With schools settling into the rhythm of a new year, the Bonneville Power Administration offers ready resources for teachers looking to spark interest in their classrooms. BPA provides free presentations on energy, engineering and science to K-12 classes throughout the Northwest as part of its commitment to supporting energy literacy and education among the region’s young people.
“These are our future ratepayers and our future workforce,” explains acting Administrator Elliot Mainzer. “It is crucial that they are able to make informed decisions about our energy system, and that they are encouraged to pursue their interest in science and engineering so that they are poised to meet the energy challenges of the future.”
BPA’s classroom presentation includes a 10-minute introduction on the Northwest’s energy system, followed by a 50-minute, hands-on activity that demonstrates the scientific/engineering method. This engages kids’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are crucial for the engineers, scientists and energy researchers of tomorrow.
Presentations are available to schools throughout BPA’s service territory – from Billings, Montana, to Springfield, Oregon, to Marsing, Idaho. Specially trained BPA employees act as classroom ambassadors in delivering the presentations. Several hundred employees have volunteered, representing a wide variety of professions, including engineers, biologists, energy analysts, linemen and financial specialists.
“With the advent of new science standards for schools and increased emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, teachers have been really interested in the opportunity to have a real engineer or scientist visit their class,” said Christy Adams, education coordinator for BPA. “We are so fortunate to have a team of diverse and talented engineers and professionals here at BPA who love to talk to kids. Many times we hear that these presentations can literally change the trajectory of a student’s life.”
Teachers can choose among four hands-on activities, such as How to Build a Motor, How to Build a Turbine, The Great Marble Drop, and How to Build a Tower. Each activity is open-ended: Students are presented with a problem; they must develop a solution; test that solution; and then make refinements to it before sharing their results. Presentations are separated into three grade- and age-appropriate categories: K-3rd grade; 4th -8th grade; and high school/college. They can be customized to meet teacher needs. New this year is the How to Build a Tower activity, which challenges kids in grades K-2 to work in teams to design and construct a transmission tower using Popsicle sticks and tape. All the materials for hands-on activities are provided.