James Madison University

K12 Education

VWEC is committed to the education of the future generation of the wind energy industry workforce.  We aim to provide the following services as our schedules permit.  Please contact Remy Pangle (panglerm@jmu.edu, 540-568-8768) if you would like to request a classroom visit, bring a class to JMU, plan a teacher workshop for educators at your institution or any other similar request.

Classroom Visits

If you are studying alternative energy in your classroom or would like to start an alternative energy module, we can come out to your classroom and bring wind energy experts and fun classroom activities.  Some activities we bring are listed in the Lesson Plans and Activities section below.

Visiting campus

James Madison University has demonstration projects that focus on alternative energy. 

We have a 10kW solar electric plant

PHOTO: JMU solar plant

and a 2 kW hybrid (wind turbine and solar panels) electric plant.

PHOTO: JMU Hybrid plant

If you are interested in bringing your class to campus to see these alternative energy technologies in action, we will be happy to have you.  We can plan a day of field trips to these facilities and activities to teach about wind energy (and solar energy if requested).

Teacher Workshops

VWEC realizes that in order to educate the students we need to equip teachers with the tools to necessary to teach wind energy topics in the classroom.  We offer teacher workshops periodically throughout the year and are willing to work with teachers as they request workshops. 

Wind energy workshops usually consist of a general presentation about energy alternatives; wind in particular, how to measure wind, how a turbine works, and how to site a wind farm.  Interspersed in the presentation is a series of activities that hit on all these topics (see below for examples).  Workshops can be formatted to meet the specific needs of the teachers (ie focus on ocean energy, addition of solar energy, etc).  Please check our calendar for upcoming workshops near you or contact Remy Pangle(panglerm@jmu.edu, 540-568-8768) if you would like to request a workshop in your district.

JMU is also a GLOBE partner and does offer GLOBE teacher training workshops once a year or as requested.  GLOBE workshops usually focus on the GPS, water quality, and air quality protocols but, again, can be modified to meet the needs of the teachers requesting training

Lesson Plans and Activities

We have compiled a series of lesson plans and activities related to wind energy that are available for downloading at the Alternative Energy Educational Resources website http://aeer.cisat.jmu.edu/

  • On the Move – Heat and Energy
  • Can you imagine what it would be like without cars or trains, boats, or planes?  Without energy none of these things would exist.  We use the stored energy of fuels and batteries to power our everyday means of transportation.  Even sailboats use the energy of the wind to push them along.  Discover how wind can power a racer!

  • Pinwheel - VCERC/Wind Can Do Work – NEED
  • Using the assembly instructions, create a pinwheel that uses the wind’s energy to spin!  Then, using your pinwheel, explore how the energy in moving air can do work.

  • Build an Anemometer – NOAA/NEED
  • In order to understand how much energy is in the wind we need to understand how fast the wind is blowing.  Scientists use an anemometer to measure wind speed.  Using inexpensive materials, you can build your own anemometer and use it to measure wind outside or coming from a fan.  As an extension you can even take that wind speed and then calculate the wind power.

  • Make a Wind Sock – Windpower.org
  • Students will use common materials to create a wind sock.  You can use a wind sock to find out what direction the wind is coming from.  This is very important to know when designing a wind farm.

  • Wind Turbine Blade Design Challenge!
  • Students will build a basic PVC wind turbine and then design and test blades.  Usually this activity works best in groups.  This can be a very free activity where you just let them go and be creative and develop their designs through iterations or you can have them go through a series of experiments changing one blade characteristic at a time to see how to optimize their design and then let them use what they learned to design the best blades.  View some designs from past Challenges.

    • Build a Basic PVC Wind Turbine – NEED/KidWindPHOTO: wind turbine

    This is the first wind turbine developed at KidWind.  The idea was adapted from a design discovered at www.otherpower.com.  Rugged and cheap to build, this device will allow you to perform a variety of experiments and wind demonstrations quite easily.  These instructions will show you how to build a PVC turbine and discuss some basic wind energy science.

    • Designing and Testing Wind Turbine Blades – NEED/KidWind/VCERC

These instructions will show you some suggestions on how to make blades for your PVC turbine, how to use a multimeter to record electrical data and discuss some basic wind energy science.

  • Siting a Wind Farm – NEED

There are many things to consider when siting a wind farm, onshore or offshore.  The views on what is important will differ depending on who you talk to – someone from the local government or an environmentalist.  This activity creates a scenario where the Bureau of Land Management has received a proposal from a developer wanting to build a wind farm on public land in your community.  Students take on the role of various stakeholders in the community and hold a town hall to vote on whether or not to support the proposal.

In the future, we will also have a more diverse selection of alternative energy activities that cover everything from ocean based energy (waves, tides, currents) to using GIS to help in siting alternative energy projects that will be available for download.  Lessons on ocean science, weather, GIS, and other various topics that we have run across in our search for energy related activities will also be posted. 

Lastly, we will make available an annotated list of internet links that have student and teacher materials on many science topics, from climate change to remote sensing!

Museum and Aquarium Exhibits

We have put together a demonstration about wind energy – a model turbine with different blade designs to show how wind energy is created and the characteristics of efficient wind turbine blades – and have been displaying this at museums around the state of Virginia to explain how wind energy works and the potential for offshore wind energy (with VCERC ). 

PHOTO: exhibitPHOTO: exhibitPHOTO: exhibit

We have had displays and demonstrations at the Virginia Aquarium and Nauticus in the Tidewater area and have worked with the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond on their new alternative energy exhibits.  Where possible we also offer family activities such as building and testing an anemometer and the Wind Turbine Blade Design Challenge (prizes awarded).   If you are interested in having us come to your institution with our wind energy demonstration or interested in developing a permanent exhibit on alternative energy please contact Remy Pangle(panglerm@jmu.edu, 540-568-8768).  And please see our calendar for upcoming events at a museum near you.