Posted by: Mary Anna Thornton | November 30, 2011

Bumper Stickers, Steam Engines, and Green Classrooms

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We’re back to work after break! Here are some of today’s events:

In our English class, Wilderness Voices: American Literature and the Land, students are working their way through their last unit, entitled “Speak Up & Speak Out!” This section of the course is aimed at giving students the skills they need to effectively voice their beliefs. Yesterday each student completed a bumper sticker that expressed one of their beliefs, and today, English Teacher Jeff Rennicke had the stickers plastered on his car. The class headed outside to view the bumper stickers in their natural element. While admiring the stickers, students explained their messages to one another and gently critiqued one another’s work, following a checklist provided by Jeff. They considered a variety of questions: Would a change in wording increase the impact? Should the message be more concise? Is the sticker easy to read from a distance? Do the images and colors enhance or distract from the text? Does a bumper sticker have to have words or can the picture tell the story? Read more about this activity on Jeff’s Conserve School website.

At the same time, another section of students participated in Environmental Science class with teacher Robert Eady, learning about alternative energy. Robert demonstrated to students the physics of steam power by firing up an elaborate tabletop steam engine model that once belonged to James R. Lowenstine, Conserve School’s founder. Students  then paired off to work on an assignment: each pair will have to present the physics of an alternative energy method, along with its environmental impact and the economic and political issues that influence its use.

While we’re on the topic of energy … Spanish Teacher Kathleen O’Connor and Math Teacher Kathy Jones recently applied for the opportunity to be beta testers for a new professional development opportunity, the Green Classroom Professional Certificate program (, and were notified this week that they had been selected. They will be busy in the next several weeks completing the coursework, considering ways to make their classrooms even more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, and giving the Green Building Certification Institute feedback on the experience.

Science Teacher Andrew Milbauer received some good news this week, too. He was just notified that he has been approved as a reader (i.e., test scorer) for the AP Environmental Science exam.  Being selected as a reader is considered an honor, since the College Board will only invite teachers with strong academic backgrounds and a significant amount of AP teaching and training experience. It’s also considered an excellent professional development opportunity. The College Board provides intensive training for exam readers, and the experience deepens participating teachers’ understanding of Advanced Placement expectations.

Way to go, Kathleen, Kathy, and Andy! These are great examples of how our teachers go above and beyond.

– Mary Anna


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