Brookwood’s Global Efficient Biomass Cookstove Project, a part of the Grade 8 science curriculum and headed up by Grade 8 science teacher Rich Lehrer, has been receiving some exciting national attention in recent weeks.
First, Lehrer has been invited to present the story of the project at this year’s National Science Teachers’ Association annual conference in San Antonio this April.
What’s more, a video chronicling Brookwood students’ cookstove study last year is among the featured videos on the website of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a part of the United Nations Foundation (click to visit: cleancookstoves.org). The video now has more than 1,594 views from across the globe. On the Alliance site, Lehrer, the students and their work are in the company of some pretty important voices. Clean Cookstove Ambassador actress Julia Roberts headlines the multimedia page and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dedication to the issue is chronicled in the section, to name just two.
“One morning a couple of weeks back, I was checking out the stove video on YouTube and couldn't figure out why there had all of a sudden been 40-plus hits on it in one day. . . . So I did a little poking around and discovered that it has been posted on the website for The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves," Lehrer said.
An initiative led by the United Nations Foundation, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is an international public-private partnership that works to garner national and donor commitments toward the goal of universal adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels. It is the umbrella organization for the effort and is the agency that works with the United Nations and the U.S. State Department on the cause.
In honor of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ second anniversary, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the United States has made, “a total investment in support of the Alliance and clean cookstoves has reached up to $114 million. This investment represents a nearly $10 million increase over the past year and will help the Alliance achieve its goal of enabling 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.”
The poignant issue has garnered attention, because some three billion people in the developing world (1/2 the earth's population) cook food and heat their homes with traditional cookstoves or open fires, and it is estimated that 2 million premature deaths occur every year due to smoke exposure from these methods. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’s ambitious but achievable goal is to foster the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in 100 million households by 2020.
Lehrer became aware of the cookstove problem and the Alliance after a travelling to Rwanda in the summer of 2011. Funded by a teaching fellowship from The SEVEN Fund foundation, Lehrer visited the country to investigate the connection between science education and enterprise solutions to poverty.
Through a collaboration with professors and students at MIT’s DLab (a department at the university centered around the philosophy of improving “the quality of life of low-income households through the creation and implementation of low cost technologies”), Lehrer began developing a project through which Brookwood’s eighth grade science students would learn about issues surrounding inefficient cookstoves (energy resources, climate change environmental impact, inefficiency, deforestation, and so on), build and test various efficient cookstove models, and through that learn important scientific concepts such as the chemistry of combustion, efficiency, energy transformations, thermal energy, and conduction.
Further enhancing the project, the Brookwood students collaborated, through the building and testing phase, with students at four schools in other countries - The Kasiisi Project (Uganda), FAWE Girls’ School (Rwanda), Colégio Bandeirantes (Brazil), and The Graded School (Brazil). Students shared information, strategies, experiences and data via Skype sessions, email and blogs.