Electrical Science Classroom Presentations & River of Power
Changing into my white lab coat, I feel a little like Clark Kent stepping into a phone booth. In steps James, out comes Dr. Webber Science Guy. As the North Central ESD Regional Science Elementary Specialist I work on two main projects: in-class electrical safety presentations and the River of Power hydro dam visits around our region.
Electrical Safety Presentations
During these presentations, I talk to second and fourth graders throughout Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties about renewable clean energy, electrical safety, and hydropower. In partnership with the local PUDs, I bring hands-on science to amazing young scientists.
A 30-minute presentation exposes second graders to the idea of energy transformation (there are many types of energy and they can be transformed from one type into another). This sets them up to dig into how our state’s hydro dams generate electrical energy through the motion of the Columbia River.
Students are asked to come up with examples of various energy types, transform food and motion energy into heat and sound via hands-on experiments, and learn how to conserve energy at home.
The hour-long fourth grade presentation also offers a variety of science experiences. First, students get a refresher on energy transfer before diving into the workings of their local hydro dams and the power of the Columbia River. Next, they learn about conductors and insulators, toss and steal wiffle ball electrons, act out the flow of the river and spin of turbines, and estimate the speed of the spinning rotors. After a discussion of the many jobs needed to build and maintain a hydro dam, the fourth graders see what they’ve all been waiting for: a diorama of the unsafe Hazard Hamlet citizen getting electrocuted. We discuss the dangers of cavalier play near power sources, watch the citizens get shocked with real electricity, and learn how students, adults, and grandparents can be safe!
River of Power
I also run the River of Power hydro dam visits which are true science field experiences. At Rocky Reach, Chelan Falls, Chief Joseph, and soon, Wanapum Dam, students participate in a number of activities related to the dams and Columbia River.
The salmon survival game gets everyone moving. After learning about the salmon life cycle and environmental struggles, students acting as salmon attempt to survive a trip down the Columbia as they try to run past the spinning turbine, evade natural predators, collect food while avoiding fishers, and climb the fish ladder to bypass the dam.
When not sprinting away from grizzlies and sturgeon, students draft, engineer, buy materials for, and build a hydro dam model. Teams of four must design a working dam, budget for the best materials, and build a watertight clay model. Once they succeed, the true challenge of redesigning to allow salmon through begins!
The students also get to explore the heritage centers and see the hydro dams in action. PUD experts explain awesome features of the dams such as the salmon ladders where students can watch the mighty fish swim against the current through special windows. The students also learn about the history of the dam and how much electricity it generates while walking through. To tie it all together, the students explore how the hydro dams generate electricity from spinning turbines at the energy transfer learning station.
Throughout our districts I have the amazing opportunity to share hands-on science education that highlights Washington’s forward-thinking focus on renewable energy. This fall, I’ll be donning the lab coat once again to inspire some future super people.
Are you interested in bringing electrical science education into your district or classroom? Connect with the North Central ESD today to learn more about these opportunities!