Jen's MEM Journey

Wind Turbines Killed The Cowboys
by Jennifer Weiss -- October 25th, 2011

Seeing the world through the eyes of a third grader.

Twenty-one sets of curious eyes looked up at me:  “What is she doing here?”  “What’s she going to talk about?”  “Why aren’t we still outside playing on this beautiful day?”

I had asked myself these very same questions earlier that day (well, maybe not the recess one).  What made me think I was ready to take on two classes of third graders and teach them about energy?  Was I ready for the blank stares, the silence when I asked questions and the restlessness that comes when 8 and 9 year olds are bored with what they are learning?

But there was no turning back – this was my Master’s Project and for better or worse, I was going to teach these young minds about the wonderful world of energy.

Lesson 1:  Never underestimate the inquisitive mind of a child.

From the very second I started talking, I saw eyes light up, hands fly into the air and enthusiasm surround me.  These kids were ready to learn and I was caught up in their excitement.

Our first step was to understand what energy was all about.  Channeling my inner child, I asked each of them to draw a picture of their favorite superhero and describe what gave them the power to do their superhuman acts.  The kids started drawing furiously and while some pictures were of the traditional kind – Spiderman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman – there were also some very creative entrants to the field (take note Disney!):

Worm-man:  Gets his superhuman strength from dirt.

Air-man:  Gets his ability to fly by filling his head with air (he looks curiously like a balloon).

Love-girl:  She helps people and gets her strength from love (ahhh ….)

Now the class was really humming.  We jumped into the types of energy and how energy is all around us.  Then we talked about the different types of energy sources found on earth.  We interactively discussed how solar powers our calculators, how we fill our cars withl petroleum to get places, how we eat food so we can move and play at recess.  I showed them pictures of coal, oil drills, hydropower dams, solar panels and wind turbines.  And then, one little boy in the front of the class raised his hand and with a serious look on his face stated:  “My dad told me that wind turbines killed the cowboys.”

Dead silence. Hmmm … tell me more?  From what I could gather, his dad lived in Texas where a wind farm was put up and it evidently displaced some cowboys?  I’m not sure I completely understand the story, but the message was clear.  Our kids are picking up their education from a variety of sources and some of the information may not be completely accurate.  And so, when conducting energy education I am committed to this lesson:

Lesson #2:  Stick to the facts.

These children can learn (and learn quickly) and when given the facts, they will make some pretty awesome discoveries and decisions all on their own.  How do I know?  Here’s a video of four very smart children who decided to add an innovative touch to a building they are proposing to build to help their community.  Will they succeed?  You be the judge:

1 Comment

  1. Tawnee
    Oct 28, 2011

    Love it!

    Such an entertaining post, Jen! The video is adorable, but your words give it even more “oomph.” Clever to tie in superheroes with energy curriculum! (And the kids’ ideas for superheroes are just precious.) Your insight into the relationship between kids’ diverse educational development and the formation of their views on a lot of world issues made a helpful point. Thanks for posting!

©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff