In addition to teaching their students each day, writing lesson plans and connecting with parents, most Arizona teachers have gone through a myriad of district- and state-mandated training sessions. Many give up weekends or evenings to attend these trainings to better prepare themselves to provide the best opportunities for our students. For some, that would be sufficient. For others, it’s only the beginning.
Salt River Project (SRP) offers a variety of teacher-training workshops in the fields of energy, sustainability and water. Hundreds of teachers have taken advantage of these free workshops to better understand these fields and how to best teach their students about them.
Throughout the year, teachers descend on SRP’s Tempe facility to learn both background content knowledge and methods and activities to use in the classroom. Frequently, teachers leave the workshops with materials they can immediately use in their classrooms.
For example, in a recent electricity and magnetism workshop, teachers were given kits to use for small groups of students. The kits contained a model of simple circuits, an electromagnet experiment, batteries, wire, bulbs and bulb holders, to name a few. The kit contained nearly $100 in materials.
“I appreciate all the great resources,” said Sarah Sleasman, a fourth-grade teacher at the Biltmore Preparatory Academy in Phoenix. “It’s fantastic to have the resources and the knowledge to feel comfortable teaching these topics.”
SRP also offers a two-day session called The Solar Summit. Teachers learn the basics of electricity and how different resources are used to generate it, with the emphasis on solar energy. SRP experts on solar also present to the workshop, giving them first-hand contact with solar professionals.
Our goal is to get as many resources as possible to teachers. At SRP, we want teachers to be confident in their ability to teach about energy and water. It’s our goal to give them that background knowledge and supply them with much-needed materials and lesson plans for the classroom.
In addition, the workshops are great tools to teach the next generation of environmental stewards. The more students learn, the better prepared they are to tackle the environmental challenges that may arise in the future.
Recently, at the Arizona Water Story workshop, teachers learned about how engineering and history come together in the story of water in Arizona. Teachers learned about hydroelectricity, groundwater and how people in the Valley get their water. They were given a watershed activity for students to replicate the way a watershed works. A groundwater activity was also presented. These are all part of a six-lesson unit designed in partnership with SRP and the Central Arizona Project.
“This was a great class; great energy and support among the instructors,” said Diane Russhon, a sixth-grade teacher at Basha Elementary School in Chandler. Russhon was among a group of 26 teachers participating in the workshop. “The workshop was a great way to learn about different ways to reach students in a more fun and hands-on way.”
A full schedule of SRP workshops can be found at www.srpnet.com/education. They are open to all Valley teachers in public, private or charter schools.
• Kevin Rolfe is a community education representative with SRP.