UMD Course To Serve as National Model for 'Energy 101' Curriculum

UMD Course To Serve as National Model for 'Energy 101' Curriculum

UMD Course To Serve as National Model for 'Energy 101' Curriculum

COLLEGE PARK, MD To develop a new generation of energy-savvy leaders, University of Maryland experts have developed a new curriculum that federal officials and education leaders hope will be used at colleges around the country. A unique, interdisciplinary curriculum called ‘Energy 101,’ comprised of group projects and educational modules, is the result of the collaborative efforts of UMD, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environment and Energy Study Institute (EESI).  The new curriculum is designed to challenge college students across the country to systematically explore the science and social science issues behind sound energy decision-making and to teach them to apply those skills to workplace and personal decisions. 

A University of Maryland (UMD) course designed by faculty from the College of Education and the A. James Clark School of Engineering will be showcased as a model for a new national curriculum initiative designed to help address the array of energy challenges facing the country. The UMD pilot course, Designing a Sustainable World, was co-developed by Leigh Abts and Idalis Villanueva. When DOE unveils the national curriculum next month, the course will be highlighted as a case study on how other universities may align their Energy 101 version to a curricular framework based on standards.

Designing a Sustainable World is intended to provide a general education experience where the students create a meaningful design to address a critical issue in energy and/or sustainability,” explains Abts, a UMD Research Associate Professor jointly appointed in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering and the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership. “The course encourages students to ‘take a Leonardo Da Vinci approach,’ to ‘think out of the box’ and apply basic design tools to map out and explore solutions. The students submit their design projects to an e-portfolio that will enable them to continue to build upon their designs well beyond the course, encouraging them to be life-long innovators.”

Designing a Sustainable World is already being offered this semester at Maryland, attracting 28 students from various disciplines, ranging from computer science to food science.

“Research has shown that innovative project-based courses exploring challenging, real-world problems such as Designing a Sustainable World help students to develop valuable research and critical thinking skills that are indispensable in today’s knowledge-based economy,” says Dr. Donna Wiseman, Dean of the College of Education.  “This course also has the added benefit of exposing a diverse group of students to STEM fields through an interdisciplinary approach.”

The ‘Energy 101’ model curriculum has been designed to be used at every college and university across the country.  It is an adaptable program that can meet the specific needs of diverse higher education institutions and their student populations.  Similar courses are already being developed, under the mentorship of Drs. Abts and Villanueva, at Cecil Community College and Harford Community College in Maryland.   

“The University of Maryland has always prided itself on unique course offerings and experiences for its undergraduate and graduate students,” says Dr. Darryll Pines, Dean of the Clark School of Engineering.  “The Colleges of Education, Engineering and Undergraduate Studies have been quite supportive of this activity.  We hope that the course will not only help give students foundational understanding of complex energy issues, but also serve as a guide to other colleges and universities as they implement the Energy 101 curriculum.”

The ‘Energy 101’ model curriculum was born out of DOE’s desire to introduce the next generation of college graduates to energy literacy, sustainability, and energy careers as freshmen.

The effort to create ‘Energy 101’ has involved leaders in the movement to increase STEM interest with project-based learning as well as DOE’s efforts, through the National Training and Educational Resource and other means, to make interdisciplinary immersive content available for all to use. 

“By exposing students both to how energy works and why people make the decisions they do, we hope the next generation will be much better energy stewards than we have been,” says APLU’s Senior Counsel for Innovation and Technology and Director of Energy Programs, Jim Turner.

The ‘Energy 101’ project’s collaborators will offer a webinar on April 10, 2013 for teachers, administrators, and other interested parties.  The webinar will describe the model framework and its use in the development of a pilot course now being taught at the University of Maryland that uses group projects, DOE’s Energy Literacy Principles, and educational modules to help students build a mental model for making informed energy choices.  There will also be an opportunity for webinar participants to ask questions at the end of the presentation. You can sign up for the webinar at

For more information on the ‘Energy 101’ model curriculum, please visit


March 12, 2013

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