Students in the greater Philadelphia region have become energy experts through their involvement in a local grant program called PEEP. The PECO Energizing Education Program, (PEEP) is a grant program that infuses energy education, student leadership, and community outreach efforts into classrooms and after school programs all over the region. Students learn about energy and teach others by sharing what they’ve learned with the community. PECO, the local utility provider in the region, funds the program with its parent company Exelon. NEED is proud to partner with PECO, The Franklin Institute, and the United Way in this fantastic program. PEEP has just finished its seventh year, reaching more than 80 schools and 150,000 students in the region so far.
In the fall of 2014 teachers and schools applied to the program. Ten new schools were accepted into the program, and twenty-two schools continued with the program for a second, third, or even seventh year! The program also includes six after school programs. New schools and programs received classroom kits, training, networking, and museum time with NEED and The Franklin Institute, along with a cash grant to use to implement an energy-focused community outreach project. The continuing schools and programs received replenishment supplies for their existing NEED kits, and a cash grant to fund their energy-focused community outreach project.
Teachers build a model hydropower generator during their training at the Franklin Institute
Over the course of the next few months, teachers infuse energy content into their existing curriculum. Students learn about the forms of energy, energy transformations, renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy, electricity, and energy efficiency and conservation. Students learn these topics through the use of NEED materials and hands-on kits, and through their own exploration. Students conduct an energy audit of their building with the help of energy managers and measurement tools. Many students in the program become so interested in energy content that other independent projects outside of this program take on an energy focus.
Community Engagement and Student Leadership
After students learn about energy and measure consumption in their schools, they begin to plan for their community project. Students develop a project or event that will showcase what they have learned and will serve to inform the public and inspire change in the form of energy saving measures and behaviors. Projects take on many forms. Schools created social media activism campaigns (think “ice bucket challenge”); made green roofs and gardens; shot their own movies and held red carpet premiers; organized fairs, festivals, and expos; held energy give-aways; and created art and music to go along with their efforts. Students and teachers document their work and video their events. These schools and programs do amazing things!
An Energy Day Example
NEED was able to travel to one of the continuing schools to check out their Energy Day. Northley Middle School in Delaware County has been a PEEP school since the program’s pilot year. Their program and community outreach has grown each year, with this year’s event being quite a program. As the students learned about energy throughout the year, they were charged with each building a model of some sort that interactively displayed an energy concept. Students then displayed their projects for parents, community members, and elementary students at the school’s Energy Day. These projects were NO JOKE! Visitors were greeted by Ben Franklin and Nikola Tesla to set the stage for an electrifying visit! Student work showcased virtually everything energy. One student pair built a light bulb from scratch, another demonstrated circuitry by creating their own “Dance Dance Revolution” foot pad, a group of students created their own biogas digesters with buffalo dung – YES, buffalo dung! Students showcased the sources of energy by building functioning coal plants (watch out, they overheat!), hydropower turbines, and geothermal heat pumps. Visitors learned about efficiency technologies with various light bulbs, and about conservation with recycling efforts. Most exciting, however, is that these items were all created and explained by the students. These students explored the concepts that interested them most and the level of learning shows! Students were accessing scientific process skills, engineering and design methods, and were multi-disciplinary in their approach to presenting their projects. While this is just one example, all of the PEEP outreach events are this impressive!
Students at NMS light up their homemade light bulb
This group transmits important info by demonstrating electricity transmission
Buffalo dung biogas digesters
Wrapping Up a Great Year
At the close of the program year, each school or program submits a video or project showcasing their community efforts and their knowledge gains. Check out projects and videos from program participants at www.NEED.org/peco. Interesting and exemplary projects are selected to present at the annual PEEP Celebration held at The Franklin Institute science museum. Students are given time to explore the museum exhibits, chow down on pizza, and make new friends before presenting their projects to a room packed full of students and teachers in the Benjamin Franklin Memorial Rotunda. This year’s Celebration was held on June 9th. Ben Franklin was looking on and would be so proud of all the students involved this year! The presentations included skits, videos, and songs, and one special guest – the sun. It was truly a great evening and a wonderful celebration of this fantastic, energized program. PECO, NEED, The Franklin Institute, and the United Way are so proud of these amazing schools!
You can learn more about PEEP and see event phots by visiting www.NEED.org/peco.
The sun stops for a selfie with our Curriculum Director while he revolves around the PEEP celebration