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GLBRC Education & Outreach NewsletterNovember 2013
Fall Greetings!

Read below news and updates related to our education activities over the last few months, including new educational materials and resources.
Learning Progressions: Building Student Understanding of Climate Change and Biofuels  
Our society is currently having serious debates about sources of energy and global climate change. But do students (and the public) have the requisite knowledge to engage these issues as informed citizenry? In a recent article submitted to the American Biology Teacher, GLBRC Education & Outreach partners summarize the implications of learning progressions research for teaching students about energy systems and climate change.

Based upon this research, only 10% of high school students typically have a level of understanding commensurate with that called for in the Next Generation Science Standards. The learning progression research shows how most students fall short of being able to trace matter and energy through carbon-transforming processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, and combustion, which are at the center of analyses of our usage of different energy sources and global climate change. In this article we discuss the implications of these findings for effective teaching.

Read the full article on our website.
News: Students in Southwest Michigan Helping GLBRC with Sustainable Biofuels Research  
Schoolyard bioenergy plots serve as living laboratories for students to collect, analyze and share data.
Researchers at the Kellogg Biological Station have hatched a plot to engage elementary through high school students in real-life science and to help graduate students learn how to better communicate science to the public. The program has established more than 300 "garden" plots, all planted at 22 schools in 12 school districts in Southwest Michigan. Each plot contains a variety of plants and each is designed to mimic decades-long collaborative research at the KBS Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) site and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. Read the full story.

Learn more about the BEST Plots Network.
Save the Date: Summer 2014 Professional Development Programs for Educators   

The dates are set for our two summer programs for educators: Research Experience for Teachers (RET) and Bioenergy Institute for Educators.

  • Research Experience for Teachers: June 16 - August 1, 2014. Teachers spend 7 weeks conducting research in GLBRC labs and develop related activities to bring back to their classrooms. Included is a $7000 stipend. Visit the RET program page for additional details, including  photos and recaps of past summer research projects.
  • Bioenergy Institute for Educators: June 16-21, 2014. Teams of educators spend 6-days on the UW-Madison campus meeting with GLBRC researchers, getting hands-on experience with education materials, and developing lesson plans to bring back to their students. Included is a $500 stipend. Visit the summer institute program page for more information. 
**Applications for both programs will be posted on our website in early 2014 and announced in our winter newsletter**     
New Resources: Online Guide to Wild Bees 

The next time you take a bite of a crisp fall apple, you might take a moment to reflect on the unique  partnership that made it possible: farmers and bees. With more than 500 species native to Wisconsin, wild bees play an essential role in pollinating the state's food crops, and farmers are becoming more interested in learning about all the different kinds that buzz around their fields each season.

Fortunately, University of Wisconsin-Madison entomology graduate student Rachel Mallinger knows a lot about the native bees of Wisconsin. Mallinger, who works in the lab of Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center sustainability scientist Claudio Gratton, has developed an online bee identification guide to benefit students, farmers, landowners and curious citizens. Entitled "Spring Wild Bees of Wisconsin," the resource will help users distinguish among different types of bees and learn about the important roles they play in nature and agriculture. This online tool also serves as a helpful resource to accompany the GLBRC classroom activity Field Investigations: Bug Biodiversity and Ecosystem Benefits.  

Read full story.   
Fermenting Breakfast Cereal in Bag or Balloon? 
Ken Newberry, Science Methods Instructor at Bowling Green State University and alum of the GLBRC Bioenergy Institute for Educators, shared a creative, inquiry-rich variation on Fermentation in a Bag that he uses with pre-service middle school science teachers. Students fermented a range of feedstocks, including breakfast cereals and experimented with different methods for measuring CO2 production.
Students measure volume of CO2 in balloons during fermentation of breakfast cereal.
He found that fermenting common foods such as breakfast cereals can harness students' natural curiosity about the foods they eat. For example, students were surprised to observe that Cheerios produced more CO2 than Corn Pops. This led them to compare the sugar content of cereals by both mass and volume on the product nutritional labels.


We have updated our popular Fermentation in a Bag activity with notes and instructions for this classroom variation.  


Have a creative adaptation of a GLBRC activity? Share it with us! Email: education@glbrc.wisc.edu
Upcoming Events & Professional Development Opportunities

For details on the events below, and for recaps of previous events, please visit our event blog.    

November is Biofuels Month at Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Monona, WI

Presentations and activities for the public, Saturdays, 10-2.

December 12-14
NSTA Area Conference,
Denver, CO:

GLBRC will present "CB2E" Biomass to Ethanol lab activity.

April 3-6

NSTA National Conference,
Boston, MA

GLBRC will present "CB2E" Biomass to Ethanol lab activity.

Related News and Resources


I-MOLD: Interactive Model of Leaf Decomposition 


Check out a new interactive model of leaf decomposition (I-MOLD). The goal of this project is to explain leaf decomposition and how it relates to the Earth's carbon cycle and climate. The website contains a series of animated lessons about decomposition, an interactive model that lets you predict how different types of leaves will decompose in different climates, and related classroom activities. The animations can serve as a useful supplemental resource for variety of GLBRC education materials, including bioprospecting and soil respiration labs.   



US Dept of Energy to Sponsor American Energy Data Challenge 


Over the next year, the U.S. Department of Energy will conduct four contests, which will award over $100,000 in total prizes for the best ideas, apps, and visualizations that use energy data to help address some of America's biggest challenges. Read more.  



World's First Refinery Turning Farm Waste to Bioethanol Opens


The world's first commercial-scale refinery to produce bioethanol from agricultural residues and energy crops has opened in northern Italy. When fully implemented, the system will provide 75 million liters of bioethanol annually for the European market. Read full story.  



We Energies Biomass Power Plant Begins Commercial Operations


We Energies has commenced commerical operation at its biomass-fueled power plant on the site of Domtar Corporation's Rothschild, Wis., paper mill, after testing and commissioning activities were successfully completed. Read more.   
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We encourage you to visit our website at least once a month to look for new materials we have posted. http://www.glbrc.org/education 

Contact Information

Feel free to contact us with questions or feedback at education@glbrc.wisc.edu or 608-890-2828. If you know others who would like to be added to this list, please sign-up online.



GLBRC is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy