Students from the University of Maryland's Designing a Sustainable World course, a class based on the Energy Department's Energy 101 Course Framework, present their end-of-year design projects. | Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland.

This week, is heading back to school. We’ll be featuring stories on the role students and schools play in driving America’s energy economy -- from installing solar in the classroom to advancing innovations as interns at the National Labs. Stay up to date on our back-to-school week series by checking in with us everyday on, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Right now, millions of college students across the country are preparing for the start of a new semester -- putting the final touches on their class schedules and contemplating their future career options. As they get ready to begin the school year, many of these students will have the option to add energy fundamentals to their course-load thanks to the Energy Department’s Energy 101 Course Framework.

Energy 101 provides a course skeleton that universities and community colleges can leverage to teach fundamental energy principles and concepts. In Spring 2013, students at the University of Maryland were the first in the nation to take a course designed using Energy 101. Maryland’s pilot class, Designing a Sustainable World, was offered as a general education course to allow students from varying majors to think critically about energy usage, consumption and conservation in their daily lives. "Prior to the course, sustainability simply meant recycling; however, I truly have a deeper understanding now," said kinesiology major Andrew Lebowitz, one of the students who took the pilot.

Dr. Abts, a professor at Maryland who helped designed the Energy 101 pilot, aims to use the course to demonstrate that life is not a multiple-choice test. “Many of these energy decisions are very complex, and you really need to think through them to make an [informed] decision. Many times that decision will change as you learn more,” said Dr. Abts.

More than 90 percent of the students who took the pilot indicated it helped them think about the complex issues or problems surrounding energy. The university will offer the course again during the fall semester, this time opening it up to a larger potential enrollment of 200 students.

Momentum for Energy 101 continues to build. In February 2013, Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland, received approval to teach a course based on the Framework, Introduction to Energy & Sustainability. The class will be offered in fall 2013 as a general science course, which is transferrable to all state higher education institutions in Maryland.  

For more information on leveraging the Energy 101 Course Framework at your school and on promoting energy education and energy literacy around the country, visit the Energy 101 website.