The new University of Wisconsin Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, designed to benefit K-12 science teachers in the classroom, will help teachers live up to new federal standards.

GLBRC Outreach and Education Director John Greenler said in 2007, the Department of Energy put fourth a proposal for four major research centers to be built in the nation. He said one of these was to be the GLBRC.

According to a UW statement, after being established in 2007, the center was able to conduct research to produce technology for biofuel conversion. GLBRC provides materials to aid science programs, the statement said.

Greenler said the center was developed to do the basic research that would allow for the fundamental breakthroughs needed for liquid transportation fuels created from biological sources. GLBRC also serves the role of being a great educational tool for teachers in the area and will help schools once the Next Generation Science Standards are enacted in 2013, he added.

“We’re in an excellent position to develop the materials and provide the materials for educators for them to actually meet those standards,” Greenler said. “These standards focus on several different key dimensions; one of them is scientific and engineering practices.”

Another major convention that is articulated for the standards are called crosscutting concepts, Greenler said. The concepts are universal to all the traditional scientific domains, whether it be biology, chemistry, physics or engineering, he said.

The statement said GLBRC provides advanced programs.

“The framework takes an innovative approach to science education standards by identifying student performance expectations in three dimensions: science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas,” the statement said. “It also emphasizes covering fewer key ideas in more depth, including current societal issues.”

Today’s problems, according to Greenler, are ones demanding minds that are able to think beyond a single discipline.

Greenler said in order to help in the development of these new minds, GLBRC helps with the education of middle school and high school students and has recently started collaborating with some elementary school teachers as well. He said they do significant work with undergraduates as well.

“We have the opportunity to work locally with teachers so we can have a regular exchange in communication in terms of how our materials might be working for them,” Greenler said. “We know that, as that process is going on, it is getting the consideration of the teacher who knows what works and doesn’t work in a classroom.”

Greenler said since this year is the Year of Innovation at UW, GLBRC is excited to be able to take the innovative work on energy that is being done on campus and directly engage educators and students alike in the research that is happening.

For UW to be able to take innovation in the field associated with the university and have students do parallel experiments, Greenler said, really makes education come alive.

“The students really get this,” Greenler said. “They know that when what they’re doing in the classroom is a part of this research and engineering, it’s much more exciting, it’s much more contemporary, it’s much more engaging.”

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