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 was impressed with how organized and time efficient the Empower Conference was. I felt like I was learning and getting activities to use in my classroom every minute that I was there. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to attend and grateful for WFEC making it possible for me to do so,” said Haley Burdeshaw, a K-8 teacher at Project Venture in Jackson County.
The third 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.
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.
“The information and tool kit will be invaluable as I introduce my students to the energy portion of our science curriculum. I also learned creative ways to combine the science of energy to the economics that I teach in World History,” said Amy Miller, a 6th grade World History and Science teacher and 11th & 12th grade teacher of Intensive Reading. Miller has been teaching 29 years.
“All of the information presented at the conference was extremely useful. I was glad that time was taken to go through the tool kit and ideas on how to incorporate the materials were shown to us,” said Burdeshaw. “I plan to do a semester-long unit on energy with my gifted students, so we will use the tool kit as part of that. I want to have my students create energy efficient communities as a culminating activity, and I will undoubtedly use the kit as well as the other activities to work through the unit,” she continued.
Cindy Franklin, a teacher for 13 years, said that she also plans to utilize the activities from the kit in her Environmental Science class, especially the fact sheets on alternative energy resources.
“As a cooperative, one of our founding principles 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 of our country by educating our children. As our industry continues to change due to innovations in technology, we, as a cooperative, believe it is imperative to ensure our 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 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.”
Each educator 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.
Nancy Mears has been teaching for 21 years and is a kindergarten teacher at Altha School. Mears said she loved the hands-on activities and that she plans to implement several of the activities from the tool kit and connect them to a literacy component in her classroom.
“I would highly recommend the Empower Conference to my fellow teachers,” said Miller. “Not only will participants receive a wealth of invaluable tools to bring back to their school, but are also treated with respect and valued for being an educator. I appreciate West Florida Electric investing their time and money in me as a professional,” Miller continued.
The co-op will provide scholarships for 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.
“I would highly recommend this conference to others. In fact, I already have! I would tell them about the great resources we were given and how great it was to network and learn from other attendees and teachers,” said Mears.
Above: (l-r) Kristi Futch, Roulhac Middle School; Stephen Tsukuda, Grand Ridge School; Jessica Carter, Chipley High School; Candace Croft, WFEC; Kitana Passmore, Project Venture; Vickie Everett, Golson Elementary School; Nancy Mears, Altha School; Derek Chadwell, WFEC; Marie Ellenburg, Bonifay K8; Haley Burdeshaw, Project Venture; Karen Hales, Cottondale Elementary School; Cindy Franklin, Graceville High School; Teresa Hendrix, Grand Ridge School; Amy Miller, Graceville High School; Siera Finch-Taylor, Graceville High School & Raymond Bryan, Grand Ridge School.