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Energy education grants earmarked for teachers

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By Carol A. Clark

For the second year in a row, BP America is awarding New Mexico grants to teach energy education in the classroom. The company has earmarked $500,000 for teachers to educate students about energy and energy conservation.Last year, the global energy provider awarded Los Alamos Middle School science teacher Barbara Jo Mullis $5,000. “She used the grant to develop mentoring relationships between students and scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory,” said Los Alamos Public Schools curriculum Director Kate Thomas.Mullis described her winning project during a recent interview. “The first week my students became informed on eight energy resources,” she said. “The second week I had mentors from the lab come in and work with the students in small groups to help them find research and the latest technology.”After the students worked with the mentors, Mullis said they taught the rest of the students in the class the aspects of energy and energy conservation they had studied. “It’s been so much fun,” she said.The grant went towards the purchase of books, lab equipment and related items that continue to be utilized not just by her class but are available for other science classes as well, said Mullis who teaches eighth grade science at Los Alamos Middle School.Mullis has been a teacher for 36 years. She moved to Los Alamos from South Carolina five years ago. She is in her fifth year of teaching at LAMS.“Anyone with the inspiration should go for it,” Mullis said of the BP America grant opportunities. “The BP people treat you like royalty. They made the application process so straight forward and easy as it could possibly be. The company provided workshops and proof readers - they want to give away this money.”BP America awarded 49 grants last June to New Mexico teachers, Mullis said, adding half were for $5,000 and the rest were for $10,000.BP awards the grants and scholarships to pre-K through 12th grade teachers as part of its “A+ for Energy” program. Launched last January, New Mexico became the first state in the Rockies to benefit from this program that awards teachers for the innovative and creative ways they bring energy education into the classroom.“New Mexico is the perfect energy laboratory when you consider its abundant natural resources” said Curtis Thomas, the company’s director of public affairs for New Mexico in a news release. “Whether it is oil, gas, coal or renewable energy, this state is at the forefront of revolutionary thinking on energy. With New Mexico being home to two national labs, not to mention some of the most influential elected leaders on the subject of energy, New Mexico is poised to lead the national debate about our energy future.”“A+ for Energy” grants are presented directly to educators to implement classroom, after-school, extra-curricular or summer lesson plans that foster energy-conscious thinking. The program was developed to supplement New Mexico’s core curriculum with energy education activities.“BP’s education program is helping to prepare students for the 21st century marketplace,” said Kelly Hart, BP vice president for New Mexico in a statement. "We need a constant conversation between the business community and education to understand the needs of the marketplace. The program was developed to capture the spirit of innovation. We want to recognize those New Mexico teachers who inspire learning in their students by creating exciting and memorable experiences around the subject of energy.”BP partners with the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project to support energy education in New Mexico schools by helping supply course content and curriculum that is aligned with state standards for the core subject areas of science, math and social studies throughout all grade levels.“At NEED, we’ve found that once teachers get access to tools and training to teach kids about energy, everyone gets excited because learning about energy is fun,” stated Mary Spruill, program director for the NEED project in a news release. “Regardless of the activity, the knowledge these students take with them lasts a lifetime. And it’s this knowledge that can make a tremendous difference to the future of a place like New Mexico.”Any K-12 teacher currently teaching in New Mexico’s public or private schools is eligible to submit an application. The submission deadline is March 10. Applications are available via the Internet at www.aplusforenergy.org or call 877-711-3030.Applications will be reviewed and selected by an independent panel comprised of New Mexico teachers, state educational and environmental non-governmental organization leaders. Winners will be announced in May.