Education  April 8, 2011

Clean Energy Academy ready to launch this fall

FORT COLLINS – America’s 21st-century Sputnik moment might launch today’s high school students into careers in clean energy.

At least, that’s what Joe Anastasia is shooting for.

The Clean Energy Academy is set to open this fall at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins under the direction of chemistry teacher Anastasia. It will be a four-year school-within-a-school, and 15 students – incoming freshmen and a few sophomores – have already signed up for the inaugural program, with room for about 10 more.

“The courses are based on the STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – curriculum, but it also includes a social studies component, with a business emphasis,” Anastasia said. “Students will design their own course of study, depending on their interests. We have one student who wants to be a city planner, so he will be working on developing a net-zero energy plan and the policies needed to implement it.”

The Clean Energy Academy grew out of the state’s participation in the Race to the Top Competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education last year. Even though Colorado was not selected to receive millions of dollars to develop innovative educational programs statewide, the Academy was among the programs submitted for consideration. Anastasia has been working on the idea for about two years, in response to the state’s 2008 mandate to develop high school curricula that enable multiple career pathways for graduates.

The Academy is designed for students with all level of career goals, from the future Ph.D. to the future technician. Its mission is to empower students through collaboration and other 21st-century skills to be global stewards of the Earth’s natural resources, according to Anastasia, who has been with the Poudre School District for 19 years, the last seven with Fossil Ridge.

The district liked the idea so much that Anastasia got the go-ahead to implement it.

“It will cost a little bit of money to get it set up, but the funds are there thanks to the mill levy increase that Fort Collins voters passed in November,” he said. “Some of the money designated for special projects will pay half of my salary while I create the courses.”

Financial literacy

The 21st-century skills targeted by the Academy include collaboration, the use of appropriate technology, and financial literacy. Students will learn how to write grants to raise money for their team projects, as well as how to network with business leaders and navigate governmental processes to get a project approved.

Anastasia is quick to point out that the Clean Energy Academy is offered in addition to, not in place of, the core PSD graduation requirements.

“In addition to their regular classes, students enrolled in the Academy will participate in a project-based, Clean Energy seminar course each year,” he said. “We will also have speakers from across the whole spectrum of the energy industry, including the extractive industries, make presentations and discuss various topics.”

Students who complete the program earn a certificated diploma. “They can use that to go on to a four-year university, a two-year college or into the workforce, but they still have a well-rounded education,” Anastasia said. “When they are designing their projects, they have to think of the real-world applications.”

Anastasia said the Clean Energy Academy is the first of its kind in the state, but not the nation. He has talked with coordinators of similar efforts just getting started in Maryland and California, and each area is taking a slightly different approach.

“Northern Colorado already has a strong emphasis on clean energy, so I can bring in the local community,” Anastasia said. “This will be a real benefit to the students, to be able to work with and network with people working in the clean-energy industry today.”

He has been working with the Colorado State University Clean-Energy Supercluster as well as local businesses and the city of Fort Collins to get the Clean-Energy Academy up and running. Anastasia said he has received tremendous support so far, and is now setting up an advisory board and mentors for the students from among industry leaders.

“Each student will be assigned a mentor at the end of freshman year,” he explained. “There will be continuing assessment of their progress through their mentors and others in the business community. The projects need to get their stamp of approval.”

For more information about the Clean Energy Academy, contact Anastasia at janastas@psdschools.org or FRHS principal Dierdre Cook at 970-488-6260.

FORT COLLINS – America’s 21st-century Sputnik moment might launch today’s high school students into careers in clean energy.

At least, that’s what Joe Anastasia is shooting for.

The Clean Energy Academy is set to open this fall at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins under the direction of chemistry teacher Anastasia. It will be a four-year school-within-a-school, and 15 students – incoming freshmen and a few sophomores – have already signed up for the inaugural program, with room for about 10 more.

“The courses are based on the STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – curriculum, but it also includes a…

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