By Krista Bradley
This week Baker University Center may have hosted more elementary students than college students as Athens City Schools’ third- through sixth-grade students swarmed the building for the Office of Sustainability’s eighth edition of Energy Days.
“We hope students see their connection to the environment and the way their lives interact with the world around them,” said Erin Sykes, project assistant with the Office of Sustainability. “We want them to think when they flick the light switch, where does the power come from? It’s not from the wall. It’s from the power company.”
Energy Days, held Oct. 20-21 this year, is an education fair on sustainability and energy topics for elementary school students. Students from Chauncey, West, East and Morrison elementary schools visited learning stations run by Ohio University education majors, community organizations and volunteers. This year, the event welcomed nearly 1,000 area students for hands-on experiential learning.
The program is one that area teachers come back to each year.
“This is a hands-on approach that can’t always happen in a classroom. The kids can see new science technologies and grasp them. They get opportunities in quick little bundles to get that one-on-one look. Even seeing the escalators in Baker is a huge deal!” said Jordan Langton, a sixth-grade teacher at West Elementary. This was Langton’s second year bringing his students.
Ohio University middle childhood education majors were in charge of grade-level learning stations on topics as various as potential and kinetic energies, solar energy, circuits and chemical energy. Besides this grade-specific learning, all participants visited the Van de Graaff generator station, where they delighted in seeing static electricity cause others’ hair to stand on end.
Senior education major Ethan Swepston was one volunteer who dressed as a “Mad Scientist” to teach his sixth-grade sessions about solar energy. Students learned how solar power works by building miniature solar panel circuits and studying solar-powered robots.
“The opportunity seemed like a great way to spread knowledge about renewable energy. It’s an honor to be able to help with a program like this, and any time I get to work with the local schools is fun for me,” Swepston said.
Other volunteers represented organizations like the Athens Soil and Water Conservation District, which ran a Streamulator watershed table to demonstrate the power of water energy.
The event even provided a leadership opportunity for area youth.
For the third year, Lori Rolfe, a teacher at Minford Middle School, brought her eighth-grade students to teach learning stations. The students are from Rolfe’s gifted and talented class and are members of an energy team in the Scioto County school system, as part of the Ohio Energy Project.
“Energy Days at Ohio University kicks off our year, with the students eventually leading an energy fair for county schools at Shawnee State University. It is student leaders leading other students, and it’s a way for them to get out of the classroom, learn about energy and become energy leaders themselves,” Rolfe said.
The group led two stations: the energy bike, where students could see how much energy must be generated for daily tasks, and a station featuring an energy trivia game about sound, petroleum and coal energies.