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Offshore Wind Energy: Introducing Dr. Jennifer Keenahan



As a part of our External Expertise interview series, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Jennifer Keenahan. Jennifer has developed a micro-module in our new Transition Year programme, The Future of the Ocean.


The Future of the Ocean, immerses learners in the captivating realm of the ocean, the very lifeblood of our planet, through a comprehensive programme designed to foster understanding, empathy and action. There are six, linked micro-modules in the programme:

  • Introduction to Ocean Literacy

  • 21st Century Ocean Leadership

  • Introduction to Offshore Renewable Energy

  • Problem to Pitch: Marine Plastic Waste (a full circular, design-thinking module that is also available as a standalone Transition Year unit)

  • Media Communications Module (four-part)

  • Introduction to Biomimicry (Nov 2023)

The programme is aligned withSDG14 and can be delivered in full, over an academic year, TY unit or individual lesson plans to engage existing curricula. All of our programmes deliver cross-curricular UDL, are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UNESCO Earth Charter. They are learner-centred, project-based and are underpinned by a place-based STEAM pedagogy (McKeown et al, 2023; Mckeown and White, 2021; Mckeown, 2019, 2015).



Jennifer’s micro-module, Introduction to Offshore Renewable Energy, encourages learners to begin to discover the critical role of renewable energy, with a particular focus on offshore wind in combating climate change. The micro-module is designed to equip learners with a comprehensive understanding of various aspects related to offshore wind energy and its broader environmental and societal implications. Learners will gain a holistic understanding of renewable energy's significance, its engineering aspects, environmental considerations, and the broader societal context. The module also encourages learners through a design challenge that applies their learning by developing ideas to prototype an off-shore turbine. By cultivating teamwork, creativity, and a sense of responsibility, learners will be well-prepared to contribute to a sustainable and cleaner future for the planet.


We interviewed Jennifer about her work, motivations, and involvement in developing her micro-module.


What made you want to work in the field you are in?


I always loved numbers in school – particularly maths and science. Therefore, progressing into a career in engineering was a natural fit for me. I enjoy things that involve logic, order, structure and patterns and these traits align well with being an engineer. Beyond being an engineer – I am a lecturer. A large part of my role is training the next generations of engineers. The opportunity to teach was a big attraction to the job for me.


Do you have an organisation or work with a particular org - if so what is your / their mission statement?


I am an academic at University College Dublin (UCD). UCD is Ireland’s largest university and one of Europe’s leading research-intensive universities.


What is your background / skill set and training?


I am a civil engineer. I got my bachelor’s degree in engineering and PhD from University College Dublin. I spent a number of years practising as a civil engineer in Arup, before returning to my current role as an Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering.


A lot of my background, during my PhD, during my time at Arup and now in my current role, involved developing computer models and simulations of civil engineering problems – and so I have a particular expertise in this area.


What are you most excited about in the new lessons / module you are developing with Future Focus 21c?


It's really exciting for me to convert some of the academic research into a form that is accessible for secondary school students. I love making knowledge and information freely available and easy to understand. So often, when it comes to technical concepts in engineering, science, and climate change in particular – a lot of technical jargon is used. I enjoy converting my research into forms that can be read and understood by all – so as to make for a more scientifically-literature society.


Why do you think sharing your knowledge with Transition Year learners is important?


So much of the learning that happens in secondary school is driven by the assessment of the Junior cert and Leaving cert. In Transition Year, we have the freedom to explore learning from sources outside the traditional curriculum. Therefore, I think the Muinín program offers a fantastic opportunity to share some of the knowledge I have with the transition year community.


What advice would you give to Transition Year / secondary school students?


Transition year is a fantastic opportunity to do completely different things, with the freedom from having to make progress on the academic curriculum. It’s a really great idea to sign up to a new sport, or craft or hobby to see if it's something you might like to do more of. Or perhaps to take a course in film-making or culinary arts. The world is your oyster!


Where do you see the Future of Education going?


I believe the future of education is in the student driving their own learning, with the current practice of assessment-driven learning becoming less common. With the advent of AI, and other technology, the traditional role of the teacher is less about direct teaching (or spoon-feeding as some might say), and more about curating the content that students should engage with. What do you feel is missing or if there was one thing you wanted learners to know / have access to what would it be?


The thing that I think is missing is a way of ‘training’ people to tell the difference between fake news and real news… between good information and poor information. Without this skill, students run the risk of believing everything they encounter. Students need to be able to tell the difference between an article, a newsletter, a book that is high quality and one that is low quality.


For more information:


Please get in contact at rebecca.white@ucd.ie if you are interested in using our resources with your learners.


Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM uses a transdisciplinary, STEAM-based pedagogical approach. Returning to SDG 4, Target 4.7, one of the core missions of the Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM programme is to ensure an arts / design and culture-led approach to learning that is transdisciplinary and transformative. Learning that supports the development of informed citizens, that are systemic, critical and creative thinkers who can apply their knowledge in agile ways that are sensitive, generative and appropriately responsive to context, in relevant and meaningful ways.


This is done through placed-based learning, which enables individuals to experience learning in local, real-life scenarios. Place-based approaches to learning grounded in local communities and contexts are relevant, engaging and inquiry-based. Students gain confidence and competence in affecting change, learning to manage risk, and develop creative, real-world solutions that are eco-socially just and restorative.


References


McKeown, A., Lennon, M., White, R., Garska, J., Istrate, A., Russell, P., and Hochstrasser, T. (pending Dec 2023). Serious Games for Empowering Teenagers: A STEAM Approach to Climate Change Reflection and Communication. In: Leal Filho, W., Sima, M., Lange Salvia, A., Kovaleva, M., Manolas, E. (eds) University Initiatives on Climate Change Education and Research. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-25960-9_51-1


McKeown, A1. and White, R2. 2021 Muinín Catalyst - Exploring Future-ready Teaching and Learning. International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 12, Issue 2, 2021.


McKeown, A1. and White, R2 (2021) Muinín Catalyst - Towards a Place-based STEAM, Design thinking Curriculum for Transition Year, chapter 23 in AMPS PROCEEDINGS SERIES 22.2 Manchester School of Architecture; AMPS Manchester: 02-04 December, 2020 Teaching-Learning-Research: Design and Environments


Mckeown, A (2019) From STEM to STEAM at the Beautiful Midden Field School: An Artist/Educator Perspective in eds. De La Garza, A and Travis, C. The STEAM Revolution Transdisciplinary Approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Humanities and Mathematics


McKeown, A (2015) Cultivating PermaCultral Resilience: Towards a Creative Placemaking Critical Praxis PhD National College of Art and Design


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