I joined the Forth team as an AmeriCorps member in September 2017 and am so glad I did. With a background in environmental science and sustainability, the position with Forth provided me an opportunity to broaden my knowledge base to include transportation and, more specifically, electric vehicles. Besides their potential to significantly impact greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, I had a limited understanding of electric vehicles; but within my first few weeks at Forth, I discovered the fantastic potential these cars and other types of clean transportation have to transform communities and lives for the better.
Before I began as an AmeriCorps member with Forth, the organization had focused its outreach efforts on consumers and industry members - adults. While that is still the primary focus, we recognize the importance of educating youth about electric cars and other emerging clean transportation solutions, since many kids today will not grow up to drive a gasoline-powered vehicle. I set out to design and implement curriculum about the future of transportation, with an emphasis on electric cars. After a few months of planning, I began piloting the program with a number of afterschool programs in the Portland Metro area, including one of Forth’s close community partners, Hacienda Community Development Corporation. I visited six after school programs, reaching approximately 70 youth.
In the program, I would start by discussing with the youth the importance of combatting climate change and the negative impacts of gasoline and diesel vehicles on air quality. Then we would move on to the potential that electric cars have for reducing these impacts and some key features that make them unique, from being whisper quiet to utilizing regenerative braking. I would wrap up the day by showing them an electric car that I’d brought along and playing a game of EV BINGO or Trivia to test what they’d learned. Additionally, I organized four school group and one summer program visits to the Go Forth Electric Showcase, serving an additional 200 youth. While piloting the youth programs throughout the school year, I was also working with a consultant from the Portland Metro STEM Hub to align my curriculum with Next Generation Science Standards, so that it would be appealing to teachers with tight schedules and expectations.
My hope is that Forth’s next AmeriCorps member will be able to take the program as I’ve designed it and implement it in classrooms, while continually developing and improving the content. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with youth throughout this process. It is inspiring to hear the creative ideas that the next generation has for what transportation should or could look like in the future. I find myself continually impressed with the knowledge these students already have about pollution and climate change and their desire to make the world a better place to live.
My favorite moment of every youth program I’ve run is when I take the kids out to see the car that I’ve brought along. All of a sudden, their faces light up with excitement at the prospect of getting to sit in the driver’s seat and control the radio. While this seemingly small bit of freedom drives their attention for the next 15 or so minutes, the kids are often equally impressed with the features of the car that make it unique to running on electricity: from the absolutely silent startup to the charging port and the range gauge. I am proud to have begun Forth’s efforts to engage youth about clean transportation and I look forward to what the next AmeriCorps member will do to build on what I have started!