Switch Classroom Goes to NSTA!

Ruthann McComb  ·  SEA Teacher Advisory Council
November 29, 2021

Switch Energy Alliance took our Classroom show on the road to the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) regional conference in National Harbor, Maryland over the weekend of November 11-13. TAC Chair Lynn Kistler, SEA Manager of Operations Sarah Jane Todd, and I teamed up to present Switch Classroom quickstart guides, videos, and activities to the teachers in attendance. It was fantastic to connect with fellow educators as NSTA held its second in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Though attendance was lower than in previous years due to the ongoing pandemic, we were still able to safely interact with many other teachers thanks to the safety precautions NSTA took during the conference, including health screenings, mask usage, and social distancing procedures.

Because Switch Classroom is still a relatively new platform, we were able to introduce site resources, share innovative ways to use the curriculum materials in science classrooms, and share our Switch energy knowledge with many people who were unfamiliar with our programs. It was fun to see the excited facial expressions (in person!) of the teachers who attended our presentation and stopped by our booth as they engaged with our activities, videos, and resources and saw how well they connect to their course curricula and energy-related learning objectives. 

During our presentation, Lynn and I showed the video “How Hydro Works.” Afterward, participants illustrated the inner workings of a hydropower system on white boards we provided, then shared their drawings with the other participants. Teachers collaborated with each other and us as we shared new ideas regarding how to use the Switch Classroom curriculum materials in their classrooms. The participants made our presentation fun and enjoyable, and isn’t that what teaching and learning is all about?

After giving our presentation, we connected with K-12 teachers, curriculum specialists, pre-service teachers, and STEM Directors from public, private, charter, and even homeschool settings at our booth in the conference exhibit hall. Even a few other exhibitors stopped by our booth with curiosity and interest in our materials and energy resources (and chocolate). We showcased “How Electricity is Made,” along with our most popular video, “Biomass Pros & Cons,” and one of my favorite videos, “The Demand Curve,” while sharing information about our curriculum units and the benefits of teaching energy in a balanced, non-partisan way. So many attendants we spoke with currently teach about energy, will teach it, or know someone who does teach it in their classroom. We discovered that teachers of young children and high school AP teachers were equally excited about using Switch Classroom materials.

Attending the conference was a very gratifying experience. Afterall, the more teachers we reach, the more students we reach, and the more people we educate about energy. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where everyone is more knowledgeable about energy? 

The videos and activities we showcased during the conference are listed below. We hope they’ll be helpful to you in your classroom as you teach students about energy. And if you’ll be attending the NSTA conference in Los Angeles, California this December, look for my TAC colleagues there as well. They would love to tell you more about all that Switch Classroom has to offer!

  • Science & Sources of Electricity (includes the “How Electricity is Made” video) – Most of the world’s electricity is produced by generators. How do generators work? The vast majority use some type of fuel to boil water and generate steam, which turns a turbine, and runs a generator to make electricity. This lesson examines typical fuel sources used to make electricity and the contribution of each.
  • Electricity Supply & Demand (includes “The Demand Curve” video) – Most people don’t often think about how the demand for electricity changes throughout the 24-hour day, but it does, and very predictably! In this lesson, baseload and peak load will be defined and compared. This lesson also explores how demand varies over a 24-hour period and how the demand can be met with diverse energy resources.
  • How Hydropower Works (includes the “How Hydro Works” video) – Hydropower uses water and gravity to convert potential energy into kinetic energy. Hydro is growing in developing countries but it will satisfy a smaller overall percentage of global energy demand in the future. This lesson examines how hydropower works along with some unique advantages and disadvantages of this ancient energy source.
  • Biomass Overview (includes the “Biomass Pros and Cons” video) – Close to half the people in the world, especially the rural poor, burn some sort of biomass for heat and cooking. But burning wood produces more carbon dioxide than coal and causes significant respiratory problems. This introductory lesson considers some ways to make biomass energy carbon-neutral and less dangerous.

Ruthann McComb
Switch Energy Alliance Teacher Advisory Council Member
Elkin High School, Elkin, North Carolina
AP Environmental Science Teacher


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