L-R: Kitana Passmore, Marianna K-8; Kristi Futch, Roulhac Middle School; Teresa McDaniel, Graceville School; Joy Vann, Roulhac Middle School; Jeannie Barefield, Graceville School; Nikki Reddick, Kate M. Smith Elementary School; Juquitta Drieth, Marianna K-8; Rachel Nandho, Carr School; Haley Burdeshaw, Marianna K-8; Ashley Jenkins, Marianna K-8; Anthony Zayas, Marianna High School; Lori Hutchinson, Altha Public School; Vickie Everett, Marianna K-8 and Becki Franklin, Kate M. Smith Elementary School.
Fifteen teachers from West Florida Electric Cooperative’s (WFEC) service area became students at an energy education workshop hosted by WFEC in partnership with PowerSouth Energy Cooperative and the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) during the month of June. After a two-year absence the conference returned with 300 educators from Florida and Alabama in attendance.
“This was a great conference which provided the opportunity to learn and develop classroom lessons surrounding the energy that is used in every day life. The hands-on experience really helped in solidifying certain points and allowed knowledge to be accessible for all kinds of learners,” said Kitana Passmore, who teaches gifted students at Marianna K-8.
The Empower Energy Education Workshop provides 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 these activities into their classrooms. The 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. Developed by the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, this curriculum is used in more than 65,000 classrooms nationwide. These resources meet students’ diverse needs and learning styles. The Empower Energy Education Workshop is part of an initiative to promote a balanced approach to energy education in the classroom.
“One of our founding principles as a cooperative is providing education and learning opportunities to our members,” said Ty Peel, WFEC Executive VP & CEO. “It’s important for us to invest in our community’s teachers because they are investing in the future by educating our children. As the electric utility industry continues to change due to innovations in technology, we, as a cooperative, believe it is imperative to ensure educators have the information and materials they need to inform future generations about the types of energy available, where it comes from, how it is generated and how it impacts their families, our economy and quality of life. We’re proud to have this opportunity to partner with NEED and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative to provide scholarships to educators from our local schools.”
Nikki Reddick, a second grade ESE teacher at Kate Smith Elementary School in Chipley, said the wonderful thing about the kits is that it contains all the activities presented during the conference, giving educators an opportunity to work on the activities and take notes about how to modify those for different grades and learning levels.
“In addition to utilizing the activities to enhance the current science curriculum, there are also a lot of opportunities for students to practice literacy skills. For example, many of the activities can be used to help students practice using expressive and descriptive language, practice sequencing, and answering 'wh-questions' (who, whom, what, why, when, where, which and how),” said Reddick.
Each teacher who attended the Empower Education Workshop received a kit with experiments and resources they can use with their students in the classroom. 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 love the engagement that the tool kit provides for my students. I can’t wait to use them,” said Juquitta Drieth a seventh grade teacher at Marianna K-8.
“The kit is fantastic and I can’t wait for school to start back so I can show the kids the fun ways to learn about science and energy,” said Jeannie Barefield, an instructor at Graceville School.
“I found the information and the tool kit extremely useful. I plan to do an energy unit with my K-8 gifted students. I taught an energy unit in the 2019-2020 school year after attending this conference for the first time, and my students loved all of the activities. There were several new activities at this year’s conference that I’ll incorporate into this unit. One specific thing I want to have my students do is the hydro generator; they made a different type of generator in 2019 and I think they will be really interested in creating a different type to see how it works,” said Haley Burdeshaw, a teacher of gifted students at Marianna K-8.
Whether you are an educator who is new to teaching or a veteran of many years, your co-op welcomes your participation and attendance at Empower. We hope that everyone finds this experience worthwhile and beneficial.
Rachel Nandho, who just completed her first year of teaching fourth and fifth grade at Carr School, said her school’s principal encouraged her to attend Empower because she heard from other teachers that it’s a great conference and thought she would benefit from attending.
“I honestly have a hard time staying still in a chair for a long period of time. Staying focused is also very difficult, however, this conference provided information in a way that kept me engaged and participating in activities that captured my interest and attention. It allowed me to see it from the perspective of a student. It’s hard for a lot of them to stay still and pay attention so it made me aware of how I present content. There were so many activities that I enjoyed but if I had to pick one, I would say it was coming up with an energy song and presenting it to the group. I really clicked with another teacher and we had a blast,” said Nandho.
If you are an educator who teaches any of the STEM topics and works in Calhoun, Holmes, Jackson or Washington County, WFEC would like to invite you to attend next year’s Empower Conference. Interested educators should contact their county office for more information. The co-op will provide scholarships for local educators.
“I would definitely recommend the Empower conference to other teachers. It’s actually fun to participate in - you’re never just sitting through a PowerPoint like you do in some of the other professional development classes; it’s very hands on and you’re moving and learning new things the whole time. You also leave with a kit to do literally every activity that you learn about at the conference which makes it easy to apply what you’ve learned from the conference in your own classroom,” said Burdeshaw.