Future environmental leaders need great teachers.

Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Terry Root (Biology, by courtesy) and undergraduate students in a unique environmental action class that Root teaches recently won Stanford’s Introductory Seminar Excellence Award. The award recognizes a student or project group that demonstrates exceptional engagement, skill and achievement.

Students in Root’s fall quarter Environmental Literacy seminar convinced her to teach a spring quarter seminar, Getting Renewable Energy up to Scale: The Problem of Location, in which they could take action beyond the classroom on environmental issues. Students in the spring seminar were honored with the excellence award for their project “Wind Energy and Birds in California,” a presentation the students gave to officials at the Audobon Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The mentoring, encouragement and support you gave your students produced work of the highest order,” Russell Berman, director of Stanford Introductory Studies, wrote in an email to Root. “We often talk about seminars as collaborations, and your work is a model for the student-teacher interactions that are the heart of Introductory Seminars, and an invaluable contribution to our students.”

“They actually felt as though they were doing something to solve a problem the world is facing,” Root said. “To have them recognized for doing that is pretty forward thinking for Stanford.

The students took it very seriously, and provided a professional presentation to senior Audobon members who flew up from L.A.”

Root’s environmental literacy seminar focuses on elements of the scientific and decision making processes that accompany most environmental issues, while her renewable energy location seminar examines the arguments about the need for renewables and investigates the pros and cons of locating renewables at different sites.

The student presentation on wind energy and birds reviewed:

  • California’s wind energy system in a global context
  • Wind energy technologies
  • Bird deaths by energy source
  • Wind power siting
  • Potential changes to the wind power industry
  • How wind power installations relate to communities
  • Recommendations on technology, research and community solutions