by | Aug 22, 2021

Central Electric Power Cooperative and Mizzou give teachers the tools they need for a new year

School started early for 31 middle and high school science teachers as they participated in the 2021 Energy in Today’s Classroom. The two-day event hosted by Central Electric Power Cooperative and the University of Missouri gives the teachers a unique and deeper understanding of how electricity is generated, transmitted and distributed to members at the end of the line. Since it began in 2013, more than 200 teachers have left the program armed with knowledge and a curriculum to take back to their students.

The program came about as Central’s education department — which gives presentations to schools within its service area — realized there was something missing in the schools. “We would go into the classrooms and see a lot of confusion or misinformation about electricity,” says Mark Newbold, Central’s vice president of administrative services. “We thought as a cooperative, education and training is a core principle so we started to pursue this.”

The collaboration between the Jefferson City-based transmission co-op and Mizzou gives the teachers a combination of classroom and hands-on training to prepare for the upcoming year. Sessions include presentations on power generation, energy efficiency and the economics of the industry. Outside the classroom, teachers build a circuit, check out electric vehicles and the class culminates with a tour of Mizzou’s on-campus power plant.

“It’s good to do the power plant last,” explains Mark. “At that point they’ve listened to the instructors in the classroom and then they can actually see it in action and all that’s involved.”

Leon Schumacher, a professor and program coordinator of the Mizzou Agriculture Systems Technology Department, teaches at the program he helped start eight years ago. “Electricity can be very safe, but it also can be a little bit scary,” he says. “We’re trying to bring more information to the teachers so they can see it from different points of view, whether that be from industry or academia. A lot of us just turn the lights on and expect them to work; we don’t think of everything that goes into that.”

The electric vehicle demonstration and discussion was also a high point for the teachers. Employees from Cuivre River, Boone and Callaway electric cooperatives brought their electric vehicles in for the teachers to look through and learn about.

“It’s good to have our distribution co-ops talk about their electric vehicles,” Mark says. “They can candidly answer their questions and share their firsthand knowledge of them, whether it’s good or bad.”

Teachers are sent home with new curriculum ideas to tailor to their classroom as well as teaching aids such as a solar kit, hand generator, shake flashlight and more. Peggy Veatch is a science teacher at Eldon High School who was sponsored by Three Rivers Electric Cooperative.

“I’m always looking for ways to integrate areas where I’m not the strongest to support my students at school,” she says. “I came here for my science research class, but realized that I can use a lot of this information when I talk about energy in other classes.”

Initially, the program was only open to teachers within Central’s service area, which includes eight central Missouri distribution cooperatives spanning from Sedalia to Troy. The course has grown and evolved to now include teachers statewide and parts of Iowa and Oklahoma.

Keith Mueller is Central’s senior education specialist and teaches some of the more interactive sessions. He says the success of the class has been on the evolution of the curriculum based on feedback from the teachers. “We’ve evolved to incorporate more of the items that the teachers are teaching their students,” he says. “So we want this information to travel back to the classrooms with them. If we hear the teachers are doing more on circuits at school, we’ll do more with circuits here. We just want to enhance their classroom performance with what they do.”

For more information about Energy in Today’s Classroom or to inquire about the 2022 class, contact your local electric cooperative.

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