When a bicycle is brought into an elementary school classroom it grabs the attention of the students right away. Their curiosity is peaked about the presentation that will take place over the next hour and speculation begins about how the bicycle will be used for the upcoming demonstrations.
A bicycle is just one of the fun and interactive tools used for the ‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ program which is now in its tenth year.
“Working with children is a true inspiration,” East River Electric Power Cooperative Education and Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Gross said. “Their excitement for learning and desire to understand concepts is a reward that cannot be quantified.”
Gross is in her fourth year as the presenter and coordinator of the ‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ program for East River Electric Power Cooperative. East River is the wholesale power supplier for 24 rural electric distribution cooperatives – including Northern Electric – and one municipal utility. During the 2017-2018 school year, Gross brought the ‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ program to a record 6,500 students in 120 schools in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota.
The goal of ‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ is to teach students about cooperatives, electricity, efficiency, and safety. Gross starts the hour-long presentations by teaching students about conductors and insulators. A Van de Graaff generator is used to produce static electricity and give students a visible example of how electricity travels and its effects on the human body.
“‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ teaches students ways to conserve electricity, how to be safe around electricity, helps them recognize where electricity comes from and also introduces them to the cooperative business model and cooperative principles,” East River Communications and Marketing Manager Shayla Ebsen said.
During the 2017-2018 school year the ‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ program reached a record 6,500 students in 120 schools in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota.
After students learn about static electricity and how electricity travels using the Van de Graaff generator the presentation shifts to the bicycle as students learn how electricity is produced. Volunteers who hop on the bike learn how much energy it really takes to power a light bulb and the household appliances they use every day.
“Hearing them laugh while learning valuable information makes me smile,” Gross said. “The teachers also value the concepts the students learn and their appreciation for the free program makes it very worthwhile for the cooperative.”
In December, Gross partnered with Northern Electric Cooperative to visit six schools in Brown and Spink counties, including elementary classrooms in the Hitchcock, Redfield, Aberdeen Christian, Warner, Frederick, and Northwestern school districts. The ‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ program will visit more schools within the Northern Electric service territory in March.
It is a program that continues to grow, and it gives elementary students in the region an interactive glimpse at electricity and what it takes to power their lives.
“This is a great program that highlights how East River and our member distribution systems can team up to make a difference in our region. It also highlights how our cooperative family is committed to advancing the communities we serve,” Ebsen said.
And the ‘Co-ops in the Classroom’ program continues to serve local communities by reaching more students with this fun and interactive learning experience.
Schools that would like the 'Co-ops in the Classroom' program to present to their elementary students should have a teacher or administrator contact Northern Electric Communications Director Ben Dunsmoor at 605-225-0310 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a presentation.