The Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center announced the release of Energy & Us, an interdisciplinary high school curriculum dedicated to exploring the relationships between people, energy, and the environment. With the beach itself as a classroom, Energy & Us encourages students to think critically about their role in the energy systems and environments that surround them.
Located just 20 miles from New York City, Jones Beach has been a beloved New York State Park for almost a century. The opening of the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center on the Park’s West End in September 2020 marked New York State’s commitment to transitioning to a cleaner energy future, as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019. Exhibits, educational programs, and events at the Center showcase landscapes of energy production and consumption—sites where energy sources are extracted and power plants are located; how scientists choose locations for wind turbines and the orientation of solar panels; the energy embodied in building materials; biomimicry; and the transfer of energy in a dynamic coastal environment. The exhibition theme, “the power of nature and the nature of energy,” invites visitors to conceptualize energy and environment as one. For more information, visit www.jonesbeachenc.org/exhibits
Energy & Us extends this commitment to high school students, striving to equip young people with sophisticated scientific, historical, and political frameworks to understand their place the changing global climate. Over five Units, the curriculum explores the intersection of energy, environment, and society from the atomic to the global scale:
- Unit 1: Water, air, and light at the tideline demonstrate the essential physics and chemistry of energy at the molecular level, while the electrical system of the Center itself is a template for understanding the physical science behind human-built energy infrastructure.
- Unit 2: Plants and animals of Jones Beach’s West End are a window onto the cycling of energy through the ecosystem.
- Unit 3: Surveying the historical geography of Long Island reveals how energy has shaped the environment throughout US history, particularly through the development and expansion of cities, suburbs, and transportation networks.
- Unit 4: Reflecting on the role of energy in contemporary American culture, students are empowered to forge a new relationship to energy consumption.
- Unit 5: Students understand the dynamics that connect energy consumption to global climate change — as well as the possibilities of mitigation, adaptation, and migration in response to climate change — and begin to imagine their own place in a world shaped by altered weather patterns, rising sea levels, and people on the move.
Each unit comprises a narrative discussion and 2-3 interactive or creative activities, including role-plays and debates, scavenger hunts, research reports, and creative writing exercises. Activities involve work with historical documents, contemporary data sets, journalistic accounts, scientific research abstracts, and interactive maps. Students move fluidly and confidently between different knowledge-production frameworks and learn to identify trustworthy sources of information. Throughout, critical thinking and Social and Emotional Learning skills are prioritized, allowing students to continually relate the materials they encounter to their prior knowledge and their own lived experiences. All activities can be carried out at the Center, during scheduled field trips funded by the Connect-Kids-To-Parks program, or used in classrooms.
“We are excited to weave this new curriculum into our existing International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, Regents, and elective science courses,” said Cristie Tursi, Science Director of Long Beach Public Schools. “We look forward to a continued partnership and making the Center’s resources an integral part of Long Beach Public Schools’ growing program in Environmental Education and Sustainability.” Kimberly Williams, New York State Master Teacher in Science, celebrated the curriculum for having “something for everyone who wants to help foster their students' curiosity and drive. It offers a fantastic guide for educators who need to learn with their students! The fun, creative, hands-on activities can be easily tailored for a variety of learners whether at the Center, at home, or in the classroom.”
“By bringing together history, environmental conservation, and energy, Energy & Us will increase the capacity of the Center to achieve its mission of educating and inspiring the public about environmental stewardship and responsible energy consumption,” said Jeanne Haffner, Director and Chief Curator.
Energy & Us was developed by Olivia Schwob, formerly a member of Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center Curatorial Team, in collaboration with Dr. Jeanne Haffner, Director and Chief Curator of the Center, as well as volunteer teacher advisors from Long Beach Public Schools, Roosevelt Public Schools, Freeport Public Schools, the New York State Master Teachers Program, and the New York State Marine Education Association. The development of the curriculum was supported by a generous grant from the Rauch Foundation, which also sponsors ongoing exhibitions and programming at the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center. In a public talk at the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center on January 22, 2022, at 11:00AM, Olivia Schwob will discuss the making of the curriculum. The Center will use Energy & Us to launch a Teacher’s Academy in summer and fall 2022, offering professional development programs for educators across Long Island and New York State.