KCP&L and Westar Energy, Evergy Companies award three innovative curriculum grants

KCP&L and Westar Energy, Evergy Companies, in partnership with the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) and the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), announce recipients of the fourth annual KCP&L and Westar Energy, Evergy Companies STEM Innovative Curriculum grants.

Each project receives a $3,000 grant aimed at increasing student interest and academic achievement in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines as applied to electrical energy. A focus on expanding the diversity of students involved in STEM education and on projects that include community service were of special interest to this year’s grant selection committee.

Terry Bassham, President and CEO of Evergy, said the three projects selected for this year’s grants meet the selection criteria in creative and engaging ways.

“The year’s projects will allow students to explore a range of energy-related topics and potential careers in STEM,” Bassham said. “We are particularly pleased to see goals of collaboration with the wider community, and the challenges placed before the students to develop research-based recommendations for their schools and community to improve energy efficiency.”

Kansas K-12 public schools are eligible to submit proposals, and each submission must include a budget, measurable goals and the link or links to state standards. A committee composed of personnel from the sponsoring organizations selects the winning applicants.

“KCP&L and Westar Energy, Evergy Companies commitment to this grant project is an excellent example of the lasting impact a school and community partnership can have,” said Dr. John Heim, KASB executive director. “Students gain valuable knowledge in the areas of energy production, energy consumption and the impact on our environment. At the same time the projects inspire students to explore and eventually pursue careers they may have otherwise felt were not open to them.”

As part of the grant program, recipients will present their projects during sessions at the annual KASB conference in Overland Park in December 2018. They must also provide a written summary with samples of class work and photographs to KCP&L and Westar Energy, Evergy Companies, and KASB.

This year’s grant recipients include:

“Watt’s Up, Baldwin City?” Baldwin Elementary School Intermedia Center, Baldwin City USD 348, Dr. Jana Hare, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment

Fourth grade students will participate in a year-long citizen science project by designing energy consumption research projects using Wattmeter Kits purchased through the grant. The student will become the research experts in the areas of energy consumption, learn to analyze the data and apply their findings to a community-based approach to energy conservation.

Data collected from household appliances and other devices in use at home, school and in the community will be used to develop an educational program on resource management to share with the community through the public library, city commission and chamber of commerce. A key part of the project will be to collaborate with others in the community to gather data. A limited number of Wattmeter devices will be available for checkout from the local library as part of the data collection process.

Students will use math, science and language arts skills to create and share regular reports and materials on the school’s website, on social media pages and with the public. Students will also explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math through subscription-based resources and a field trip to the Baldwin City Power Plant.

“Investigating Alternative Fuels and Storage for Our School Community,” Derby Middle School, Derby USD 260 School, David Brown, Project Lead the Way teacher, and Melanie Wood, language arts and math teacher

Sixth grade students will design projects to investigate various forms of energy, determine the potential for alternative fuels use by the school district and project potential costs savings and reductions in harmful emissions.

One part of the project will focus exploring electric or compressed natural gas as the fuel source for the district’s bus fleet. They will partner with district staff to develop a feasibility study, conduct research and experiments and then share an action plan with the district. Their recommendation would be to invest any cost savings into future green energy projects at the district’s 12 schools.

Solar power will be used to run a water eletrolyzer to collect hydrogen and oxygen gases into storage tanks to power a PEM fuel cell. Using kits purchased through the grant they will build a self-contained solar hydrogen system that can be used to power a model car.

Students will develop a plan to meet the Green Schools criteria set by both the Kansas and U.S. departments of education and gain a greater understanding of careers in the field of energy production and environmental protection.

“‘Lego’ Make Energy,” Oregon Trail Middle School, Olathe USD 233, Jessica Sadler, sixth grade science teacher

Female students in grades 6 through 8 will use the Lego brand “Education Simple and Powered Machines Kits” to work with energy supply transfer, accumulation, conversion and consumption. The girls will build hand cranks that create joules to drive the Lego jeeps they build, solar panels to measure voltage and amps created by the sun, wind turbines and solar powered cars.

The grant resources will also be used with ELL (English Language Learner) students to learn about both energy production and careers available in science, technology, engineering and math.

Students will invent their own simple motorized machines to demonstrate the use of kinetic energy and other forms of energy production. Using pneumatics kits funded by the grant students will design and produce their models, documenting the entire process, then create bilingual video presentations to share on the school’s website and in social media.

The project will include a STEM Challenge to focus on renewable energy and pneumatics, with the pictures of winners posted in the STEM Hall of Fame and winning designs on display in the school’s library. Part of the project includes collaboration with another district school to practice how to design as a diverse team and co-create presentations.

Watch for more information about each of the grants in the September 2018 KASB School Board Review.

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