Thoughts on industrial wind in the classroom from Mr. Jon Boone:
WINDSPEAK Q & A
In early March, the Portland-Press Herald began publishing a series of letters from students at the Wayneflete School in Portland, Maine, strongly endorsing a local wind project. Wayneflete is a private high school academy requiring substantial annual tuition. These letters emanated from Jonah Rosenfield’s science class. Here are a few quotes from those letters:
If we are to end our dependence on fossil fuels, we must look to long-term, not short-term solutions to power our world with alternative energy sources; these windmills will certainly serve that purpose.
Maine has the opportunity to be a leader in clean energy efficiency and stewardship of the Earth, and this is why we should build the wind farm.
On an economic level, this endeavor will be very productive. Independence Wind, the corporation heading this project, is a Maine business and will stimulate the state’s economy with the hiring of local employees for this project. The wind energy generated by this farm would be enough to power the entire city of Portland.
This wind farm would supply 129 megawatts of renewable, zero emissions power. That is enough electricity to power the city of Portland, while 55 percent of Maine’s electricity is generated using oil and gas, resources that must be imported.
Relying on fossil fuels requires the destruction of whole mountains and habitats, whereas the turbines merely disturb the view and a smaller area of nature.
In the interests of effectively parsing such rhetoric and injecting epistemological rigor, here are a few questions that the faculty might consider asking, the answers to which should complement the entire curricular experience as it engages students at the intersection of history, civics, science, mathematics, engineering, and economics.
Although it is possible that such inquiry may, perhaps, spoil the happily-ever-after quality that evidently permeates the curriculum at institutions like Wayneflete, students would be required to actually use the knowledge and skills one hopes they were taught in their individual academic subjects.
* Why did the Dutch stop using their windmills to grind their grain and pump water to reclaim their land from the sea–as soon as the steam engine was invented?
* Why are sailing vessels used almost entirely for recreation today, rather than for commercial purposes?
* Why aren’t gliders and dirigibles providing a substantial percentage of commercial air transport?
* What is the difference between energy and power? What would be the likely consequence if all our gas pumps were wind “powered?”
* What is the percentage of oil used in the production of electricity, nationally and in New England?
* Why must electricity supply be matched to demand at all times?
* What are the implications for wind technology given that any power generated is a function of the cube of the wind speed along a narrow range of wind velocities (that is, a wind turbine doesn’t begin to work until the wind speeds hits 9-mph and maxes out when the wind speeds hit around 34-mph)? Explain how a fluctuating source of energy could, by itself, “power” any city.
* If constructed on a forested mountain ridge, how many acres of woods must be cut to support a 100MW wind project, consisting of 40-2.5MW turbines, each 460-feet tall? Account for the requirement to accommodate the “free flow of the wind” for each turbine, staging areas for construction, access roads, substations, and transmission lines. Also account for the number of miles the wind project would extend downrange, assuming five turbines per mile. Finally, account for the amount of concrete necessary to provide a sturdy base for each turbine.
* Why has steady, controllable, precision power been the basis of modern life?
* Examine four New York wind projects, asking how many permanent jobs were produced, the amount of local taxes and revenues received, and what the promises of such were beforehand?
March 31, 2010
AT Note: Mr. Boone is a former University Administrator, Environmentalist, Artist, Author, Documentary Producer, and Formal Intervenor in Wind Installation Hearings. Visit Mr. Boone’s informative web site for an extensive library of his writings at stopillwind
Thank you Mr. Boone and Allegheny Treasures,
Let us hope all school educators will pose the questions Mr. Boone offered. Problem solving is necessary for critical thinking and innovation.
This is a case of selecting untested and bias curriculum. Effective education encourages creativity, originality and problem solving. Problem solving requires reflection. Reflection implies concern with an issue.
John Dewey, American philosopher, and American education scholar stated that thinking is more important than knowledge. Thinking involves inquiry or investigation
Education is a process continual reorganizing, reconstructing, and transforming.
Perhaps Jonah Rosenfield’s science class should extend this thinking process and answer Mr. Boone’s question. The science class may realize the act of inquiry is more important than acquiring knowledge. AFA express concern when the knowledge that is measured only represents and conforms to the marketing Big Wind curriculum.
Let us push the thinking, reflecting and problem solving a deeper. Plain vanilla statements read; “whereas the turbines merely disturb the view and a smaller area of nature…is not inquiry thinking.
Maine Voices: Waynflete students’ letters offered them – and us – a learning opportunity
The lessons ranged from dealing with heated opposition to improving research and writing skills.
By JONAH ROSENFIELD
PORTLAND — When this newspaper printed my students’ letters on a proposed wind farm at Highland Plantation, I had no idea that we would find ourselves at the center of such an emotionally charged issue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonah Rosenfield is a teacher at Waynflete School, a private academy in Portland.
My students’ letters received the most online comments that day, many of which were angry and attacked the students directly. The following Sunday, in response to these comments, an article was published about the assignment. Last week, more letters about the students and the assignment were published and the vitriolic comments continued.
Interestingly, the assignment had started not as a lesson on wind energy, but instead as a opportunity to practice youth advocacy – the purpose of the assignment was for students to write letters sharing their own opinions on a recent Press Herald article. Because readers responded, the assignment became an opportunity for students to observe and participate in public discourse.
We reviewed the online comments in class. To their credit, the students chose to pause in our planned curriculum to learn more about wind energy and the assumptions held about this emerging alternative energy source; this became a real life teachable moment.
Since then, they’ve done significant amounts of additional research on wind power. Several individuals, representing a variety of viewpoints and objectives related to the issue, have visited the class. Last week, as a summary assignment, the kids revised and reflected on their original letters and, in some cases, changed their initial opinions.
For these high school students, being in the middle of such a heated issue has been an exciting educational experience.
For me, the real lesson in all this has been that the barrier between the outside world and the classroom that I try so hard to break down in my teaching is actually a more formidable obstacle than I previously imagined.
In class I emphasize collaborative problem solving as the preferred approach to creating sustainable solutions. I stress how important it is for everyone involved in an issue to see the interests and biases of every stakeholder group.
I attempt to show through example how the best solutions to real world problems arise when people holding opposing viewpoints engage in active listening and talk with – and not at – each other. In this process, the first step is identifying interests, opinions, and biases.
I teach collaborative problem solving because I believe this approach is the best way to address the underlying causes of an issue. Also, in my experience of serving on several organizational boards and government commissions, I’ve seen extraordinary results when discussions happen this way.
In the last few weeks I have not seen much in the way of collaborative problem solving in regard to the future of wind energy in Maine. Aside from the individuals who came into my classroom and engaged my students in honest dialogue about the pros and cons of wind energy, most of the discussion I have witnessed seems to suggest that opponents and proponents are talking at – and not with – each other.
Articles about stakeholder meetings, the legislative process and the myriad letters published on the topic do not seem to exhibit the signs of this collaborative approach.
If I am wrong, please make the evidence more clear. If I am right, let’s use this moment to change the tone and course of conversation.
Personal opinions and political decisions are being decided. The future of wind energy in Maine is happening now.
As I see this assignment coming to its conclusion in my class, I feel grateful for the opportunity to work in a school that supports critical independent teaching and learning, to know young people who are genuinely curious about the world, to live in a state whose citizens care so passionately about community issues and the environment, and to have had this experience of participating in a public dialogue about an environmental science issue that has the possibility of significantly influencing the future energy policies of our state and our country.
As a teacher, there is nothing better than joining students in the learning process. To all of the people who have spoken to, e-mailed, or written letters to me and my students about this experience and about wind energy in Maine, thank you.
This is an excellent article by Jon Boone. I was a bit appalled when I read the original letters by the Wayneflete students, as they seemed to be taken, almost verbatim, from Angus King’s rebuttal to the Friends of the Highland Mountains’ Press Conference. We are doing our best to present only factual information– some of it taken directly from King’s own perit application, and much of it gathered from independent and respectable resources– and to do it with integrity and without propagandizing it or resorting to rhetoric. I truly believe that as the people of Maine become educated about the realities of Industrial Wind, they will come to realize that sacrificing the mountains of Maine for such a flawed concept is a colossal mistake. I, too, hope that educators across the state (and country) will look past the standard tag lines and open themselves up to the facts. The Wind Industry repeats phrases about ‘green energy’ and reducing carbon emissions and stopping wars for oil– and the most unconscionable argument: that wind power, as it replaces the need for foreign oil, will bring American soldiers home– but there is no science (or diplomacy in the works) to back those statements up. They are playing on Americans’ need to ‘believe’. But we citizens are smarter than that. We’ll figure it out; hopefully, sooner rather than when it’s too ate. Karen Bessey Pease, http://www.highlandmts.org