Two Midcoast schools have spotlighted the pursuit of science, and are recognized for those efforts. The Watershed School, an independent high school in Rockland, returned home from the 2011 Maine State Science Fair at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, with three awards, recognizing their efforts in astronomy and physics. Their focus was wide-ranging, from the ergonomics of fencing to solar rotations and sun spots.

In Hope, the middle school science lab is getting an overhaul, as science teacher Erik Wade develops curriculum changes to match the possibilities of what can be learned on new lab tables with new microscopes, burners and glassware. In the end, the students, from kindergarten through eighth grade, will be learning via more experimentation and less watching their teacher demonstrate scientific principles.

The National Academies of the U.S. recognized in the early 1990s that education standards were important to guide the country into scientific literacy, and to compete globally. “Americans are confronted increasingly with questions in their lives that require scientific information and scientific ways of thinking for informed decision making. And the collective judgment of our people will determine how we manage shared resources, such as air, water, and national forests,” wrote the National Academy Press in 1996, in a long report establishing education standards.

The thought is almost quaint these days, as the country, and Maine, copes with a recession that was in part caused by skyrocketing oil prices, and the slow realization that economies — local, state and national — are changing. It has been said that Maine’s growth industries right now are renewable energy and health care. Public policy, in part, has been driving the emphasis on renewable energy generation, and we have seen the results of that in the pursuit of wind turbines offshore, on hilltops and on the high school campus of Camden Hills Regional High School, as well as tidal, solar and geothermal energy production.

Last week, researchers from around the world gathered in Abu Dhabi and concluded that close to 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by 2050, given public policy directions. They determined that renewable energy capacity grew: Wind grew by by 30 percent, hydropower by 3 percent, and grid-connected photovoltaics by more than 50 percent.

The fact that two schools, and many more in the Midcoast, are emphasizing science as worthy of money and time is encouraging as we continue to marshal resources and develop a new economy. And who knows, it may be those young science students in Hope’s new science lab or in Rockland at the Watershed School who are figuring how to generate power from Penobscot Bay tides, or gather the power of sunlight from the top of a Camden hill to generate light for a downtown.