2017 Finalist: ASTech Awards
Energy Literacy Program Provides Valuable Funding for Alberta Science Classrooms
Too often funding is the biggest obstacle for innovation in education. While teachers are full of great ideas to inspire their students to pursue their passions in learning, the reality is that money is always a limiting factor.
BP Canada answers the call to support Alberta teachers through the BP Canada A+ for Energy program. A+ for Energy is an energy literacy program that awards grants of up to $10,000 to Alberta teachers to enable them to teach about Energy in the classroom.
Amanda Balint, Communications and External Affairs at BP Canada, says, “Through this program, we have seen a variety of creative projects – from kindergarten teachers allowing their kindergarten class to sing songs about recycling to a high school class that has converted a Volkswagen Beetle into an electric car.”
A+ for Energy has also helped fund some of the first solar installations at schools in Alberta. The program helped purchase class sets of tablet computers well before they were commonplace. The program also helped secure some of the first 3D printers in the province, outside post-secondary labs and research facilities.
More than money
While the cash awards are a fantastic way to excite students by bringing new technologies into science classrooms, Balint says, “Winning an A+ for Energy grant is actually more than just the funds. It’s also about teaching the teachers and providing them the resources to go back to the classrooms and allow the students to learn, as well.”
Part of the program includes a conference in Canmore, Alberta with the help of Inside Education, a non-profit organization that supports teachers and inspires students by incorporating environmental and natural resources education into classrooms across Alberta. This conference allows teachers the opportunity to access hands-on-training, attend workshops and meet other teachers.
The program was created in 2007 when BP Canada identified a need to support Alberta teachers in the pursuit of energy and environmental education in their classrooms.
Balint explains, “BP saw an opportunity for more creative and engaging energy education in the classroom. The students are the leaders of tomorrow. That’s why it’s critical that they understand how we consume energy, where it comes from and how we can all work to further reduce our impact. “
Making a Difference
A+ for Energy has had a significant impact on Alberta education. Balint says, “Since the program started in 2007, BP has awarded almost $4.5 million, impacting over 100,000 Alberta students and funding almost 400 projects.”
She adds the impact goes far beyond the financial investment.
“A+ for Energy has inspired teachers to think creatively and access new technologies that they wouldn’t normally be able to access,” she says. “In turn, this has inspired a real love of science for the students.”
The driving force behind the program has — and continues to be — the students and teachers. Balint says, “It’s the passion of the Alberta teachers that keeps us going. They invest so much of their time and energy into these projects and we’re proud to be able to enable their creative spirit.”
The program has had a number of key supporters, with the most significant support coming form Inside Education, which facilitates and administers the program across the province. A+ for Energy also has support from the grant readers at Inside Education who are Alberta teachers that take the time to ensure the projects match the Alberta curriculum. Balint adds that the passion of BP employees helps drive the program while the creativity and inventiveness of Alberta teachers ensures the students are inspired.
Balint says, “The energy industry is top of mind for Albertans at this time. If it wasn’t for the inventive spirit of Albertans and Alberta teachers, this program wouldn’t be possible.”
As the program moves forward, energy will continue to be a critical topic for discussion and BP Canada is focused on growing the knowledge base through the program.
“Our hope for A+ for Energy is to continue to educate students on the vital role that energy plays in our future and to inspire students to make more informed decisions. These grants and these teachers will allow us to continue to do that.”