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Charge into the EV World
Image provided by Enterprise for Education

Clean Transport

It’s Time To Charge Into The EV World!

A new curriculum teaches students what it means to drive electric, encouraging them to become green activists in their communities — and maybe inspiring their parents along the way.

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As I was getting on my bike after water aerobics today (ah, the life of a snowbird), a neighbor from across the condo complex stopped to ask about my new Tesla. With skepticism masked as curiosity, he queried me about charging, range, servicing, and tech. As a self-designated emissary to the new world of EVs, I fielded his questions, hearing his voice rise with insistence and intransigence and laced with misinformation: comparable gas and electricity costs, Tesla’s peaked marketplace appeal, and easy availability of EVs today for anybody who wants one. I offered some gentle oppositional point-of-view explanations about low electricity costs in our area, availability of the Tesla Supercharger network when I travel away from home, and a tale about how many people long for their EV deliveries, including a neighbor’s year-long wait for a Cadillac Lyric. As our conversation took twists and turns, it occurred to me that this adult and many others like him need a course in EVs — something like “Charge into the EV World,” part of a curriculum which is being offered in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

We’ve been doing lots of work here at CleanTechnica to inform readers about all-electric transportation. We try to deconstruct why some people are invested in EV denial. We’ve attempted to debunk stories about “radical commie-types and well-meaning but misinformed greenies who are pushing pie-in-the-sky solutions” like electric vehicles. We try to make sense of legacy automakers who refused to embrace all-electric transportation. We have even considered if there are just too many electric and other cars on the road, period.

Now it seems appropriate to take a turn in the road (pun intended) and reach out to a new audience: youth. If young people grow up with the actuality and practicality of electrifying everything, then the transition to all-electric transportation will seem like, well, so 21st century, dude.

When I first heard about the “Charge into the EV World” curriculum, I was intrigued. Would these lessons for high schoolers have what it takes to create a foundation for EV adoption for the next generation? And what would such a curriculum need to encompass?

I’m a retired educator, so, before I delved into the “Charge into the EV World” curriculum, I needed to brainstorm topics for this article that I might infuse into an EV curriculum. How about you? If you were to teach curious folks about all-electric transportation, what would you include? Click here, and share your thoughts.

“Charge into the EV World” Curriculum

The curriculum was inspired by “the sense of urgency to move EVs forward in the minds of our fellow citizens,” explains Alan Burks, founder of Enterprise for Education, which created the “Charge into the EV World” curriculum. “This high school STEM-based program will help to build the EV market.”

“Young people are looking for issues they can support,” Burks continued. “People pay attention to young people when they are highly organized, passionate, and vocal, as Greta Thunberg demonstrates. Our program encourages students to become green activists in their communities, which includes EV adoption. Students will encourage their parents to consider EVs, and they will work to help their communities’ EV transition.”

“Charge into the EV World” — subtitled “Climate Change, Green Energy, and You — the Power to Make a Difference” — is a high school science supplement program about electric vehicles. In 2021, high school teachers in Texas, Florida, and California reviewed the materials, with positive responses.

Young citizens today are already stepping forward to shape and influence society in powerful ways, so this curriculum springs from that motivation. “Charge into the EV World” challenges high school science students to envision their roles in the urgent work to address climate change. The program emphasizes research-based decision making, careers in science and engineering fields, and job opportunities at all levels in the expanding electric vehicle and green energy infrastructure world.

The program is focused around the “Charge Into the EV World” student booklet, written in a very appealing graphic novel format that details two high school age students, Evie and Aaron. Having just picked up their new driver’s licenses, Evie and Aaron discuss climate change, electric vehicles, and the need to move to a national green and smart energy infrastructure as vital components to address global warming issues. This booklet encourages students to become actively engaged in expanding the EV footprint in their communities; it honors student activism by encouraging students to consider electric vehicles as a tool within their reach to personally combat climate change.

How can teachers and community workers address critical environmental and EV issues? This new STEM-based program is divided into 3 sections:

  • global warming
  • electric vehicles
  • a smart green infrastructure

The 9 lessons, corresponding to a sequence of ideas presented in the student booklet, weave together science concepts, problem solving, and community leadership activities. From the initial topic of global warming to the topic of electric vehicles, and then to the discussion of a smart, green energy grid, there is a through-line message of energy transfer and system analysis. Each participating teacher receives a classroom set of materials, including a 20-page graphic novel style booklet for each student, and a teacher’s guide.

“We believe the 20-page color graphic novel booklet also can be used as a stand-alone document to help consumers to more fully appreciate EVs, for example at car shows, community meetings, etc.,” Burks adds.

The PreTest/PostTest Evaluation serve as program “bookends,” measuring overall student growth on the major program themes. Reflection questions, embedded in the Background Sheets, document student understanding of science concepts to be incorporated into the Follow the Energy assignment, which, in itself, is a major evaluation component of the program. The Lesson Plans are designed to follow the 5 E curriculum model, encompassing the phases Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The Evaluation Component is not used as a closure for each lesson but, rather, provides layers of check-ins woven throughout the program.

Section 1: Follow the energy transfer involved in the global warming issue. (Lessons 1–3) The first 3 lessons give students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of several basic science concepts such as phase change, radiation-conduction-convection, energy absorption, and albedo as they explore the role energy transfer plays in science processes. The energy transfer storylines in the resulting student-designed concept maps start as energy packets radiate from the Sun to Earth, where various wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum interact with matter in Earth’s atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere.

Section 2: Explore how the science and engineering in electric vehicles make them a part of the solution to global warming. (Lessons 4–7) In this section, students explore features unique to EVs. Students compare and contrast these features to internal fossil fuel combustion engines, learning why EVs are recognized as key players in the battle against global warming. Lithium-ion batteries, regenerative braking systems, environmentally-friendly charging options, and exciting new EV models are all discussed in lessons 4–7.

Section 3: Examine the crucial smart green energy infrastructure needed to support modern EVs as well as combat global warming. (Lessons 8-9) Students here learn about the present energy grid and explore forward thinking options to move to a smart green energy and transportation grid. Students are encouraged to consider career paths in the green energy fields as well as explore ways that they, as concerned citizens, can take even small actions to reduce the impact of global warming in their community.

Note: The Electric Vehicle Section in Charge Into the EV World (Days 4–7) and the Infrastructure Section (Days 8 & 9) draw from the NGSS Crosscutting Ideas and the NGSS Practices Objectives. These hold emphasis on creating systems and designing solutions and, thus, are evaluated using open-ended tasks. Student assignments in these sections provide teachers with useful insights into students’ thoughts and efforts to address global warming challenges presented in “Charge Into the EV World.”

How did the actual curriculum compare with your own brainstorming at the beginning of this article? 🙂

Charge into the EV World

Image provided by Alan Burks / Enterprise for Education

How Does the “Charge into the EV World” Curriculum Get Financial Support?

Enterprise for Education has a rather unique business model, according to Burks. For more than 40 years, the company has been producing quality science education materials that are offered at no expense to schools. That’s because they obtain program-sponsoring partners, such as public utilities and businesses, which have a vested interest in providing the content of these science programs to local schools in their service area.

“As our first partnership for ‘Charge into the EV World,'” Burks explained, “we have obtained the sponsorship of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to sponsor LAUSD, the second largest school district in the US. The program was introduced to the LAUSD school district in early February 2022, and in the past six weeks we have already received requests for the program’s materials from 25 teachers in 16 schools, reaching about 2,300 students—and, through them, their siblings, and parents.”

If you’d like to see the curriculum available to schools or community groups in your area and have a utility or favorite business sponsor in mind, contact Enterprise in Education directly.

Burks notes that, after two years of development work and supportive reviews by educators, “I believe that our release of ‘Charge into the EV World’ coincides well with this important moment in our national history. There are many leaders from industry to business to government who are working hard to do their part to redirect our transportation system to a more environmentally friendly model. The world certainly needs many more Greta Thunbergs!”

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a Model Y as well as a Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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