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Free Program to Aid Teachers

Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 11:10



Students examine the components of an intelligent fuel car. The FREE program will provide K-12 schools with energy-efficient resources.

The University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education has been working on a program entitled Fabulous Resources for Energy Education in order to provide teachers with energy education resources. Pat Higby, the outreach coordinator of UNI CEEE, founded the idea in 2004.

The FREE program, which is offered to schools K-12, allows schools and student groups to ask for a loan in order to purchase the materials need to teach about energy efficiency on a deeper level. The CEEE also loans out solar panels, wind kits, hydrogen fuel cells, motors and generators that can improve the learning process.

Higby says that teachers see the lack of funding for materials as the main obstacle to teaching about energy resources in schools.

"In order to teach energy well, you need the materials. How can you teach students about photovoltage if they don't have one to actually experiment with?" said Higby.

The program has already been implemented in several schools in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. Brice Jensen, a senior earth science major who works with FREE, estimates that the program has helped over 15,000 people through various events, workshops,     educational videos, student visits, games and the loans for materials.  

Jensen believes that the materials the CEEE loans out to schools help improve students' creativity.

"Kids can make it as basic as possible and as advanced as possible," said Jensen.

In the future, FREE is looking to be a self-sustained program instead of depending on others' funding. Jensen said the group is trying to expand the program by involving students from other areas of UNI. FREE is looking to expand its staff by adding someone from the business department who will better know how to market the program.    

Higby believes that the program has improved the Cedar Valley community and hopes to continue its progress. The CEEE invites all students who are interested to get involved in the program.

"Every year I have new students who work for me. Anyone who is up for the challenge is able to join the program. And any student that wants to use the materials to teach is welcome to borrow them," said Higby.

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