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Inspiring energy leaders for the future

November 17, 2017

Global News

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fortisbc-secondary-w-rgb-72.jpg In Partnership with FortisBC

The first thing that surprised Diane Ehling when she introduced the Energy Leaders program to her Grade 4 class was just how much she learned herself.

“I was fascinated by all the types of energy that I hadn’t really ever thought of,” she said. “I learned along with the students.”

From kinetic to chemical, elastic to gravitational, Ehling and her fourth-graders explored 10 different forms of energy through hands-on, project-based lessons last May. The North Vancouver teacher was one of 146 educators throughout the province who tested out the new Energy Leaders lesson plans, developed by FortisBC for use in classrooms.

As a busy teacher, said Ehling, the Energy Leaders program was exactly what she needed. The comprehensive background material, creative lesson plans, and multimedia components kept her students engaged and entertained.

“The multimedia is such a big help,” she said. “Teachers spend so much time on the computer looking for YouTube videos or something else that might fit with a lesson. Here, they have slideshows attached. And there are pictures of kids in action, focusing on conservation of energy. So the kids can really relate.”

But the program is more than just pretty pictures. FortisBC contracted Vancouver-based consulting company Kidnetic Education to work with B.C. teachers and ensure the program met the criteria set out in the province’s new educational curriculum.

“The children could do their own inquiry-based learning,” said Ehling. “Because there were so many forms of energy that were presented, they could choose one and do some research on it. They could each explore their own area of interest.”

Danielle Wensink, director of conservation and energy management with FortisBC, said the program is the latest step in the company’s efforts to help educate the public about energy use and conservation. Public education, she said, is aligned with FortisBC’s corporate values.

“We are a leading energy provider in B.C.,” she said. “It’s important to us to support teachers who want to help their students understand how we use energy in the province.”

Although FortisBC’s Energy Is Awesome and Energy Champions programs have gone a long way towards educating the community, the new Energy Leadersprogram provides free online resources that teachers can use directly in their classrooms.

“In addition to the planning and activity materials that are available on the website, teachers can also ask us for other supporting materials – workbooks and some other things that we have available depending on the grade level,” said Wensink.

The program currently has resources for every grade level from Kindergarten to Grade 9. A program for Grades 10 to 12 is under development this year.

“This program teaches ‘energy literacy,’” said Wensink. “It’s really about helping teachers, students and, more broadly, every person who uses energy in the province, to understand the energy we use and how we can use it most effectively every day.”

Safety is another key area covered in the program.

“Safety is a core value for us and we want to ensure that everybody – customers and the public – are always safe around our products,” she said.

Ultimately, said Wensink, the program aims to raise kids’ awareness about the ways in which we use energy every day in British Columbia.

“In this province where we live, it can be easy to take energy for granted and not really think about it,” she said. “If people understand how getting lights and heat and hot water and understand how best to use it, I think that’s a good thing for everyone.”

Ehling agrees. She’s been spreading the word about the Energy Leaders program among her colleagues. And she’s looking forward to introducing the lessons to a new set of fourth graders later this year. She’s saving the program for spring, she said, so that she and her students can take the learning outside. Last year’s lessons took them from the classroom, to the school playground, and all the way to Playland amusement park.

“It’s not just classroom research that we’re doing. They have some art projects. They certainly have lots of presentations. One of the lessons even requires some running. So you can take it to the gym, you could take it to the field,” she said.

But most of all, “We have a lot of fun with it.”

FortisBC Energy Leaders is a free online resource for teachers accessible through www.energyleaders.ca.

Read the original article online at GlobalNews.ca: https://globalnews.ca/content/3842347/bc-energy-leaders-program-inspires-young-minds/.