Local science teachers recognized for their focus on energy

OREGON, Wis — Two Oregon science teachers are being recognized for this work in the classroom.

Chris Mitchell and Nate Marh are getting students to change how they think about energy.

“Heat as a verb instead of a noun. We’re really intentional about the way we use words,” says Mitchell.

“Energy is everything.  Someone a lot brighter than myself once said ‘I don’t know what energy is, but I know what it does,” says Mahr.

The 8th grade teachers use a lot of experiments to get their lessons to stick.

“I like to learn like that,” says 8th grader Maclane Hoelker.

“We use environments that get the kids to connect more meaning to those words and deepen their understanding of the concept of energy,” says Mitchell.

The Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program and Alliant Energy selected Mahr and Mitchell as 2021 Energy Educators of the year.

“There’s a lot of stuff (Mr. Mahr) talks about that you wouldn’t expect to hear in science class but it’s really interesting how he ties it all together,” says 8th grader Lia Wochenske.

Nate has also played a part in implementing energy saving technology at the middle school.   He helped develop a plan for a solar panel to power a batter that students and teachers can use to charge their phones and Chromebooks.

The Oregon School District has made big investments in green technology.  The new $47-million Forest Edge Elementary is the first “Net Zero Energy” school in the state.

“It’s basically try to instill hope in people so they understand there are solutions. There no technology that needs to be created right now,” says Andy Weiland, the district’s business manager.

“Someone’s got to be the first,” Weiland says about going big with making these types of significant investments.

Weiland says the $950,000 solar project at Forest Edge will pay itself off in 14 years.   In its first year of operation, the school produced more energy than it consumed.

Mitchell and Mahr say they’re trying to give kids the building blocks to become critical thinkers, so they can one one day tackle big issues like climate change.