De Soto, Olathe teachers learn green concepts at Honeywell boot camp

07/07/2014 5:07 PM

07/14/2014 1:05 PM

While many teachers are catching up on a little rest and relaxation this summer, Johnson County middle school teachers Kristan Langton and Susan Amber Boyington spent part of their vacation back in the classroom.

Langton, of Mill Creek Middle School in the De Soto School District, and Boyington, who taught at Mill Creek Middle School last year and will begin teaching in the Olathe School District this fall, were among 70 teachers from 12 countries chosen to attend the Honeywell Green Boot Camp last month in San Diego.

The five-day, intensive workshop was designed to give educators tips on the best ways to teach energy sustainability and environmental concepts to middle school students. More than 450 teachers apply for the highly competitive program each year. Educators are selected after an extensive application process that includes essays on how they currently work to teach sustainability in the classroom and what they hope to get out of the boot camp program.

At first glance, Langton may have seemed like an unlikely candidate for the program. She teaches sixth-grade English and language arts. But every year, Langton teaches a water unit where her students collect samples from a creek behind the school. They then run tests to determine the health of the creek. Science has long been something she has tried to incorporate into her curriculum.

“I think the best teachers bring in all those disciplines: science, social studies, math and language arts,” Langton said.

Langton said the five-day program gave her an injection of inspiration and enthusiasm as an educator. Participants were kept busy all week with a hands-on curriculum that included building wind turbines, rain barrels and a solar car.

Langton is excited to bring back to her classroom some of the innovative concepts she learned at the boot camp.

“A representative from San Diego Gas and Electric showed us some fun ways to involve students in calculating energy output from several light sources, using a watt meter,” Langton said. “I think my kids would have a great time replicating this, and it has so much relevance since our district has an energy saving mission.”

Boyington, who has taught middle school math for the last several years, also has worked to incorporate science into her lessons whenever possible. If a science teacher at her school was doing a lesson on energy, then she might try to expand on the lesson in her math class by focusing on decimal operations. Energy conservation has been a popular topic of study as well.

“I encourage students to think about ways in which they can conserve energy in order to decrease the stress on the natural resources around the world,” Boyington said. “My hope is that students will not only learn about why and how to conserve energy, but then take actions and steps to create interesting new ways to accomplish conservation.”

Last summer, Boyington had the honor of being chosen to attend Honeywell’s Space Camp. Boyington enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with such a variety of teachers from all over the world.

“The thing I really took away from the week was the interaction of the teachers from all of the different countries,” Boyington said.

Paul Orzeske is the president of Honeywell’s Building Solutions in Minneapolis. He said the company is invested in advancing math and science education around the world and is particularly interested in promoting sustainability. Orzeske says Honeywell’s Green Boot Camp does this effectively by putting concepts into practical applications for the teachers through hands-on workshops. He said this really helps the concepts to stick.

“We get awesome feedback,” Orzeske said. “The most rewarding things are the letters from the teachers, their principals and their superintendents about how much they enjoyed it. It’s great to hear because they invested a week out of their summer break to go to the boot camp.”

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