At some point as a student, every one of us has probably asked the question, “How will I use this?” As an elementary science teacher, I am always trying to find ways to make scientific concepts relevant and exciting for my students. I firmly believe that exciting demonstrations, lab activities, and project-based learning experiences can not only excite students about science class and show them that learning can be fun; it also teaches them the problem-solving, analytical, design, and communication skills that will help prepare them for success both academically and in their future careers. Near the end of the 2015-2016 school year, I was given the opportunity to apply for a fellowship through the Kenan Fellows Program at NC State University. One aspect of the Kenan Fellows Program that distinguishes it from a teacher’s typical professional development opportunity is its emphasis on real world application and hands on experiences that educators can take back to their classroom. The Kenan Fellows Program partners with a variety of industries and research institutions to provide internship opportunities for their teachers to see firsthand how the concepts that they are teaching are applied in a variety of STEM-based career fields. For my Kenan Fellows internship, I had the opportunity to participate in a four week internship with Pee Dee Electric to learn more about electricity, renewable energy resources, and the cooperative business model.
During my internship with Pee Dee Electric, I was able to see the many different jobs and responsibilities that go into operating an electrical utility. From seeing how the engineering department plans new construction and monitors existing lines and service, to learning about all the different services that Pee Dee Electric provides for their members, to working with line crews to install overhead and underground power lines, I have seen how all parts of the company work together to provide reliable electrical service. In reflecting on my four weeks with Pee Dee Electric, I am excited about all that I have been able to learn and experience that I will be able to take back to my students in August. Now as we study energy and electricity, I will be able to share my own experiences from my internship. I am also in the process of planning a trip to visit Pee Dee Electric’s solar farm, as well as working to implement a solar energy project for our students. During the school year, I am planning to work with my mentors at Pee Dee Electric in my fourth grade class and with other grades at my school to build a solar generator that will power an incubator used to hatch eggs. I can’t wait for my students to be able to experience uses for renewable energy firsthand as they participate in this project.