Local teachers get an energy education

From left: Sybil Plazarin, Carr School; Derek Chadwell, WFEC; Carol Boswell, Vernon Middle School; Marie Ellenburg, Bonifay K8; Sheryl Swindell, Graceville Elementary; Jennifer Sapp, Roulhac Middle School; Kelsey Coats, Graceville Elementary School; Rebecca Beasley, Grand Ridge School; Reid Brockett, Cottondale Elementary; Kim Peacock, Blountstown Elementary; Keshia Lowe-Nix, Dove Academy; Frances Hawkins, Poplar Springs School; Holly Nichols, Riverside Elementary; Magen Galloway, Ponce De Leon Elementary; Paulette Williams, Dove Academy; Nirra Poret, Riverside Elementary & Candace Croft, WFEC. Not all teachers are pictured here.

GRACEVILLE – Nearly 300 teachers from across northwest Florida and Alabama became the students at an energy education workshop co-hosted by West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) in June.

“I really enjoyed this conference, and as a new teacher, walking into a classroom without many supplies, this conference was very worthwhile,” said Carol Boswell, who is a 7th grade teacher at Vernon Middle School. She will begin her first full year of teaching this month.

The second annual Empower Energy Education Workshop provided fun, engaging, fast-paced activities about electric generation and distribution with a focus on energy education. Attendees received the tools and curriculum necessary to integrate the activities into their classrooms. These materials, aimed at K-12 students, include hands-on activities designed to teach tomorrow’s leaders about all energy sources – from fossil fuels to renewables. The curriculum was developed by the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project. The Empower Energy Education Workshop is part of an initiative to promote a balanced approach to energy education in the classroom.

NEED equips today’s teachers with knowledge and work skills, training teachers to teach energy from a balanced perspective and promote an energy conscious and educated society. They have designed an objective, multi-sided energy education program used in more than 65,000 classrooms nationwide. These resources meet students’ diverse needs and learning styles and are correlated to the National Science Education Content Standards, as well as state standards.

“Empower was the absolute best conference I have ever attended. It was informative and fun! I took away several things from this experience – that there are a lot of SIMPLE science experiments for electricity that I can conduct with my students, that there is an abundance of resources available to me through NEED and that we need to spend more time educating our students about electricity and the process it takes to bring it to their homes,” said Holly Nichols, a 3rd grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School.

“One of our founding principles as a cooperative is providing education and learning to our members,” said Russell Dunaway, WFEC Executive VP & CEO. “As the electric utility industry continues to change due to innovations in technology, we believe it is imperative to ensure educators have the information and materials needed to inform future generations about the types of energy available, where it comes from, how it is generated and also how it impacts their families, our economy and quality of life. We are proud to have this opportunity to partner with NEED and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative to provide scholarships to educators from our local schools.”

The conference also provided attendees an opportunity to network with other teachers, sharing ideas and building lifelong connections. Boswell stated the connections she was able to make with some of the other teachers were important to her as a new educator.

Each teacher who attended the Empower Education Workshop received a kit with experiments and resources they can use with their students in the classroom environment. In fact, the teachers who attended Empower participated in these hands-on projects and experiments themselves – they even wrote, acted or sang in skits illustrating the energy information and principles they learned over the three-day event.

“I plan to use the materials with my 4th grade science students to introduce topics in a visual way that will help them remember the materials more easily. When students are able to SEE what we are discussing right in front of them, it is much more memorable. Some activities, I will even allow the students to do, because they learn from hands on experiences better,” said Nirra Poret, a veteran teacher of 14 years from Riverside Elementary School.

The co-op will provide scholarships to local educators to the Empower Energy Education Workshop again next summer. If you are a teacher in Calhoun, Holmes, Jackson or Washington County, contact your school district’s county office for more information about how to apply.