Empowering Educators

Annual workshop equips Wiregrass teachers with energy expertise

WEC staffers Rhonda Webb, left, and Jennifer Ward coordinated WEC’s participation in the 2022 Empower Energy Education Workshop.

You’ve probably never made s’mores in a pizza box using a solar oven, but the teachers who attended the PowerSouth Empower Energy Education Workshop have.

Wiregrass educators learned all about different kinds of energy sources in a series of hands-on activities led by industry experts during the jam-packed 2-day conference. The workshop is all about exchanging ideas with fellow teachers and learning fun ways to teach students about power distribution, consumption, safety and more.

Wiregrass Electric Cooperative partners with PowerSouth and other sister cooperatives to put on this workshop every year. The aim is to equip educators with a balanced approach to teach their students about electric generation and distribution with fun, up-to-date resources and curriculum.

“We think it’s important to give back to our community and support future generations by providing knowledge about the power industry,” Jennifer Ward, WEC’s communications and public relations manager, says. “The
2022 Empower Energy Education Workshop was a huge success! Our teachers were excited about the materials they received and the information they learned to take back to their classrooms. WEC is happy to be a part of this awesome event and we cannot wait to see how these teachers incorporate the new material into their curriculums.”

Power of Science

Educators from Alabama and Florida attended PowerSouth’s 2022 Empower Energy Education Workshop.

Mary Grace Caldwell, a fourth grade teacher at James A Mulkey Elementary School in Geneva, applied for the workshop after hearing her friends rave about the experience in past years.

“It’s so great because the fourth grade science curriculum is really heavy in energy and all the activities were just wonderful,” Caldwell says. “Within each activity or lesson were many opportunities to use different standards in the curriculum outside of just science, so we can pull in literacy, engineering and mathematics into the lesson.”

She especially enjoyed making a wind turbine and learning about hydroelectric power with an activity involving a paperclip tied to a piece of string.

Attendees of the 2022 Empower Energy Education workshop picking up small candies with a straw“It’s going to change the way I teach science for sure,” Caldwell says. “Kids love science. They love engaging activities and using their hands to build and create things. When you can provide them that experience, they really learn and understand. Anything that’s more than just a pen-and-paper assignment, they just get so excited about it and that makes me excited.”

Joanna Woodham, a middle school science teacher at Wicksburg High School, was particularly excited that she could use the lessons to reach students at different learning levels with various learning styles.

“I’m always looking for lessons that are hands-on and engaging for students,” Woodham says. “If it feels like work, they’re not as engaged. I want the classroom environment to be intriguing and fun, and if I can provide that for them with these lessons, they’re more likely to remember those in the future.”

One particular lesson involved designing and building a house with insulation to keep indoor temperatures cool when the temperatures outside are high.

“I really liked that activity because it gives them a chance to think about what they already know and try an array of materials to figure out what works the best and why,” Woodham says. “This activity, and many of the activities at the workshop, were unique because they encourage students to think outside of the box and to work the problem as a team. Part of teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is helping students get those creative juices flowing and helping them become better problem-solvers as they transition to adulthood.”

WEC Supports Continued Education

Attendees of the 2022 Empower Energy Education workshopWoodham and Caldwell were 2 of 21 Wiregrass teachers who attended the event through WEC.

Aside from the knowledge and fun activities these educators can bring back into their classrooms, they also went home with a Science of Energy kit and access to curriculum guides and online resources from the National Education Energy Development Project.

“I just think this is such an awesome opportunity and experience and I’m thankful to Wiregrass Electric for allowing me to be a part of it,” Caldwell said.

Each participant was also eligible to receive continuing education credits for completing the workshop.

“Wiregrass Electric knows that knowledge is power, and we want to empower teachers in our community by providing opportunities to share that knowledge with them,” WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro says. “Teachers leave the conference with a better understanding of our energy distribution and also learn about different jobs in the field. We are grateful for our teachers who attended this event to represent the Wiregrass.

“We are proud to partner with Power- South to offer this learning experience and know this experience will be duplicated exponentially in classrooms all over the Wiregrass and throughout Alabama and parts of Florida,” Kimbro adds.