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Would you adopt clean energy and act for climate change if you knew better what it is all about? At DOER, we’re exploring the links between literacy and action with the goal of developing a new program for schools and communities. Passionate about science education  and/or how energy use affects climate change? Read on . . .

From now until April 4th, 2014 we are soliciting information about school programs, community campaigns, any form of media or activities that promote literacy in clean energy and climate science. Massachusetts has done well nationally in energy efficiency, renewable and alternative energy, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and developing our clean energy industry. But we can do better.

“It is our generational responsibility to provide opportunity to future generations and educate the citizens of tomorrow,” said DOER commissioner Mark Sylvia at a meeting on March 18th to experts in education and communications. They gathered at DOER headquarters with us to brainstorm about what we could do with this idea and what has already been done.

school wall touting energy savings

A wall in the Stone Street Pavillion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was dedicated to entries from students age 6 to 18 for Energy Awareness Month’s poster contest in 2011. Image from courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps

Not sure what you can contribute? Here are a few ideas from our meeting:

  • Let kids run the show. Debbie Fitton from Cape Light Compact shared the idea of getting kids to teach other kids about renewable energy and efficiency, and then getting them to make a presentation at town meetings as a way to engage them and get them excited about what they’re learning. Parental engagement and action can be a positive side-effect, but would that necessarily happen?
  • Remember MassCEC’s Solarize Mass? It’s still going on, and in fact, it is something that we continue to be interested in. Did that program work for you in your community? Let us PV display
  • Ever see a display in the lobby of a solar-powered building stating the amount of power generated today and the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions avoided since the solar panels were installed? We think that there should be more of such displays showcasing the many, many improvements to buildings across Massachusetts. But do these displays do much for you? How could they be better?
  • Solar and wind are great examples for education because the panels and turbines are so visual. How can we teach other about important clean energy measures such as efficiency and home improvements that go largely unseen?
  • Teachers: Joyce Bowen from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reflected that resources about clean energy and climate science for teachers to use in class would be valuable. We are also weighing the importance of two main issues: should the focus in schools be on integrating energy and climate change-related topics into the curriculum frameworks, or implementing programs aimed at developing behavioral change in students and other citizens, for example through community campaigns?
  • We would also like to target the other side of the coin as David Rabkin from the Museum of Science mentioned: barriers to action. Why isn’t somebody [fill in the blank]? For example, perhaps some of us don’t fill up our tires to achieve better miles-per-gallon because we simply don’t have a pressure gauge or don’t know how to use one. What are some barriers for you and how could we address them?

We are also trying to answer some major questions: What should this program(s) look like? What should our goals be? Would programs driven at increasing literacy suffice, or would we need to implement incentives to motivate at the same time?

What do YOU think? Send us your thoughts by email to before April 4th. More information on this program can be found here. Then, based on your feedback, our team will ask qualified organizations to propose ways they can work with us to make Massachusetts citizens more literate about clean energy and climate science. We look forward to hearing from you.


Written By:


XiaoZhi Lim prefers to be addressed as X, if you are intimidated by her Singaporean Chinese first name. She is an intern this winter and spring with DOER's Marketing & Stakeholder Engagement group. A former chemist, XiaoZhi is a recent graduate of the Boston University Science Journalism Graduate Program. She enjoys producing multimedia content and stories about energy, environment and electrons.

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