Nearly 300 teachers became the students from across Alabama and northwest Florida at an energy education workshop co-hosted by West Florida Electric Cooperative in June. There were forty-four teachers in attendance from WFEC’s four-county service area.
“First class! Hands down the most impressive workshop ever,” said Shawna Ferguson, a teacher at Graceville High School. Ferguson has been teaching grades 6-12 for 11 years at various schools within WFEC’s service area.
The first Empower Energy Education Workshop was an engaging, hands-on energy exploration workshop to equip educators to present a balanced approach to electric generation and distribution – with fun, up-to-date resources and curriculum. The curriculum was developed by the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project.
“Typical workshops hurry through, lots of information with no time to practice or try what you are learning. That was not the case with Empower - they truly lived up to their name. Every teacher left empowered with the sizeable science kit and resources needed to teach students of all ages,” said Ferguson.
NEED equips today’s teachers, students and future leaders with knowledge and work skills, they train teachers to teach energy from a balanced perspective and promote an energy conscious and educated society by creating networks of educators, students, business, government and community leaders. 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.
“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. According to Ferguson, some of the most valuable things she took away from the conference included the contacts she made with other teachers and representatives from the co-op, the science kit she can use in the classroom and the resources available on NEED’s website. She also said the workshop taught her several things she didn’t know before about our nation’s electric supply. For instance, she always thought Tennessee was the number one state for coal production, but learned it is actually Wyoming. She said she also learned coal is actually a cleaner and cooler source of energy than she thought and that solar and wind power are not sufficient or sustainable in the southeast, and that the cost is also higher and best used as a supplement to power plants.
Ferguson said teachers attended a variety of sessions that utilized many of the activities in the kit they will be receiving. The teachers were able to use the different tools in the kit like their students would in class, working in groups to solve tasks, make up skits and songs about energy, and much more. Ferguson said it made learning fun and she knows the students will love it! 81857001
The Empower Energy Education Workshop is part of an initiative to promote a balanced approach to energy education in the classroom. By empowering teachers to fully explore all forms of electricity generation, students are more likely to receive a reality-based education and become better decision-makers as adults.
“Co-ops in the area have made an investment in this program – they want teachers to be empowered and to share that knowledge with students, so that every time one of them flips a light switch, they know how it works and where the energy comes from. Much like milk, it doesn’t come from Walmart, somewhere out there a Jersey, Holstein or Guernsey dairy cow is the source. Big picture, big world,” said Ferguson.