge-view-solar-energy-center/