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Lenexa middle school teachers go green at Honeywell boot camp

Photo of Langton and Boyington at Mill Creek Middle School. Middle school teachers Kristan Langton and Amber Boyington were two of 70 teachers from around the world to take part in Honeywell's Green Bootcamp.
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Come fall at Mill Creek Middle School, some students will get to build something in their math and English language arts classes other than equations and essays: wind turbines.

English teacher Kristan Langton and math teacher Amber Boyington were two of 70 teachers from around the world who were invited to spend a week at Honeywell’s “Green Boot Camp” at the San Diego Gas & Electric Energy Innovation Center.

Now in its sixth year, the boot camp hosts middle school educators, most of whom are science teachers, for a five-day workshop on new ways to teach sustainability and environmental issues.

One project from the week that both plan to incorporate into each of their classroom curriculum is building small-scale wind turbines.

“Using my math lens, what I would like to do, instead of focusing on the use of energy, focus on the price of different materials … and bring in that financial aspect,” Boyington said. “And then the solar and energy part would be an indirect benefit from the lesson.”

In her 6th grade English class, Langton plans to use a more literary approach.

“I think I can make use of [building a wind turbine] and make it very tied to reading,” Langton said. “So maybe we’ll use some reading strategies with articles about new technology … and maybe even up-and-coming green jobs.”

Part of why Langton and Boyington were selected for the boot camp is because they are no strangers to injecting hands-on problem-solving and environmental issues into their classes. Every year, Langton works with her English students on research methods and writing concerning measuring the health of a nearby creek.

Students in Boyington’s math class routinely have to use math to solve real-world problems like figuring out volume as it relates to filling a fish tank.

In addition to building wind turbines, Boyington and Langton spent last week learning and tweeting (#kstchrsgogreen) about everything from building their own rain barrels, solar cars and living garden walls to finding the biggest energy drainers among classroom electronics with watt meters.

“There was one particular day where we were talking about the ‘energy vampires,’ and they asked us to measure the watts used by an electric stapler, which is something that I do have in my classroom,” Boyington said. “When you use it, I think it shot up to like 150 watts … so I know that I am going to take a closer look at the materials I use in my room.”

Boyington said that her 6th grade students will likely be using watt meters to do at-home energy audits as part of their math homework.

Although Mill Creek Middle School was built to run sustainably with a lot natural lighting and waterless urinals in the little boys’ room, both Boyington and Langton agreed that the week expanded their thinking on how to make their school a LEED-certified green school.

Beyond looking at ways to make their schools sustainable, the workshops gave teachers a chance to put their heads together on project-based lesson plans.

Langton said that the boot camp also gave her a chance to be a student again and re-energized her love for her job.

“When an organization like Honeywell is willing to invest in a group of teachers, it’s very validating,” Langton said. “It was just an amazing week in so many ways. Just the people that were chosen … were very, very dedicated teachers, and being part of that made you even more passionate about what you do.”

Major Funding for Education coverage on KCPT provided by Jo Anna Dale and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

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