CEREL Energy Education Webinar Series

Webinars on Energy Education, hosted by the Council of Energy Research and Education Leaders (CEREL), a program of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). Click each heading below to view webinar.

Webinars include:


Research on Students’ Thinking on Climate Change and Implications for Teaching

Presenter: Joyce Parker, Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences and Teacher Education at Michigan State University

Abstract: Environmental literacy in the area of global climate change includes being able to: a) interpret data sets that measure large scale events such as the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, b) explain phenomena related to CO2 levels and climate change such as the annual variation in atmospheric CO2 levels, and c) make quantitative predictions about the effects of changes in people’s actions on CO2 levels. Our research with undergraduates shows that the first two, interpreting data sets and explaining phenomena, are complex practices that are stumbling blocks for students. The last skill, making quantitative predictions, requires that students combine the first two practices with quantitative reasoning making this a particularly high bar to reach. We will look at the range of undergraduates’ abilities to perform each practice and discuss specific ways to scaffold their growth.

Graduate and Professional Energy Education

Presenter: Seth Blumsack, Associate Professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Pennsylvania State University.

Abstract: Graduate and professional programs in technical and business fields related to the energy sector are proliferating, and these programs are taking on a variety of forms, ranging from one-year professional master’s degree programs to research-intensive doctoral programs or field concentrations with an energy-related focus. Professional programs in particular can offer valuable training and raise tuition revenues, but simply establishing an “energy program” does not mean that it will succeed. Last summer’s CEREL Energy Education Summit brought together a number of leaders in graduate and professional energy education to discuss the future of these programs and strategies to make them stronger. This talk will report on the major discussion themes for the design and implementation of energy-focused graduate programs, including the tradeoffs inherent in curricular breadth versus depth; the challenges of building engaged stakeholders in interdisciplinary energy programs; engagement with industry and state policy interests; and the chicken-and-egg problem of building training programs to meet future workforce needs.

Defining Sustainability in an Energy Context

Presenter: John Perkins, Member of the Faculty Emeritus at The Evergreen State College.

Abstract: “Sustainability” occupies a central concern in energy education, because energy is one of many foundation stones for modern life and modern nations. An “unstainable” energy-profile of a nation translates directly to an instability and possibly a threat to the continued vigor of a nation, its economy and political stability, and its culture. Sustainability, however, remains merely a feel-good, buzz-word without specification of its meaning plus criteria and standards for measuring and assessing primary energy sources, the technologies for delivering energy services, and the broad, socio-cultural context in which these services reach citizens. Put another way, sustainability of an energy profile always sits in a nexus with other crucial resources for well-being, such as maintenance of clean water services, delivery of adequate supplies of nutritious food, mobility, and provision of functional buildings. This presentation describes a conceptual framework for sustainable energy, a set of criteria and standards for assessing primary energy sources, and a set of questions that can frame and guide energy education for students in two- and four-year colleges, programs of liberal arts and sciences, and engineering schools.

Energy Education in the U.S. and Globally

Presenter: David Blockstein, Executive Secretary, Council of Energy Research and Education Leaders (CEREL)

Abstract: In this webinar, Dr. Blockstein will share key findings and insights from two events: (1) The 2nd National Energy Education Summit (report to be released in September), held on June 7, 2016 at American University (Washington, D.C.); and (2) The International Energy Science Education Workshop, held on September 5-6, 2016 at Kyoto University.

Both programs gathered educators and leaders to discuss the current status, effective practices, and future needs of energy education at multiple levels and contexts, from K-12 to higher education to community outreach.

Advancing Bioenergy Education

Abstract: As interest and investment in bioenergy increases around the world, the need for effective and comprehensive bioenergy education also increases. While bioenergy education is not always at the forefront of energy education, it is essential for preparing an informed populace and a future bioenergy workforce. This session will discuss outcomes from the Bioenergy Education Session at the 2016 National Energy Education Summit, existing educational resources related to bioenergy, and current opportunities and challenges in this growing field. We also aim to discuss the creation of a virtual community of practice for bioenergy education and look forward to your feedback on this idea.


  • Danica Hendrickson, MEd
    Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) – Education Team
    Seattle University Center for Environmental Justice & Sustainability – Affiliate Faculty
  • Jay Well
    Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB)
    Program Coordinator Bioenergy Education Initiative
    Oregon State University
  • R. Justin Hougham, PhD
    Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA)- Energy Literacy
    Assistant Professor, University Wisconsin- Extension
    Director- Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center
  • Matt Daniels, Graduate Student, Natural Resources & Environmental Education
    McCall Outdoor Science School, College of Natural Resources
    University of Idaho


The Business of Resilience – Climate and Energy

Presenter: Dr. Ann Goodman, author of Adapting to Change: The Business of Climate Resilience and Faculty affiliate at CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, is joined by Bruce Schlein, Director of Alternative Energy Finance at Citi, and Jay Bruns, formerly Vice President for Public Policy at the Hartford to discuss innovative energy policies at their companies, including new products and services as well as transitioning to renewable energy.

Connections Between Energy Education and Energy Practices on Campus and Local Communities

Presenter: Scott Sklar, Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University.

Abstract: As we refine our educational approaches in teaching science, environment, energy, and resource management — we can provide the opportunity to link our students to experience and analyze real-world issues and challenges – as well as help our communities to address their goals and problems. Finding that balance, selecting the local problem and challenge, and smartly integrating it into any curriculum is not as easy as it sounds. But if done correctly, engages students and provides them will practical and useful skills that significantly bolsters their educational experience. And integrating students to work with local communities provides talent to solve problems with important impacts for communities and their residents. We have different tools and approaches available – and they are all worthy of consideration.

Achieving Breadth and Depth in a Comprehensive University Energy Program

Presenter: Joel Swisher, Director, Institute for Energy Studies, Western Washington University

Energy and Sustainability Education: Improving the Politics and Public Policy Discourse


  • Walter A. Rosenbaum, Director Emeritus, Bob Graham Center for Public Service, University of Florida
  • Elisabeth A. Graffy, Professor of Practice, Consortium for Science, Politics and Outcomes, Arizona State University; Senior Sustainability Scientist, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University
  • Seaton Tarrant, Department of Political Science, University of Florida

Energy Higher Education: Who Needs a Curriculum and What Should it Teach?

Presenter: John Perkins, Professor Emeritus, Evergreen College; Senior Fellow, National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE)

Abstract: All levels of education treat energy as a fundamental concept incorporating force, movement, and change in the physical world. Only in higher education do some students learn about energy as technologies, fuels, and industries powering the global economy. Most such courses are in engineering and other professional schools, and they seldom compare different energy sources with links to climate change.

Climate change, however, is a symptom of energy use, and mitigation of climate change requires energy changes. Either the use of fossil fuels must drop or carbon emissions must be captured and safely stored forever. What concepts and methods can students learn to participate in needed changes?