Greenfield Community College Launches New Curriculum on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
By Brian Adams, Professor of Environmental Studies/Natural Resources, Greenfield Community College
Let there be no mistake: as colleges and universities our largest "footprint" is the education that our students receive. While continuing to focus on carbon reduction through infrastructure measures, ACUPCC signatories cannot forget to also "preach what we practice". Incorporating global warming and energy issues into existing curriculum and offering creative and challenging new courses in renewable energy and energy efficiency is essential. To do otherwise will shortchange a vital component of our students' education and potential career pathways, and drastically reduce our institutions' ability to ultimately impact climate change.
Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Massachusetts has leapt into the energy education field by initiating a 28 credit Certificate in Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) and, beginning this fall, a 60 credit Associates of Liberal Arts in RE/EE. Taught in part by dedicated practitioners (architect, engineer, PV business owner/installer) we have
- Launched 13 new one to three credit science coded courses (with three more on the way) including PV I and II, Residential Energy Efficiency and Energy Auditing, Passive Solar Technology, Sustainable Design and Green Building, Solar Thermal and Wind.
- Offered an innovative credit/non-credit format that pairs traditional course work with community education drawing incumbent workers into the classroom and making for eclectic, diverse and exciting teaching and learning opportunities. Over enrolled classes witness builders networking with plumbers who chat with "traditional aged" students working next to career changers.
- Partnered with businesses, employment/training organizations, vocational/technical high schools and non-profits to get essential feedback on jobs, curriculum and what education the "real world" demands.
- Placed students in "green collar" jobs such as energy auditing, PV and solar hot water installation. Given that significant targeted grant money from the state is involved (Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund grant from Massachusetts Commonwealth Corporation), "outcomes" such as job placements following completion of classes are an essential indictor of program success.
- Purchased enough equipment (PV panels, solar hot water system, "mock roofs", blower door, infrared scanner, kill-a-watt meters etc.) and performed minor classroom renovations to adequately enhance hands on learning even though we are not a vocational/technical community college.
The goal of the courses, the RE/EE Certificate and the Associates is to give students the knowledge and skills needed for entry level employment and/or for continued learning and education in the field. However, as Kermit the Frog so wisely stated, "it's not easy being green". The demands of fulfilling the requirements of a state grant (ahhh…bureaucracy), the intense task of often "inventing" the wheel or re-inventing it to suit our needs, demands on time and creative energy, shepherding new courses through curriculum committees, combining the often disparate spheres of community education with academic programming, supporting diverse adjuncts with great technical expertise but less formal teaching experience, the perils of registration – the list goes on – is not without headaches. A fine line exists between promoting academic innovation and drifting into insanity.
Challenges aside, there is no time like the present to get these educational initiatives underway. An informed student body and an educated workforce is an essential requirement in meeting the challenging energy and environmental demands confronting us.
Combining thoughtful energy management on campus with innovative classroom opportunities represents the key to our success in dealing with climate change. Our students and our world deserve nothing less.
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