Imagining Tomorrow: Alternate Energy FuturesTMis a creative contest for high-school students on the topic of clean technology and global climate. It was piloted in Massachusetts in the spring of 2006 as a near-future fiction writing contest; video was added in 2007, with additional categories added in 2008.
A comprehensive website with questions for discussion, links to industry materials, and to curriculum resources is maintained as support for students and teachers. Students are invited to submit a creative fictional work or documentary on the topic of energy and or global climate.
Each entry must be accompanied by a one to three paragraph summary that describes the starting point as well as the educational experience for the student.
An annual Awards Reception is held in May to bring together student finalists, parents and teachers along with leaders in the clean energy community, leaders in government, science educators, and the media. In addition, student work published online, with publicity outreach to the students’ schools and communities as well as regional and national media.
Top: Massachusetts State Representative J. James Marzilli, Jr. congratulates Emily Allen and Paul Jaffee, both sophomores at Arlington High School in Arlington, MA, along with Paul’s mother, Emily Rankin. Middle: Finalists from across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Bottom: Caitlin Reilly, a senior from Chicopee Regional High School and the winner of the top award in 2006 for her story "Little Green Riding Hood".
The program easily fits into existing curriculum and lesson plans. It is promoted to high school science, social science and English department heads via e-mail, mailings and list-serves. The program can actively involve a curriculum in the school, be assigned as an extra-credit or honors project, or be entered independently by the students.
Finally, this program gives a voice to young people, and shifts the political discussion from a short-term time-frame to the long-term.
It is likely that our most serious long-term threat is the environmental cost of past choices in energy resources and consumption. This is particularly true for the use of fossil fuels which result in increasing levels of CO2 and other green-house gases, causing global warming and affecting climate and weather patterns. Ironically, on the short term, we are becoming increasingly aware of the need to maintain and even increase energy resources that provide the fuel for growing economies around the world. We have to have a dramatic change in thinking about these issues if we are to resolve and survive these two realities.
Educational programs on environmental awareness have been incorporated into the curriculum of most elementary schools for many years. However, these programs often are less visible at the secondary level, and may disappear entirely in the face of competing educational needs exacted by state frameworks, by college placement exams and by the diminishing emphasis on Earth Science.
Although individual programs have been set up in target schools, they have not spread very far into the educational community as a whole. In addition, educational programs by themselves have a difficulty being internalized by the student. By nature they tend to be viewed as externally imposed. This is especially pronounced in teenage years when students are experimenting with their independence, and when they are arriving at their adult understanding of the world.
It is imperative that we find a better way of reaching and educating high school students as well as the general public about the possibilities of clean energy technologies and the need for clean energy policies. This is the foundation of the IMAGINING TOMORROW:ALTERNATE ENERGY FUTURES program.