NOTE: INFRASTRUCTURE ACADEMY AND GENERATION POWER NO LONGER EXIST AS DESCRIBED BELOW. SEE GENERATION WATER FOR CONTACT INFORMATION: http://actionnownetwork.com/home/app.php?a=organization_home&id=52
The tragedy of the Deepwater oil spill has brought the global energy and environmental crises to the front and center of our national consciousness. It has intensified the awareness of our intimate connection to the environment, and reinforced our conviction that our actions have consequences, not only for us, but for all life on earth. Further, we are faced squarely now with the inescapable conclusion that our resources are indeed, limited, that we have only one earth, and that we, as stewards of our planet, must take full responsibility for its care, feeding, and longevity.
While the Deepwater catastrophe is illustrative of the consequences we now must accept for our decades of denial and neglect, it is sadly, only one of multiple interconnected environmental topics that must be addressed if we are to begin, in earnest, the process of repair.
Are we prepared to handle the enormity of this problem? Do we have the manpower, the resources to step up to this plate?
A DYNAMIC NEW MODEL FOR TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION OF GREEN LEADERS
Enter, the Infrastructure Academy, a unique academic and hands-on training resource for high school science teachers and students that strives to prepare and motivate our next generation of "green" leaders for the considerable challenges that lie ahead.
The brainchild of Founder and CEO, Marcus Castain, Infrastructure Academy was launched in 2007, in the offices of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to provide the Los Angeles public and charter high school juniors and seniors, a unique opportunity to learn about “infrastructure” industries (water, power, transportation, waste management), and at the same time, provide a hand’s on learning approach that is normally not available in the typical high school classroom. Castain, the former Associate Director for Education, Youth and Families in the office of Mayor Villaraigosa, had ample insight into the availability (or lack thereof) of quality training programs for Los Angeles high school students. With the support of Mayor Villaraigosa, and an initial funding grant from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power1, Infrastructure Academy took shape as an integrated approach to providing public school students a high quality, academic exposure to energy and conservation issues. One overriding goal of the program is to motivate, inspire and, as Castain says, to drive the students' interests toward preparation for green careers.
THE ACADEMY HAS EVOLVED INTO A TRAINING GROUND THAT EMPHASIZES
SCIENTIFIC SOLUTIONS FOR "INFRASTRUCTURE" ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Originally concieved as a vocational training program for an under served inner city student population, the Academy enrolled its first students in January 2008 at Los Angeles Trade Tech College, targeting students aged 17-24. A site at the Los Angeles based California State University College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology was opened the same year in July. Subject matter included water conservation, renewable energy, electricity, robotics, and construction. In addition, the students were given soft skills” training to prepare them for work – training that included field trips, guest speakers, workshops in professionalism and resume building. Many graduates of the initial class were placed into internships and/or college.
Today the program has evolved into academically rigorous course offerings for high school students who are interested in the pursuit of scientific solutions to environmental issues through applied learning. There are now eleven affiliated public (LA Unified School District) and charter schools in southern California. And in addition to the original funding utilities, the Academy is now partnered with organizations whose reach extends from Industry and labor to government and education2.
ACADEMICS + HANDS ON LEARNING = PASSION AND COMMITMENT
Coursework is rigorous, and is centered on what is called core STEM academics: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Within these four areas, the Academy provides students a comprehensive two year program covered in eleven modules: 1) Sustainability, 2) Fossil Fuels and Climate Change 3) Intro to Energy 4) Renewable Energy 5) Energy Efficiency 6) Water Conservation 7) Low Impact Development 8) Energy Generation & Distribution 9) Introduction to Transportation 10) Fuels, and 11) AutoCAD/GIS.
These modules can be inserted into pre-existing science courses or into two Academy courses, Environmental Technology and Impact of Energy onthe Environment, at the teacher's discretion. A third course, Transportation Technology is being developed for 2011.
Courses are offered as 11th and 12th grade science electives, and are taught by credentialed science teachers in the Los Angeles District and Charter schools, who have been admitted as Fellows of the Infrastructure Academy. Students participate in field trips, have access to special guest speakers, and receive college credit upon completion of the course.
GENERATION POWER EMPLOYS INFRASTRUCTURE ACADEMY STUDENTS
A select few may be offered employment with Generation Power, an Academy affiliated not-for-profit enterprise that hires its students for special projects in water conservation, and energy efficiency and sustainability. Students can earn anywhere from $8.00 to $14.00 per hour, depending on their level of expertise and seniority. Through Generation Power, students are not only able to expand their depth of experience on water/energy conservation issues, they can also test the waters for specific "green" career paths, earn extra money, and make important contacts for the future.
In 2009, 43 students worked for Generation Power conducting water audits of 120 high school and middle schools that contracted with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. These students also analyzed the water bills of the district and made key recommendations on how to reduce water usage. The study can be found on the Infrastructure Academy website3.
SCIENCE TEACHERS MAY APPLY TO BECOME ACADEMY FELLOWS
Credentialed 11th and 12th grade science teachers in Los Angeles District or Charter Schools can apply to become Infrastructure Academy Fellows. For a fee of $2000 supplied by their school, Fellows are given a two week on-site training preparation which includes site visits to research, industry, and environmental sites throughout the region related to water, energy, and sustainability.
When the training is completed, the curricula for project based modules is available on line, which can be selected by each teacher individually at his/her discretion. Students are treated to guest speakers and field trips that coordinate with the teaching module.
Sometimes, community events coordinate with the curriculum to provide students an audience for their hands-on efforts. In May, 2010, Arlena Tupaz, a devoted Academy teacher at the Blue Ribbon Vaughn International Studies Academy in Pacoima, had the opportunity to build and present with her students, a Human Power Generator at the Los Angeles Convention Center Energy Conference, using bicycles as the vehicle for generating mechanical energy. See photos posted in the Action Now Network Photo Album of Ms. Tupaz's students in action as they built the power generator.
THE FUTURE AND BEYOND
While Infrastructure Academy is only three years old, it holds great promise for educating and supplying a continuing stream of creative talent into the "green" workforce. The integrated approach to learning and partnerships with large utilities and other companies provide a diverse learning experience that is unique in the city. The module based curricula is flexible and can accommodate most any high school science classroom.
The next teacher training session for Infrastructure Academy will occur in August, 2010. Contact the office of Marcus Castain at (213) 687-0781 for additional information.
The Infrastructure Academy is committed to building environmentally conscious and responsible leaders for the future. For the next generation of professionals, the Academy offers an initial training ground to prepare for solving some real-life "infrastructure" problems. But more than that, it offers a hope for the future – a hope that generations to come will collectively view our environment and resources as precious commodities that can be squandered only at our peril, and that the stewardship of our planet will pass into responsible hands.
1. Funding partners now include Southern California Edison, Boeing, and others.
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