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Building Sustainable Energy Communities via Youth Engagement

August 2, 2021
Haley Stafford
Class of 2024

Since February, I have been working closely with Dr. June Flora, Dr. Chad Zanocco, and Dr. Hilary Boudet to develop a 6-week-long youth education program called “Designing Your Energy Lifestyle” (DYEL). In this program, ​​middle and high-school-aged participants analyze their household’s electricity usage using the Tableau data visualization software and use their insights to drive positive changes in their family’s energy-consumption habits. In prior years, DYEL was an in-person program that comprised three, three-hour-long sessions. As with many other programs, COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions meant that DYEL had to go virtual this summer to continue promoting energy, data, and graph literacy.

During the first few weeks of the summer, I reviewed resources used previously in the in-person DYEL program and transformed them into an extensive, online Canvas course equipped with Edpuzzle interactive videos, guided activities, Quizlets, Kahoot!, and group discussions. Responses from each of these mediums are being collected to see how youth conceptualize, represent, interpret, and explain data.

Although my team and I feared that the program’s online format would attract fewer participants, we were pleasantly surprised to have 30 students sign up within the first week of advertising. In addition to asynchronous activities on Canvas, DYEL participants attend a virtual, synchronous session every Saturday led by myself and two Bay Area high school teachers. In these sessions, participants review the week’s content, hone their data visualization skills, and present findings to their fellow peers.

With the mentorship of the two high school teachers, I learned the dos and don’ts of virtual learning and how to best boost knowledge retention in an online format. An invaluable tool that we have been using is Pear Deck—a Google Slides add-on that makes presentations interactive and allows for feedback to be given and received in real-time. After each session, we review these responses to improve our teaching approach and course as a whole.

The DYEL program is currently halfway through with participants successfully visualizing, interpreting, and explaining their electricity data. In the forthcoming weeks, they will continue to characterize different energy lifestyles and lead family change plans to reduce their household’s electricity consumption.

The best part of my SUPER experience by far has been interacting with participants during our live Saturday sessions. After putting so much effort into transitioning the DYEL program into an engaging, virtual format, it is so gratifying to see faces behind the names on the course roster and get to know them. I am so grateful to be able to watch every participant progress in their data literacy journey and make changes in their household towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.