This is an international sustainability education project focussing on solar thermal energy with partners from Austria, Slovenia, Belgium and Greece. Main results will be: a curriculum for the implementation of solar thermal energy including learning materials, teaching materials and a solar thermal energy planning tool.  Project start: September 2018. Project duration: three years.

Background and motivation for the project

As scientific evidence for the negative impacts of climate change has grown in the last years, the UN and the EU have both reacted with ambitious energy and climate policies – shifting energy production from fossils to renewables being a cornerstone. Yet, in stark contradiction to this absolute urgency, changes needed are not realized to the envisaged and sufficient extent.

As a major driver to make the energy transition happen, engaged citizens and stakeholders are needed to form a necessary bottom-up critical mass supporting the top-down endeavors – respectively to set European and national targets – of policy and decision-makers. This engagement can be triggered and supported by integrating renewables in the classrooms today, equipping teachers and most importantly learners with key competences and skills for a sustainable and secure energy supply of the future.

Thus, the overall objective is to develop a course for pupils aged 10 -14 on solar thermal energy, a very important representative of renewable energy with highly underestimated future potential. It shall comprise of high quality blended learning materials, combining theoretical background with all practical technical, organizational, legal, and financial aspects of building a solar thermal energy installation – also hands-on setting up a solar thermal device with two panels of 8 m2 producing approx. 9.600 kWh of energy per year.
The course is designed in hybrid learning method. In the sense of open education and innovation, it will empower learners to actively engage in renewables. Teachers will lead children to the curriculum’s learning goals, first directing them from known to unknown, building many different skills and competences: STEM, project management and stakeholder integration skills, reinforcing handcraft and strengthening their soft skills as well as their digital experiences applying dedicated tools within the course.
Course modules forming together a complete program can also be used stand-alone separately in various settings adapting to specific needs to ensure the fit of the course for a maximum number of learners.

Project description

Main activities include creation of learning and teaching materials; development of ICT-tools needed, evaluation and fine-tuning. Dissemination is important to achieve the broad uptake of our innovation by schools from the partner countries (Austria, Slovenia, Greece, Belgium) and beyond. We have included one training activity to pass on and evaluate the learning units and three Multiplier Events with a focus on the target group of teachers and stakeholders of European national educational systems. Building on lean project management with critical path analysis, six consortium meetings, plus remote status meetings included.

Project results

The final results comprise:
• Curriculum on solar thermal energy installation (O1)
• Theoretical background on solar thermal energy including a broad interdisciplinary perspective (O2)
1: general introduction: climate change, energy consumption & production, economic aspects
2: renewable energy production / with focus on solar thermal energy, energy saving, economic aspects
3: process aspects – gaining commitment, overcoming obstacles, participation, management, stakeholder dialogues, presentations
4: planning of solar thermal energy installation – technology, site selection, costs, comparison with users’ need, quality of work
5: PR, media work, presentations
Teaching, learning materials and e-learning units will be provided.
• Practical units on solar thermal energy (O3)
Learners will build a solar thermal system suitable for water heating. Practical learning units will give at hand technical knowledge on the plant construction and know-how to communicate with the relevant stakeholders. A tutorial video will be produced.
• Solar thermal energy planning tool (O4)
Climatological, technical, financial, social, and political aspects have to be considered in plant construction. A map based planning tool assists in finding the best site.
• Online process manual (O5)
The process manual accompanies learners and teachers as step-by-step guidance, provides additional information, space for uploading and documenting the project. The public view on the data is a directory of already existing locations and a competition feature for the award (O6).
• Award framework (O6)
The award framework will consist of a reusable compilation to make learners’ achievements comparable and will build a perfect base for the recurring award event, promoting both the educational program and the solar thermal technology.

Outputs furthermore include skilled teachers and learners, two completed solar thermal energy pilot projects and broad dissemination of projects’ results.

Our project is designed to inspire, give orientation and empower. Due to their newly gained skills and competences our alumni can contribute to “a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy” envisioned in the Europe 2020 strategy.