Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Math and Sustainability: Helping to Make a Green Ribbon School - 2012


Secondary school math, physics and physical science teachers are invited to apply for a
two-week summer institute, to be held July 9 – 20, 2012 at Bryn Mawr College on

Math and Sustainability:
Helping to Make a Green Ribbon School

The institute is sponsored by Bryn Mawr College, and the Bryn Mawr/Haverford K-16 Collaborations in Science and Mathematics Education with financial support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and in partnership with the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center and the Environmental Protection Agency.

As part of the Institute, on Wednesday July 11th we will be hosting a one-day  workshop for school administrators, facilities professionals and teachers on: 

Green Ribbon Schools Workshop: Linking Facilities, Operations and Curriculum

Program Outline: Participants in the program will learn new content related to math and sustainabilty and will then develop and implement plans for putting their new learning into practice in their classroom over the coming year.

Participants will learn about the mathematics underlying topics in environmental sustainability such as

  • energy use and how to reduce it
  • alternative energy with solar cells and wind turbines
  • issues of water usage and run-off with connections to Philadelphia’s Green City Clean Waters initiative
  • climate change and mathematical modeling
as well as how to
  • engage students in hands-on projects to green their school and community

and will develop

  • teaching modules linked to state standards that they will implement during the 2012-13 academic year
  • a partnership with the facilities director from their school or district who will attend one day of the institute 
  • in partnership with their facilities professional, a plan for a hands-on project in which students will put their math knowledge to use as they work to green their school.

To support the implementation of these new initiatives back in the school, we encourage participants to come as part of a team from their school. Preference will be given to applicants who sign up as part of at least a two-person team and who have a facilities professional from their school/district who agrees to participate. If you are eager to participate but can not form a complete team, apply anyway and make the case for why you should be selected.

The components of the Institute are aligned with the Pathways to Green Schools program and the United States Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award. 

Format: The Institute will consist of lectures, group work, and hands-on computer laboratories as well as presentations by participants of their work. No specific computer skills are required. The institute will provide computers for the use of participants. The main text of the institute will be Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air by D. MacKay. Participants will each receive a copy of this book. The book is available free on-line. 

Field Trips: There will be a field trip to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center and perhaps one or two other local trips. Participants will make their own way to the field trip sites.

Program Requirements:  Participants will

1.     Play an active role in the Institute and attend all sessions. The sessions, except for field trips, will be held in the Park Science Building at Bryn Mawr College and will run from 9am to 4pm daily with a one-hour lunch break.

2.     Develop a lesson plan linked to state standards that they will implement in fall 2012.

3.     Develop, in partnership with the facilities professional, a plan for a hands-on project in which students will put their math knowledge to use as they work to green their school.

4.     Develop and submit a mini-grant proposal to support the implementation of their initiatives.

5.     Attend a Saturday morning follow up meeting in late fall 2012 at which they report on their efforts at implementing their teaching module and student project. 

Program Benefits

  1. Participants who successfully complete the summer institute will receive 60 hours of Act 48 credit and a $500 stipend.
  2. We are presently investigating the possibility that participants could choose to take the institute for graduate credit.
  3. Participants who in fall 2012 implement their math and sustainability lesson and who then attend the late fall Saturday morning follow up meeting will receive an additional $250 stipend.
  4. Participants will be eligible for a $300 mini-grant to support implementation of their initiatives.

One Day Program for Facilities Professionals:  The Institute will run a one-day workshop for facilities professionals that will focus on greening school operations. As part of this workshop, participants will share data from their school or district on energy usage. Participants will also work with their teacher partners to develop plans for a project in which students can work to help green the school. Participants will receive a $100 mini-grant to be used to support the student greening project or other sustainability related activities. 

The institute director is Victor Donnay, Professor of Mathematics at Bryn Mawr College. For more information about his work and teaching interests, see below.

Eligibility: Secondary (high school and middle school) math, physics and physical science teachers are eligible. Preference will be given to teams of teachers from the same school. A successful team will also include a facilities professional from the school/district who agrees to attend the one-day workshop on greening operations that will be held in conjunction with the Institute. Institute enrollment will be limited to twenty participants. 

Institute Schedule and Location: This Institute will take place in the Park Science Building at Bryn Mawr College Monday, July 9 through Friday, July 20. Sessions will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided at no cost.

Application Procedure:

Application deadline Monday May 21. Acceptance decisions will be distributed by June 1.

  1. Teachers wishing to apply for the institute should fill in the on-line teacher application form. Please indicate team members on the application forms.
  2. Teachers should recruit a facilities professional from their school/district to be part of their team. The facilities professional should fill in the on-line facilities professional application.
  3. To insure that participants will have the support they need to implement their math and sustainability lesson plan in fall 2012, an appropriate school/district administrator (Department Chair, School Principal, District Curriculum Director, Assistant Superintendent) will need to fill in the on-line Administrative Commitment form.

For more information: Contact the Institute Coordinator, Jody Jacoby,, 610-526-7392, Park Science Building, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010.

Professor Victor Donnay uses a variety of innovative pedagogies in this teaching including cooperative learning, computer based instruction, student projects, service learning and formative assessment as he works to link the math he teaches to real world issues of interest to his students. In 2008, his differential equations course was selected as a Model Course by the SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) organization. He has taught courses on math and sustainability in which students did service learning projects using their mathematics knowledge to analyze problems on sustainability on campus and in the community. He has worked with K-12 teachers through a variety of NSF funded grants. Professor Donnay received his Ph. D. from the Courant Institute of Mathematics at New York University and does research on chaotic dynamical systems.